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When you take the computerized USMLE exam whether it's Step 1, Step 2 CK, or Step 3. You find a notice screen after finishing each one hour block.

This screen gives you the option of either proceeding to the next block or take an authorized break. It also shows how much is remaining from your total exam time. So for example if your allocated time is 8 hours (as in the case of Step 1 and Step 3) it tells you that for example 4:30 hours is remaining. And in this example if you have 4 more blocks to go then you can obviously understand that you still have 30 minutes remaining that can be utilized as a break time.

Recently, the USMLE software is upgraded so that there will be a warning when you exceed the allocated break time. In our example it might be that you total time remaining is only 3:55 while in fact you still have 4 blocks to finish. In such a circumstances, the Fred software will tell you that you have exceeded the allocated time for the break.

It can also tell (though not always) by how many minutes you have exceeded and again in our example in the previous paragraph it would be 5 minutes.

The strange thing though, that they are saying that the software may not tell you the exact time exceeded always. It may simply tell you that you have exceeded by 0 seconds and the clock is not ticking. In this case, you have to again rely on the total time remaining deducing your break time!

This change is coming first to Step 3 exams starting this month March 2010. It's expected to be implemented for the other steps soon.

For further details have a look at this official USMLE page;
http://www.usmle.org/examinations/step3/Step_3_break_time_exceeded_announcement_final.pdf
 

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