COMLEX Level 1’s New Parameters

Recent announcements from the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) express changes to the COMLEX Level 1 exam. The test, which assesses a student’s ability to recognize patient symptoms and solve problems, is dropping its numerical scores in favor of a pass or fail system. The changes will impact how Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) programs evaluate students and how students prepare for their exams. The new scoring system takes effect in May of 2022.

What Do the NBOME’s Changes Mean?

The NBOME’s new testing parameters shift away from numerical COMLEX Level 1 scoring and toward a broader performance assessment. Rather than a three-digit number, students will receive one of two grades — “Pass” or “Fail.”

Passing students will also receive a Low, Average or High rating for each updated blueprint dimension — Competency Domains and Clinical Presentations.

Additionally, the NBOME is changing the testing interface for COMLEX Level 1. The NBOME will continue following the numerical grading system until May of 2022. The exam will follow the same structure, which comprises two four-hour sessions.

Why the Pass or Fail System Instead of a Numeric Score?

The decision to change to a pass or fail scoring system has been in the works for several years. The NBOME analyzed their three-digit scoring process while considering various stakeholder groups’ input before making the decision. They maintain that the new scoring system will support wellness among student populations, and by extension, the general public.

How Does the Pass or Fail System Affect Students?

While the COMLEX Level 1 exam will include the same time structure and multiple-choice layout, the new scoring system and testing interface will have rippling effects:

  • Institutions may weigh Level 2 and shelf exams higher. Students take the Level 2 exams during clinical rotations, meaning balancing clinical responsibilities with exam preparation may become more crucial.
  • Institutions may condense preclinical curricula and allot less time for Level 1 exam preparation. These changes may also impact the Level 2 curriculum.
  • Students will need to become familiar with a new testing interface. While the NBOME’s new interface improves on the previous model, students will need time to adjust.

Prepare for New Testing Procedures With Medlearnity

The NBOME’s updated COMLEX level 1 score range and testing interface will reward flexible, hardworking students. You can register for COMLEX Level 1 tutoring from Medlearnity to access practice exams that mimic the new Prometric interface. We encourage you to request a free trial with one of our COMPLEX Level 1 online tutors today!

About the author 

Akshay Goel MD

Dr. Goel is a body-trained radiologist and an expert in medical education and imaging informatics. He completed his Radiology Residency at Columbia University Medical Center and his fellowship at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Goel has guided several students and doctors into successful careers over the past decade. He continues to help Medlearnity tutors optimize their educational methodology to drive the highest tutoring and admissions impact possible.

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