The Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States (COMLEX-USA or the Boards) is a series of three osteopathic medical licensing examinations administered by the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) similar to the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). COMLEX-USA is the most common pathway by which osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) apply for medical licensure, and is accepted in all 50 states. The 3-digit standard scores of COMLEX-USA Level 1, Level 2- Cognitive Evaluation (CE), and Level 3 have a range of 200-800 and a mean of 500. 400 is the minimum passing score for COMLEX-USA Levels 1 and 2; 350 for COMLEX-USA Level 3.
COMLEX-USA Level 1
COMLEX-USA Level 1 is typically taken after completion of the second year of medical school. The exam is consist of 400 questions administered in one day and consists of two, four-hour exam sessions separated by a 40-minute break. Each of the four-hour sessions allows a ten-minute break which is subtracted from the four-hour test time. Candidates are expected to know the basic mechanisms of health and disease process. The mean score for the COMLEX-USA Level 1 is 500, and is an important factor in determining a medical student's competitiveness when applying to residency programs. Student performance on COMLEX-USA Level 1 strongly correlates with MCAT biology section scores and undergraduate science GPA, as well as medical school grades.
Specifically, level one covers basic medical sciences, including:
COMLEX-USA Level 2
COMLEX-USA Level 2, taken during the third or fourth year of medical school, consists of two parts: Level 2-Cognitive Evaluation (CE) and Level 2-Performance Evaluation (PE). Level 2-CE requires candidates to demonstrate knowledge of clinical concepts and medical decision-making. The examination is problem-based and symptoms-based, integrating the clinical disciplines of:
- emergency medicine
- family medicine
- internal medicine
- osteopathic principles
Level 2-PE was introduced in 2005. It is a one-day, seven-hour clinical skills examination and utilizes standardized patients (actors trained to present clinical symptoms) to test clinical skills. The only available testing site is in Conshohocken, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. Specifically, candidates must demonstrate proficiency in:
COMLEX-USA Level 3
The final examination, COMLEX-USA Level 3, is typically taken after starting a residency program and covers the clinical disciplines of medicine, including:
Many osteopathic medical students apply to ACGME-accredited residencies, and some residency directors are uncertain of how to best interpret applicants' COMLEX scores. Conversions between the COMLEX and the USMLE are somewhat challenging since the content and style of the two exams differ. First-time USMLE pass rates for D.O. and M.D. students in 2011 are as follows: Step 1: 89% and 94%, Step 2 CK: 93% and 97%, and Step 2 CS: 93% and 97% respectively; Step 3: 94% and 100%--but this number may be misleading, as 18 D.O. students compared to 18,314 M.D. students, were evaluated for Step 3.
- "COMLEX Computer Based Testing (CBT)". NBOME. 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- Carolyn Schierhorn (December 21, 2011). "Match Report Sheds Light on Credentials Needed to Secure Residencies". The DO. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
- Donna Dixon (2012). "Prediction of Osteopathic Medical School Performance on the Basis of MCAT Score, GPA, Sex, Undergraduate Major, and Undergraduate Institution". The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) 112 (4): 175–181. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- "2011 Performance Data". United States Medical Licensing Examination. 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.