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NBME Practice Exams: Newest Changes to the Self-Assessment Forms

Comings and going with the NBMEs

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by Alec Palmerton, MD in Uncategorized

If you’ve been looking to take an NBME practice exam lately, you may have seen that there have been changes to the available forms. Although there is been no official announcement from the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®) Self-Assessment Services, the website now demonstrates that NBME Form 11 has been retired, and has been replaced by the new NBME Form 18. Based on posts on message boards, it appears the exam was released on March 3, 2016, which seems to be the date on which previous NBME exams have been released.

The available forms for Comprehensive Basic Science are now as follows (it has never been clear why there hasn’t been a Form 14):

NBME Self-Assessment Services Purchase Screen

Form 18
Form 17
Form 16
Form 15
Form 13
Form 12

All forms are available as standard-paced and self-paced, which allows for more time. Note that you can also purchase expanded feedback, which allows you to see incorrect answers for an additional $10 ($60, rather than the $50 for standard Comprehensive Basic Science tests).

Support the website below for guidance on how to use your NBME self-examinations most effectively.

When should you take your first NBME practice exam?

I highly recommend that you take an NBME early in your studies, ideally at least several weeks before you begin your dedicated study period. I recommend taking it with expanded feedback to students that I tutor, because it gives you the ability to see why you are getting questions wrong (hint: many of the questions that students miss have nothing to do with their knowledge, per se, but rather smaller mistakes which, compounded over many questions, can have a substantial impact on your score).

Which NBME exam is the hardest?

This is a complicated question, as there is probably not a single right answer. Based off of how many questions it takes to reach a passing score, you could argue that NBME 16 is the easiest, since they sent my analysis of my students have taken the test, you need to get the most questions correct just to achieve a passing score (in other words, each question is worth the least). Similarly, NBME 13, which requires the fewest number of questions to reach a passing score, would be the hardest.

“I heard that NBME ____ is the hardest. Should I wait until the end to take it?”

Again, each exam is scaled differently, so even if a particular exam is demonstrably more difficult than another (see above), this is accounted for in the scoring rubric. As such, I wouldn’t get too bent out of shape trying to game the system to try to figure out which exam is the most difficult.

Which exam should you start with?

Honestly, I don’t put it on a stock in which exam you start with. If you have to choose, I would start with the lowest number, since those will be the oldest, and while they will still likely be an accurate assessment of your score, it allows you to save the more recent NBMEs which may reflect more recent changes to the exam, like the changes beginning in summer 2016, which you can read about here.

Where can I sign up for my NBME practice exam?

Here’s a link to the NBME Self-Assessment Services website. You must register, after which you can purchase your self-assessment.

For the answers to many more of your questions, read NBME Practice Exams: Ultimate Guide for the USMLEs and Shelf Exams

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Want FREE Cardiology Flashcards?

Cardiology is key for impressive USMLE scores. Master cardiology from a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist who scored 270 on the USMLE Step 1 with these 130+ high-yield flash cards. You’ll be begging for cardio questions - even if vitals make you queasy.

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