The Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States (COMLEX-USA) series of tests are the board exams that students in osteopathic medical schools must take in order to receive their license to practice.
Broken into 3 parts, this licensure examination tests your comprehension of what you’ve learned during your medical education and how well you can apply that knowledge to clinical practice.
Similar to USMLE, the COMLEX exams are used by residency program directors to select applicants for their graduate medical education training programs (residency programs).
You must pass the COMLEX-USA examination series to graduate with a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree and be fully licensed to practice in the United States.
There are three levels in the COMLEX-USA medical licensure examination series of DO board exams.
Level 1 focuses on foundational biomedical sciences and osteopathic principles. Level 2-CE tests Cognitive Evaluation (CE), looking at clinical knowledge and skills. Level 3 assesses the advanced clinical competencies required for unsupervised osteopathic medical practice.
Each level of the COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination) is scored based on the number of correctly answered multiple-choice questions. The raw score (the number of questions answered correctly) is converted into a standard 3-digit scaled score to allow for small variations in individual test questions.
For the Level 1 exam, you will receive a report comparing your results with other test takers and a pass/fail designation. Levels 2 and 3 provide your scaled score as part of your score report.
For all levels, the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) ensures that the scoring process is fair and reflects a candidate’s ability to practice osteopathic medicine. The NBOME establishes the passing standard for each level through a rigorous process that involves panels of practicing osteopathic physicians.
Studying begins with planning. Making a schedule for studying is the best tip we can give you for preparing for exams. If you have a realistic view when you need to know all your material, you can work in time to study and know how far out you’ll need to start your routine for each level.
More study tips you can use include:
Both the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and COMLEX are licensing exams for medical students, but they cater to different medical programs.
USMLE is the exam that allopathic (MD) medical students will take for NBME accreditation, whereas COMLEX is designed for students attending colleges of osteopathic medicine (DO) and is overseen by the NBOME. COMLEX emphasizes osteopathic principles and manipulative treatment methods.
You have to take the exams in order. You must complete and pass Level 1 prior to sitting Level 2-CE.
With a well-planned study schedule and dedication to your future career, the COMLEX exam will be a challenge, but the majority of test-takers do pass. First-time test taker pass rates are:
Don’t feel ready to take COMLEX for the first time? Need to improve a poor score from last time? Students who work with our tutors improve their COMLEX scores by 105-220 points on average. Learn more about how we can help you.
To take your first of the three COMLEX exams, you must have completed one year of study at an accredited college of osteopathic medicine and be in good academic and professional standing. You must pass each level before taking the next exam. Once you are ready to take Level 3, the dean must verify your clinical skills.
From 2004-2020, COMLEX Level 2 was divided into two parts: Cognitive Evaluation and Performance Evaluation (PE). As of 2021, the PE exam was discontinued — for now, each student’s COM dean must attest to their specific clinical skills previously tested on Level 2 PE before the student may sit the Level 3 exam.
A new assessment, the Core Competency Capstone for DOs (C3DO), will include hands-on exams and assessment of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) skills and patient-physician communication skills. Pilot exam sessions for this new assessment will begin in March of 2024.
IMGs cannot sit for the COMLEX exams. To take the COMLEX-USA exam, a student will need to attend an accredited college of osteopathic medicine. While there are international osteopathic schools, the medical degree, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, is only offered by 37 medical schools in the United States.
Passing the COMLEX exams is a huge milestone in the practice of osteopathic medicine. Make sure you’re prepared to succeed with a proper study schedule.
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