Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX)

Definition

The term COMLEX refers to a three-level examination that assesses the applicant's knowledge and clinical skills in osteopathic medicine.  The Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination, or COMLEX, is sponsored by the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners.  The purpose of the test is to ensure physicians are able to provide unsupervised osteopathic care to patients.

Explanation

In the United States, state-level medical boards have the authority to grant an individual a license to practice medicine.  The Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination, or COMLEX, provides a common system to use as part of the state's qualifications assessment and subsequent licensure.

The COMLEX tests the applicant's abilities along two dimensions: clinical presentation (health issues encountered in practice) and physician tasks (steps taken to solve problems).  The total examination consists of a three-level process that assesses:

  • Level 1:  the applicant's medical knowledge and ability to solve medical problems.  The examination consists of 400 questions taken in two four-hour sessions.  Subject areas include anatomy, behavioral science, biochemistry, microbiology, osteopathic principles, pathology, pharmacology and physiology.
  • Level 2-CE (Cognitive Evaluation):  the applicant's ability to conduct symptom-based assessments that integrate a number of medical disciplines. The examination consists of 400 questions taken in two four-hour sessions. Subject areas include emergency, family and internal medicine, obstetrics / gynecology, osteopathic principles, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery.
  • Level 2-PE (Performance Evaluation): the applicant's clinical skills through twelve standardized patients.  The examination is taken over the course of seven hours.  Patients are presented in ambulatory settings with both acute and chronic conditions.
  • Level 3: the applicant's ability to solve medical problems as an independently practicing osteopathic generalist.  The examination consists of 400 questions taken in two four-hour sessions.  Subject areas include emergency, family and internal medicine, obstetrics / gynecology, osteopathic principles, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery.

Raw scores are converted to a three-digit scale and a two-digit scale based on historical performance, with a score of 500 representing the examination mean.  A three-digit score of 400 (Levels 1 and 2) or 350 (Level 3) is required to pass the examination.  There is no limit to the number of times a candidate may retake an exam; however, they are limited to four tests in a 12-month period.  Level 2-PE can only be taken three times in a 12-month period.

Scores are typically available in four to six weeks after the date of the examination (eight to ten weeks for the Level 2-PE exam). Candidates and Deans are notified by email that scores are available, which can be accessed online or through the mail by writing the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners.

Related Terms

master's degree, doctoral degree, Latin honors, dissertationSAT ACT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, MCATMAT, DAT, PCAT, OAT, AP Exam, USMLE, NCLEX, MBE, NAPLEX, NBDE, MPT