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NBME Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response: New Free Assessments

Due to the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19, the NBME provided new free self-assessment exams. The following NBME self-assessments will be available beginning April 3, 2020:

  •  CBSSA (Comprehensive Basic Science) Forms 13, 15, 16, 17, and 19
  • CCSSA (Comprehensive Clinical Science) Form 7
  • CCMSA (Comprehensive Clinical Medicine) Form 5

When you take a closer look at the exams, (especially if you took Step in 2018) you realize there’s nothing new about them.

CBSSA (NBME) forms 13, 15, 16, and 17 were, essentially, the old gold standard for exams you needed to take before Step 1 (19 not so much; it is a strange test that no one ever really liked). However, the fact they are giving them back to you for free with a grading scale is still hugely helpful. Here’s how we’d recommend utilizing them.

Should I take the 2020 coronavirus free NBMEs (CBSSA) in a certain order?

Yes, you should take the April 2020 free NBMEs in the following order: 13, 15, 16, 17. So, for example, you take NBME form 13 in Week 1, followed by form 15 in Week 2 and so on until you get to two weeks out from your actual Step 1. Then you take UWorld SIM 1, NBME form 18, then UWorld SIM 2.

The line of thinking for these older practice exams during the dedicated study period was this: NBME 13 is your baseline. Then, every week take another exam until you get to NBME 18 (considered to be the most predictive).

This was considered the most ideal way to take these exams and also get a good idea of what you would score on Step 1.

Are the April 2020 free NBME assessments still relevant for Step 1 prep? How predictive are they?

Yes, the now-free COVID-19 NBME self-assessments are still a helpful study tool for your Step 1 dedicated study period. While the above methodology is from around 2018, nowadays these exams are still useful as a lot of the concepts that come up on them will still be tested. The only issue is that the scores you get on them may or may not correlate with the current Step 1.

It’s difficult to say precisely how predictive the April 2020 free NBME self-assessments are, as they weren’t available with a scaled score for people taking Step 1 after 2018, so we don’t know if they are still accurate predictors. Check back on April 3rd for more input on this point.

Enough about Step 1. What about the April 2020 free forms for Step 2 CK and shelf exams?

As part of their COVID-19 free self-assessment offerings, NBME also generously gave us CCSSA Form 7 (NBME 7 for Step 2 CK) and CCMSA Form 5 (medicine self-assessment 5) for free. Let’s start with NBME 7.

NBME self-assessment form 7 is essentially the gold standard NBME for Step 2 CK.

I specify NBME, as the UWorld SIMs for Step 2 are much more predictive than any of the NBMEs. That being said, NBME Form 7 is the perfect test to sandwich in between the two UWorld SIMs.

The level of difficulty in form 7 is similar to what you will experience on the actual Step 2 CK exam and the length of stems is also quite accurate. The curve on it is what makes it less valuable than the UWorld SIMs. It tends to be a bit harsher and will likely under-predict your score in that regard.

What about the Clinical Mastery Series NBMEs?

Medicine self-assessment forms 5 and 6 (medicine NBMEs 5 and 6) now include answer explanations! These are not free, but we are thrilled that the NBME has started the process of including explanations.

This will now allow you to see why you are missing these questions without having to search through three online databases or review Nature’s most recent article on mechanisms of heart failure.

I think, after taking all this into account, it’s safe to say that NBME is doing everything they can so that these Prometric closures don’t affect students in any objective (test scores) way. These free assessments will be excellent study tools, and if you can avoid exhaustion and use them wisely, hopefully things will turn out as expected.

Good luck studying, everyone, and stay safe! We’re here to help if you need us.