As a medical student, you’ve likely already had conversations about the importance of the medical licensing board examinations to your career as a practicing physician. After all, a passing grade at each level will determine whether or not the sleepless nights and years of dedicated study were worth it.
Since a student’s board exam is regarded as one of the most difficult parts of medical school, believing yourself to be a “bad test taker” will only intensify your stress. At WOLFPACC, our physician achievement concept course was developed to ensure your board exams are not the end of the road for a promising career.
“We help students master the concepts of medicine,” says Dr. Hans Wolf, the founder and director of WOLFPACC Physician Achievement Concept Course. “Becoming a doctor is about much more than just memorizing the sciences. It is critical to understand the ‘how and why’ of medical concepts in order to provide better patient care.”
USMLE / COMLEX Licensing Exams
Osteopathic students have traditionally taken the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA) to obtain their medical license as a DO, while allopathic medical students take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) for the same purpose of becoming a physician. All fifty states accept COMLEX scores and six states specifically require it for DO licensure.
Board examination scores, however, have always served a dual purpose in a medical student’s life. In addition to obtaining a license to practice without supervision, USMLE results have historically been favored for acceptance to certain residency programs. Some competitive subspecialties evaluated candidates based exclusively on USMLE scores. Similarly, fellowship programs often preferred to use allopathic test scores.
Resolution for Exam Equivalency
More recent changes approved by the American Medical Association (AMA) established a resolution for exam equivalency to help increase industry-wide acceptance of COMLEX results among all residency programs. With the exception of some neurosurgical residencies that require Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores in addition to COMLEX scores, allopathic and osteopathic candidates are consider to be in the same candidacy pool.
Where both licensing examinations are similar in that they test students on the fundamentals of medicine, the USMLE has fewer questions and is a shorter exam overall. One major difference is the COMLEX-USA test integrates questions to test a student’s knowledge of osteopathic manipulative medicine that is specific to DOs. Since a medical student can take both, his or her decision should be based on their individual career goals.
Don’t overlook the importance of Step 3 or Level 3…
After spending years burning the midnight oil during medical school, students hate to hear they need to set aside some study time to achieve the highest possible score on their Step 3 or Level 3 licensing exam. So it is easy to assign less importance to the final test for licensure. But this shouldn’t be the case, as both focus on the student’s ability to apply medical concepts.
Even though it is difficult to find time to study during residency or internship, it can be a big mistake not to take the Step 3 or Level 3 exams seriously. The goal for both allopathic students and osteopathic students should be to become a confident and competent physician. Upon passing their USMLE 3 or COMLEX 3, they need to be ready to practice medicine.
USMLE Step 3 or COMLEX Level 3 are two-day computer-based multiple-choice exams. The Step 3 reflects a data-based model of general medical practice that reflects clinical situations a physician might encounter in delivering patient care. Similarly, Level 3 covers the foundational competency domains that a DO physician needs to master to effectively treat patients without supervision.
Power 5 Methodology Works for Both Exams
At WOLFPACC, we understand that both medical board examinations are lengthy and demand committing a substantial amount of time in preparation. Plus student prep time is golden, especially for a medical student taking both to apply for a competitive ACGME residency. When preparing students for a better outcome on his or her Step 3 or Level 3 exam, we focus on three major components:
- 1) Normal Conditions and Disease Categories such as growth & development and basic concepts and principles.
- 2) Common Clinical Scenarios like initial patient work-up, continued patient care, and urgent intervention.
- 3) Applying Scientific Concepts to determine a diagnosis from multiple sources of data as well as managing the patient.
By integrating the five main organ systems through physiology, WOLFPACC’s approach has helped allopathic students, osteopathic students, and IMGs to become licensed physicians and better prepared to practice medicine.
“If you hear someone say that no one cares what score you got once you are a doctor,” suggests Dr. Wolf, “remind yourself that your patients will care about how competent and confident you are as their physician.”
Since supplemental training has been shown to improve board examination scores for students taking either the USMLE or COMLEX-USA licensing exams, maybe it is time for you to refresh your knowledge of core disciplines needed to practice medicine with greater confidence and competency.
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WOLFPACC physicians achievement concept course equips allopathic and osteopathic students with a powerful approach to practicing medicine. “Power 5” is structured around the basic sciences and a clinical understanding of the task at hand. If you are a medical student or IMG who wants to score well on any medical licensing exam, we look forward to assisting you.