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Date Updated: September 29, 2017

International Foundations of Medicine (IFOM)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For all

How long are the IFOM Examinations?

Both the BSE and CSE have 160 multiple-choice questions, each with a single best answer accepted as correct. Examinees have four hours to complete the exam.

In what languages are the IFOM exams offered?

The IFOM CSE is offered in International English, Spanish, and Portuguese. The IFOM BSE is offered in International English only. Additional languages will be added based on demand.

Who can use IFOM exams?

NBME wishes to work with any medical school or other organization around the world (for example, ministries of health, residency programs and hospitals, and other healthcare agencies) whose programs and goals could benefit from using high-quality comprehensive assessments. Generally, medical school users should have already been found eligible to apply for ECFMG certification—see the ECFMG Information Booklet for more information.

We require that all institutional users be able to comply with our test administration standards, including security protocols.

Individuals may apply to take the International Foundations of Medicine (IFOM) exams if they are currently enrolled in or have graduated from medical school. For more information about taking an IFOM exam as an individual, see the “Applying for IFOM” tab on this webpage.

How is IFOM delivered?

IFOM can be delivered in one of two ways:

  1. On the computer at a participating Prometric test center
  2. At a medical school, if it participates in the program. Within a school, IFOM can be delivered on a computer or as a paper and pencil exam.

What are the validity and reliability/psychometric properties of the IFOM examination?

Reliability analysis of the IFOM scores indicates an internal consistency value of greater than 0.90, which meets standards for high-stakes examinations using multiple-choice questions. Comparison of exam results with other measures of performance used by participating universities shows good correspondence.

How are the post-test survey items selected?

NBME and affiliated organizations select survey items to support research initiatives and program development.

Scoring FAQs

IFOM Basic Science Examination

What does an IFOM BSE score mean, and how do I interpret performance relative to other IFOM examinees?
The 2017 IFOM BSE scores were scaled to have a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100 based on the 2011 IFOM BSE scaling group and are limited to a range of 200 to 800. This scaling group included all examinees who took the 2011 IFOM BSE. Scores can be interpreted relative to this group, which had examinees from Asia including the Middle East, Europe and Oceania. For example, a score of 450 means that an examinee has scored half a standard deviation below the mean of the IFOM BSE scaling group.

In addition, the norm table in the Score Interpretation Guide allows an individual to determine the percentage of examinees in the IFOM BSE International Comparison Group who obtained scores lower than their score.

How do I interpret an IFOM BSE score relative to the USMLE Step 1?
The IFOM BSE and the USMLE Step 1 are designed for different purposes and cover somewhat different content. For these reasons, NBME cannot provide an exact corresponding Step 1 score for a given IFOM BSE score. However, because there is substantial overlap in the content coverage and many IFOM items were previously used on Step 1, it is possible to roughly project performance onto the Step 1 score scale. In addition, the IFOM BSE standard of competence is based on the projected pass/fail standard for Step 1. A table in the Score Interpretation Guide shows the approximate correspondence between IFOM BSE scores and Step 1 scores.

IFOM Clinical Science Examination

How do I know whether an individual passed or failed the IFOM CSE?
Schools, programs and agencies can use the IFOM exams for purposes that do not require establishing a pass/fail mark. For example, a school may wish to identify areas of strength and weakness in its curriculum by looking at student performance on the IFOM exams. When schools or other oganizations do wish to establish a pass/fail standard, the NBME can work with them to do so.

What does an IFOM CSE score mean, and how do I interpret performance relative to other IFOM examinees?
The IFOM CSE scores were scaled to have a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100 based on the 2010 IFOM CSE scaling group and are limited to a range of 200 to 800, which included a sample of examinees from the Americas, Asia including the Middle East and Europe in the final year of medical school. You can interpret scores relative to this group. For example, a score of 450 means that an individual scored half a standard deviation below the mean of the IFOM CSE scaling group. The norm table in the Score Interpretation Guide allows individuals to determine the percentage of examinees in the IFOM CSE International Comparison Group who obtained scores lower than their score.

How do I interpret an IFOM CSE score relative to the USMLE Step 2 CK?
The IFOM CSE and the USMLE Step 2 CK are designed for different purposes and cover somewhat different content. For these reasons, NBME cannot provide an exact corresponding Step 2 CK score for a given IFOM CSE score. However, because there is substantial overlap in the content coverage and many IFOM items were previously used on Step 2 CK, it is possible to roughly project performance onto the Step 2 CK score scale. In addition, the recommended passing score for IFOM CSE is based on the projected pass/fail standard for Step 2 CK. A table in the Score Interpretation Guide shows the approximate correspondence between IFOM CSE scores and Step 2 CK scores.

For individuals

Who is eligible to take an IFOM exam?

You need to be a currently enrolled medical student or medical school graduate.

How often can I take it?

You can take the IFOM CSE three times in a year and the BSE once per year.

How long does it take to get exam results? How will I know my score?

IFOM results are typically reported within three weeks after your test date. However, delays are possible for various reasons. Please allow at least six weeks after your test date to receive your score report.

If you are testing at a participating medical school or other organization, you need to obtain your score report from officials at your organization.

Will my school know my score?

If your school is sponsoring the exam administration, the school must gain permission from you to receive your score. In cases where IFOM is used as part of the curriculum, your participation may be mandatory. If you register to take the exam at a Prometric test center, only you will know your score.

What training materials do you recommend to prepare for the exam?

This depends on your purpose in taking the exam. Many schools that use IFOM wish to measure their students' base level of medical knowledge, in which case please check with your medical school before beginning preparation.

If you are taking the exam under higher-stakes conditions (e.g., residency selection), we offer online self-assessment examinations to help you prepare for IFOM exams. For more information, please follow the link below:

NBME Self-Assessment Services

If I want to improve my performance on an IFOM exam, can I take it again? Will my performance on both attempts show?

You can take the IFOM CSE exam up to three times per calendar year and the IFOM BSE exam only once per calendar year. NBME issues a score report each time you take the exam. The report reflects your performance only on that administration.

For programs, schools, and agencies

How long does it take to get exam results?

NBME posts results for institutional administrations online within two to three weeks of testing.

Do organizations need permission from students to receive their scores?

Yes. Since student scores are delivered to administrators, the organization must obtain permission from each student. NBME relies on an organization's representation that it has received such permissions.

How will students who take IFOM through their organizations know their scores?

Students need to obtain their score reports from organization officials, who receive the results electronically via the secure NBME services portal.

How can we advise students to prepare for IFOM exams?

This depends on your purpose for using the exam. Many organizations use IFOM to measure their students' base level of medical knowledge, in which case preparation may defeat the purpose. It is up to each medical school or other sponsoring organization to advise its students on how to prepare for the exam.

If you wish to advise students to prepare for an IFOM exam, NBME offers online self-assessment examinations. For more information, please follow the link below:

NBME Self-Assessment Services

Are the IFOM exams appropriate for making high-stakes decisions?

Yes. Medical schools, post-graduate programs, and ministries of health/education have all used the IFOM CSE results to make high-stakes decisions (such as residency selection). Some organizations also use IFOM BSE for high-stakes purposes.

 

 

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