Researching Examinee Performances on NBME® Subject Examinations Administered Remotely During COVID-19

Posted September 16, 2021

Given the need for social distancing that arose at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, NBME psychometricians have continued to analyze data from medical school test administrations to investigate the potential effect of the change to a remote proctoring setting on examinee performance since April 2020. Principal psychometrician, Carol Morrison, PhD, compared results from examinees who took NBME® Clinical Science Subject Examinations with remote proctoring versus traditional in-person administrations during the following time periods:

  • April 7 to May 21, 2020
  • July 29 to Oct. 31, 2020
  • November 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021
  • Feb. 1 to April 30, 2021
  • May 1 to July 31, 2021

Results from NBME Subject Examinations (Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Clinical Neurology, Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine) were analyzed with a focus on examinees from LCME-accredited schools testing for the first time for end-of-course or end-of-clerkship with standard timing.

The findings: No consistent Subject Examination score differences were associated with proctoring setting when comparing examinees who tested under remote proctoring versus in-person proctoring during the same time period, controlling for group ability based on pre-clinical performance. Groups of examinees who tested remotely had slightly higher scores for some exams and slightly lower scores for others. Additionally, effect sizes for proctoring setting were generally very small, indicating no meaningful difference in performance between the remote proctoring group and the in-person proctoring groups of these low-stakes exams. The remote proctoring group was also compared to examinees testing during the same time period in the previous year, and no meaningful differences in performance were found for any of the time periods.

To support the needs of medical schools, the research team will continue to analyze data to learn more about the potential effects of medical education’s use of remote administration and proctoring on scores and testing experiences. We will share additional information with the medical education community as findings are available.

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