Preparation Strategies of Osteopathic Medical Students for the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE

Jeanne M. Sandella, DO; Alex Peters, BA; Larissa L. Smith, PhD; and John R. Gimpel, DO, MEd
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: November 20, 2015

Accepted: December 21, 2015

Published: April 1, 2016

J Osteopath Med; 116(4): 234-242

Context: Since 2002, osteopathic medical schools have made curricular changes to further enhance the clinical skills of their students, to prepare them for residency training, and to pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination-USA Level 2-Performance Evaluation (COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE).

Objectives: To report how students at osteopathic medical schools prepare for the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE, and to investigate the effect of these techniques on examination performance.

Methods: A standardized survey was given to students before the beginning of their examination to assess the preparation of osteopathic medical students for the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE, such as coursework, orientation materials, and standardized patient (SP) encounters. Surveys that were completed by first-time test takers during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 test cycles were included in this study.

Results: Of 9120 surveys administered, 8733 were completed, achieving a response rate of 95.8%. Of those 8733 respondents, 8706 students (99.7%) reported having SP encounters during the first and second year of medical school, and 7379 (84%) reported having at least 1 SP encounter in years 3 and 4. Of 8733 students, 6079 (70%) reported receiving feedback from an osteopathic physician on their SP encounters, and 6049 (69%) and 6253 (72%) reported having viewed the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE orientation video online and having read the examination’s orientation guide, respectively. The largest difference in preparation between students who passed the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE and students who did not was a prerequisite SP examination at their school, with 5574 students (68.9%) who passed reporting having participated compared with 364 students (56.5%) who failed. None of the differences in clinical skills training and test preparation was associated with statistically significant differences in pass or fail status.

Conclusions: Osteopathic medical students use a variety of methods to enhance their clinical skills in preparation for the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE, with universal use of SP programs since the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE was implemented in 2004. Educators should continue to foster ways to develop students’ clinical skills that reflect new advances in education and assessment to ensure that future osteopathic physicians can demonstrate competency in fundamental clinical skills before beginning postgraduate training.

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