The issue of ‘board exams’ can be confusing, so let’s look at some definitions and examples.  

Licensure Board Exams

There is an exam which each physician must pass in order to qualify for a state medical license.  Osteopathic medical students/physicians take an exam called COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination), which is administered by the NBOME (National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners).

Changes are being made in the structure of the examination sequence.  In the future a 2-decision point competency-based assessment sequence will be implemented for the osteopathic medical licensure examinations.  A two decision point system does not mean two tests.

  • Currently, Part 1 is computer-based and taken while in medical school.  
  • Part 2 is subdivided into two parts—one being computer-based and the second being a hands-on exam.  These also are taken during medical school. 
  •  Part 3 is taken after medical school graduation, during residency. 

For more information:

Allopathic students take a similar set of board exams, known as USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam).  The knowledge-based parts are taken via computer on roughly the same schedule as COMLEX.  There is also a hands-on portion for Part 2—taken during medical school.  For more information:

Which Board Exams?

For licensure, an osteopathic physician must have successfully completed all parts of the COMLEX.  Some osteopathic students elect to take the USMLE for post-graduate purposes, as some allopathic residency programs will not accept COMLEX to fulfill the board test requirement for application to the residency. Each residency program determines which board scores to accept as well as acceptable scores.

COMLEX-USA infomation