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Understanding the New NBME Score Report

A medical school student looking through his NBME score report on a laptop to determine if he is ready for the USMLE exam.


Understanding the New NBME Score Reports for USMLE Step 1 and 2 Preparation


So you just finished an NBME practice exam and the score report pops up. Most students immediately focus on the big score reported at the top. However, there is a wealth of information you can glean from these lengthy new score reports! The NBME revamped its score reports for CBSSA and CCSSA exams in 2022. Here we will dissect the anatomy of a full NBME score report.



The Different NBME Exams


Before we get started, it is helpful to clarify the names of the different NBME exams and align them with their corresponding USMLE exam so you can ensure you are taking the correct practice tests.


Comprehensive Basic Science Self-Assessments (CBSSAs) are for USMLE Step 1 preparation. These score reports were updated in 2022 to be more holistic in the setting of USMLE step 1  converting to pass/fail reporting starting in January 2022.


Comprehensive Clinical Science Self-Assessments (CCSSAs) are for USMLE Step 2 CK preparation. These score reports were also updated in 2022.


Comprehensive Clinical Medicine Self-Assessments (CCMSAs) are for USMLE Step 3 preparation.


Clinical Mastery Series are for subject exam preparation.



Breaking Down the Score Reports


I order to follow along with this breakdown, it would be helpful to look at the NBME interactive example score reports. The interactive CBSSA report can be seen here, and the CCSSA report here.


The Score at the Top


For CBSSA/USMLE Step 1: the equated percent correct score.


At the top of your score report for CBSSA, instead of finding a 3-digit score you will a total equated percent correct score: #%. Per the NBME, this number reflects the percentage of how much of the content assessed by the CBSSA you have mastered. It may slightly differ from your actual percent correct. It could be slightly lower or higher to account for variations in the difficulty of different CBSSA forms.


For CCSSA/USMLE Step 2 CK: three-digit score


At the top of your score report for CCSSA, you will see the standard 3-digit score corresponding to the USMLE Step 2 CK score scale.


Probability of Passing the USMLE Examon the NBME Score Report


Following this, there is an estimated probability of passing the USMLE Step exam if taken within a week. This calculation considers test takers who took their Step exam for the first time within a week! The NBME chose 1 week because they intend these scores to be reflective of if you were to sit for the test within that week without forgetting or learning much new information.


Interpreting the Histogram


You’ll next see the histogram. This graphic will show you many important pieces of data. Your equated percent correct score is shown and is encapsulated by the two green bars next to it. These represent your likely score range. The gray bars show the low pass range for the Step exam. The light blue bars show students’ performance from LCME-accredited medical schools so you can compare your performance to theirs.


If your likely score range (the green range) is below or overlapping with the gray low pass range, you may be at risk of not passing the Step exam if you sit within the week. You would likely benefit from additional study time. If the green likely score range is entirely above the Step exam low pass range, it is more likely that you will pass the Step exam. However, this is not a guarantee! It is important to remember that multiple factors go into performance on test day and the limitations of the NBME’s modeling.


Performance by Content Area


On the following pages, you will see several tables depicting your overall performance broken down by physician tasks, disciplines, and systems. You will again see a different equated percent correct score for each of these areas.


Just like your overall equated percent correct score, this indicates the percent of content in each area you have mastered! You will then see a comparison group equated percent correct score taken from first-time Step test takers from LCME-accredited medical schools. The score comparison will show you if you scored about the same, lower, or higher than the comparison group.


Longitudinal Progress


The final pages display graphs of your scores over time for multiple tests, illustrating your longitudinal progress. This is a great way to visually track your progress!



How to Use the NBME Score Report to Your Advantage


After reading through your score report, you now can be laser-focused and direct your studying! You should tailor your studying to incorporate the weaker areas. Start by identifying any areas where you are scoring below the comparison group and start doing question blocks from your Qbank in these areas.


If you are scoring similar to or above the comparison group, great job! You should compare all your areas and choose the weakest ones for your performance or flip to the longitudinal graphs and focus on the systems where you are seeing a plateau in performance and not a rise. Embrace this challenge for maximum growth and improved scores! See our study calendars to help you stay focused throughout this time!


Finally, if you are unsure where to start, a tutor can help break down your score report with you and help you create a custom study plan for success! Schedule your complimentary consultation today to learn more.


  1. https://www.nbme.org/examinees

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