USMLE vs COMLEX

Issues specific to osteopathic medical education and practice as a DO.

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USMLE vs COMLEX

Postby ayushman80 » Tue Jan 01, 2008 3:19 pm

When competing for residencies does it matter which boards you have taken (USMLE or COMLEX)? Does anyone know if the scores from the two boards are even comparable?

My sister is at a DO school right now and she only took the COMLEX. I think that she's facing some problems because she didn't take the USMLE. Additionally, I've heard a statistic that only 72% of DO students are able to pass the USMLE, vs 96% of MDs in their first try.

If the education is the same at both types of institution, I don't understand why there would be such a huge difference in pass rates. With the exception of OMM both exams are VERY similar (or so I've been told). Does this indicate the quality of the institution, the students accepted, neither, or both?

Thanks!
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Postby Vince86 » Wed Jan 02, 2008 8:56 pm

well i would guess since the DO students are only trained for the COMLEX and not the USLME. So when they do take the usmle, although a DO goes through the same training, might be a little different than the test they are prepared for. Also the type of students accepted into DO schools are of a lower stat GPA and mcat wise.... might be also a reason. But ultimately its the students, and how much they want it.
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Postby OlufunshoBY » Thu Jan 03, 2008 2:42 am

am a second yr DO student preparing for COMLEX. I use practice questions from both USMLE and COMLEX. from my experience, USMLE is much more detail oriented than COMLEX.

USMLE place empahsis on molecular concept like mechanism of action, specific enzymes, rate limiting steps, while COMLEX is more clinically oriented; asking more of diagnosis and treatment. COMLEX seem to be more buzz words oriented also with very little biochemistry compared to USMLE.
For most institution, COMLEX 1 and USMLE 1 are now considered equal. Most programs except for few accept both. When the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) president came to my sch, he specifically said, "if you call up a program and they tell you they don't take COMLEX 1, call the AOA office and they will contact the hospital" because there is an agreement in place now.

For step 2 and 3, that hasn't been finalized yet, so if an osteopathic students is going into an allopathic programs, he/she might need to take USMLE 2 and 3 but not USMLE 1.

DO and MD medical education is of the same standard, and it will be a misconception to think otherwise but the exam is written differently with emphasis on different aspect of knowledge. Since my realization of the differences between the two exams, I decided to actually use the USMLE Qbanks to prepare for the basic sciences for Boards and use the COMLEX Qbanks for the osteopathic principles component of COMLEX.

Irrespective of which one you end up in, the bottom line is your success on boards is dependent on you.

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Postby Arboth » Sat Jan 05, 2008 12:18 pm

vince, yeah the average mcat and gpa of a matriculating DO student compared to a MD student are different, but by that much. its like a 3.4 avg at DO schools and around a 3.5-6 at MD schools. come on bro, we all go to different schools with varying levels of difficulties. i know for a fact that graduating from my school with a degree in biochemistry is more difficult and my class have lower gpas than those at less competitive schools...the list goes on. oh yeah, the mcat isn't a great indicator of intelligence as it simply tests how well you prepared for the exam. are you more intelligent after studying for the mcat as opposed to before? do you do better in upper level biochem, chem and bio classes b/c you can do every single circuit or pulley question on the mcat? the usmle board score disparity is a result of DO schools teaching towards the COMPLEX and md schools towards USMLE. my cousin goes to a great MD school and said he would fail the COMPLEX hands down. lol.
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Re: USMLE vs COMLEX

Postby KYDO » Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:17 pm

With all due respect, I chose an DO school over and MD school. The overall trend in DO vs MD school admittance may be toward slightly lower MCAT and GPA but it is not by much. DO schools are much more interest in the candidate being well round and other aspects of being a human that are not testable by the MCAT or GPA. I personally had two masters degrees, GPA of 3.9, MCAT score 37 S, and several published articles in peer-reviewed journals BEFORE I went to med school. In my 3rd and 4th yr rotation I have met some very intelligent MDs and DOs. But I have notice greater patient satisfication with DOs than with MDs. I am NOT saying that MDs are not great physicians. I think the differences comes from how DOs are trained compare to MDs, specifically the use of manipulation and guiding principles of osteopathic medicine.

To the current topic, the USMLE and COMLEX test the same areas of medicine with the exception manipulation on the COMLEX. However, they go about it two very different ways. Osteopathic information is included in almost all COMLEX questions. Therefore, using USMLE question banks will not effectively prepare you the COMLEX. They CAN be a valuable as an adjunct to a COMLEX question bank.

To address the DOs USMLE scores, the 1st time passage rate differs from year to year and from Step 1 to Step 2 and Step 3. If memory serves, overall the 1st time passage rate for DOs is in the upper 80's to low 90's. This performance differnce between MDs and DOs maybe simple a matter statistics. There are simple fewer DOs taking the USLME than MDs. Therefore, a lower score will have more an impact on the average.

On another point, MDs can NOT take the COMLEX. They lack the training in osteopathic medicine to pass it. All DOs students must pass Level 1 and Level 2 COMLEX to graduate. USMLE is not required for graduation. Many DO students decide that extra expense is not worth it. It is true that most residencies veiw the COMLEX and USMLE with equal merit. However, the difficulty is in comparing a COMLEX score to a USMLE score. To do there have been no successful conversion tool to aid GME directors in this comparison. So, there are some GME directors that are more familar or have taken the USMLE themselves (MDs) and chose to rely on it than rather try to figure out what a COMLEX score of 625 means. The results is that some DOs might not get there residency they want because this issue. It not because the COMLEX is an inferior test.
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