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Date Updated: February 12, 2019

International Foundations of Medicine (IFOM)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For all

How long are the IFOM Examinations?

Both the BSE and CSE have 160 multiple-choice questions, each with a single best answer accepted as correct. Examinees have four hours to complete the exam.

In what languages are the IFOM exams offered?

Both the BSE and CSE are available in English and Spanish. The IFOM CSE is also offered in Portuguese. Additional languages will be added based on demand.

Who can use IFOM exams?

NBME wishes to work with any medical school or other organization around the world (for example, ministries of health, residency programs and hospitals, and other healthcare agencies) whose programs and goals could benefit from using high-quality comprehensive assessments. Generally, medical school users should have already been found eligible to apply for ECFMG certification—see the ECFMG Information Booklet for more information.

We require that all institutional users be able to comply with our test administration standards, including security protocols.

Individuals may apply to take the International Foundations of Medicine (IFOM) exams if they are currently enrolled in or have graduated from medical school. For more information about taking an IFOM exam as an individual, see the “Applying for IFOM” tab on this webpage.

How is IFOM delivered?

IFOM can be delivered in one of two ways:

  1. On the computer at a participating Prometric test center
  2. At a medical school, if it participates in the program. Within a school, IFOM can be delivered on a computer or as a paper and pencil exam.

What are the validity and reliability/psychometric properties of the IFOM examination?

Reliability analysis of the IFOM scores indicates an internal consistency value of greater than 0.90, which meets standards for high-stakes examinations using multiple-choice questions. Comparison of exam results with other measures of performance used by participating universities shows good correspondence.

How are the post-test survey items selected?

NBME and affiliated organizations select survey items to support research initiatives and program development.

How can I learn more about IFOM scoring?

Please visit our Scoring and Score Reporting webpage: https://www.nbme.org/ifom/scoringscorereporting.html, where you can find detailed information about IFOM scoring, including sample score reports and score interpretation guides.

For individuals

Who is eligible to take an IFOM exam?

You need to be a currently enrolled medical student or medical school graduate.

How often can I take it?

You can take the IFOM CSE three times in a year and the BSE two times per year.

How long does it take to get exam results? How will I know my score?

IFOM results are typically reported within three weeks after your test date. However, delays are possible for various reasons. Please allow at least six weeks after your test date to receive your score report.

If you are testing at a participating medical school or other organization, you need to obtain your score report from officials at your organization.

Will my school know my score?

If your school is sponsoring the exam administration, the school must gain permission from you to receive your score. In cases where IFOM is used as part of the curriculum, your participation may be mandatory. If you register to take the exam at a Prometric test center, only you will know your score.

What training materials do you recommend to prepare for the exam?

This depends on your purpose in taking the exam. Many schools that use IFOM wish to measure their students' base level of medical knowledge, in which case please check with your medical school before beginning preparation.

If you are taking the exam under higher-stakes conditions (e.g., residency selection), we offer online self-assessment examinations to help you prepare for IFOM exams. For more information, please follow the link below:

NBME Self-Assessment Services

If I want to improve my performance on an IFOM exam, can I take it again? Will my performance on both attempts show?

You can take the IFOM CSE exam up to three times per calendar year and the IFOM BSE exam only once per calendar year. NBME issues a score report each time you take the exam. The report reflects your performance only on that administration.

For programs, schools, and agencies

How long does it take to get exam results?

NBME posts results for institutional administrations online within two to three weeks of testing.

Do organizations need permission from students to receive their scores?

Yes. Since student scores are delivered to administrators, the organization must obtain permission from each student. NBME relies on an organization's representation that it has received such permissions.

How will students who take IFOM through their organizations know their scores?

Students need to obtain their score reports from organization officials, who receive the results electronically via the secure NBME services portal.

How can we advise students to prepare for IFOM exams?

This depends on your purpose for using the exam. Many organizations use IFOM to measure their students' base level of medical knowledge, in which case preparation may defeat the purpose. It is up to each medical school or other sponsoring organization to advise its students on how to prepare for the exam.

If you wish to advise students to prepare for an IFOM exam, NBME offers online self-assessment examinations. For more information, please follow the link below:

NBME Self-Assessment Services

Are the IFOM exams appropriate for making high-stakes decisions?

Yes. Medical schools, post-graduate programs, and ministries of health/education have all used the IFOM CSE results to make high-stakes decisions (such as residency selection). Some organizations also use IFOM BSE for high-stakes purposes.



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