I keep mentioning shelves and I’m sure you know I don’t mean 棚*…
The NBME Basic Science Subject Tests for Medical Students (commonly referred to as “shelf” exams) are standardized tests, much like the SAT IIs one might have taken in high school. According to their website:
NBME subject tests are achievement tests in a broad sense, requiring medical students to solve scientific and clinical problems. Although students’ performance on the tests will reflect the learning specific to their course and clerkship experiences, their test scores will also reflect educational development resulting from the overall medical school experience. These tests are constructed to be appropriate for a broad range of curricular approaches and have at least four distinct advantages over locally constructed examinations in the assessment of student achievement.
- The tests provide national norms and relevant descriptive information.
- Considerable care is taken in preparing these materials, with items selected only after extensive review and pretesting.
- These tests concentrate heavily on application and integration of knowledge rather than recall of isolated facts.
- They attain better accuracy of measurement.
NBME subject tests are intended to complement other sources of information about the educational progress of medical students. The test results should be interpreted in light of other available information. Likewise, curriculum evaluation cannot be based on test results alone. The quality of teaching can and should be evaluated by frequent peer observation and student feedback, not inferred solely from the level of test scores. Medical school faculty and administration should not view the results of NBME subject tests as the beginning and end of evaluation.