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Relationship between encounter time and candidate performance on COMLEX-USA level 2-PE
Journal of the American Osteopathic Association
  • J. M. Sandella
  • W. L. Roberts
  • E. E. Langenau
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Background: The National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners uses a standardized timing format for all osteopathic medical candidates across all stations in the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination-USA Level 2-Performance Evaluation (COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE). Examination standardization, and therefore validity, is weakened if time administered affects student performance. Objective: To investigate the relationship between the amount of time students spent with standardized patients (SPs) and their clinical skill component scores. Methods:Data were analyzed from 249 candidates in 21 test sessions from the 2007-2008 testing cycle. Trained SPs recorded the time each examinee entered and exited each encounter. Outcome measures of the examination included pass (1 if pass; 0 if fail) performance outcome, pass by domain (biomedical/biomechanical and humanistic), and pass by component scores (data gathering, osteopathic manipulative treatment, and patient note scores). Analysis of variance (ANOVA), followed by pairwise comparisons, was used to compare encounter times across cases. Results:A total of 2988 SP encounters were analyzed. Examinees spent an average 12.1 minutes in each patient encounter. Candidates spent less time with cases classified as health promotion and disease prevention than with cases that primarily involved a problem visit, but amount of time spent with cases representing various content areas was not significantly different (P>.05). On average, candidates spent the least amount of time (11.95 minutes) with gastrointestinal cases and the most time (12.26 minutes) with patients who had complaints relating to the neuromusculoskeletal system. A trivial relationship was shown between the continuous variable encounter time as the average amount of time a student spends in the encounter and the dichotomous clinical skill outcome of the examination (r=.03). The relationship between these 2 variables was consistent when examined separately for the humanistic domain (r=-.10) and the biomedical/biomechanical domain (r=.12). The strongest correlation was between encounter time and the data-gathering component score (r=.28). Conclusion: Time spent in the encounter was not influential in overall candidate performance in the COMLEX-USA Level 2-PE. Candidates spent a similar amount of time with cases of different content areas. This finding suggests that 14 minutes is sufficient for this osteopathic high-stakes performance evaluation.


This article was published in Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, Volume 111, Issue 1, Pages 38-43.

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Copyright © 2011 JAOA.

Citation Information
J. M. Sandella, W. L. Roberts and E. E. Langenau. "Relationship between encounter time and candidate performance on COMLEX-USA level 2-PE" Journal of the American Osteopathic Association Vol. 111 Iss. 1 (2011) p. 38 - 43
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