A Survey of Collection Development for United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Preparation Material EC

Article excerpt

Objective: The research sought to ascertain medical and dental libraries' collection development policies, evaluation methods, purchase decisions, and issues that relate to print and electronic United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) preparation materials.

Methods: The investigators surveyed librarians supporting American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC)-accredited medical schools (n=58/125) on the USMLE and librarians supporting American Dental Association (ADA)-accredited dental schools (n=23/56) on the NBDE. The investigators analyzed the data by cross-tabulating and filtering the results using EFM Continuum web survey software. Investigators also surveyed print and electronic USMLE and NBDE preparation materials from 2004-2007 to determine the number of publications and existence of reviews.

Results: A majority of responding AAMC libraries (62%, n=58) provide at least 1 electronic or online USMLE preparation resource and buy an average of 11.6 print USMLE titles annually. Due to a paucity of NBDE print and electronic resources, ADA libraries bought significantly fewer print resources, and only 1 subscribed to an electronic resource. The most often reported evaluation methods for both populations were feedback from medical or dental students, feedback from medical or dental faculty, and online trials. Some AAMC (10%, n=58) and ADA libraries (39%, n=23) libraries reported that no evaluation of these materials occured at their libraries.

Conclusions: From 2004-2007, publishers produced 45 USMLE preparation resources (total n=546) to every 1 NBDE preparation resource (total n=12). Users' needs, institutional missions and goals, financial status, and official collection policies most often underlie decisions to collect or not collect examination preparation materials. Evaluating the quality of examination preparation materials can be problematic due to lack of published reviews, lack of usability testing by libraries, and librarians' and library users' unfamiliarity with the actual content of examinations. Libraries must integrate faculty and students into the purchase process to make sure examination preparation resources of the highest quality are purchased.


Sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) functions as the standardized examination for assessing medical students. Composed of three examinations, or steps, the USMLE must be passed to receive medical licensure from state and territorial medical boards in the United States [I]. Similarly, the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) from the American Dental Association (ADA) qualitatively evaluates dental students [2] and satisfies the written examination requirement for licensure by state dentistry boards [3]. Institutionally, medical and dental school educators use USMLE and NBDE scores to comparatively evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their curricula [4-8]. On an individual level, higher scores on the USMLE correlate to higher scores and passage of medical specialty board examinations [9-14], higher clinical performance ratings [15-20], and preferred residency attainment [6,21-25].

Due to the "high stakes" nature and immense professional influence of these licensing examinations, exam takers feel intense pressure to score well in order to pursue their desired career plans. Medical students who use commercial USMLE preparation texts and medical textbooks indicate their utility [26] and demonstrate markedly higher USMLE scores than their counterparts who use other preparation methods [27]. Dental students cite print NBDE materials, such as flashcards and old examinations, as most helpful to their preparation [28]. A Wayne State University study reveals that a majority of medical students view electronic testing through their personal digital assistants (PDAs) as effective preparation for the electronically administered USMLE [29]. …