The North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE®) Guide for DVM4 students

Everything a DVM4 student needs to know about the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination.

What is the NAVLE?

The North American Veterinary Licensing Examination is a requirement for licensure to practice veterinary medicine in all licensing jurisdictions in North America (US and Canada). It consists of 360 clinically-relevant multiple choice questions which are aimed at "day 1" skills in general clinical veterinary practice.

It is taken throughout North America and at certain overseas sites at computer testing centres.

The NAVLE test is administered by the International Council of Veterinary Assessment (ICVA). This is not part of the AVMA, but an independent not-for-profit organisation with directors drawn from the AVMA, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and US practitioner associations.

Who is eligible to sit the NAVLE?

  • Graduates of schools accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
  • Senior students at AVMA-accredited schools who have an expected graduation date no later than ten months (eight months in some states) from the last date of the applicable testing window (i.e. final year students).

It is also important to note that while the NAVLE is a requirement to enter into veterinary medical practice in North America, it may not be required for graduates who specifically wish to undertake an internship or residency in a US or Canadian university veterinary faculty (depending on the program), and do not intend to enter private practice there.

When is the NAVLE offered?

The NAVLE can be taken during two testing windows each year: mid-April and late November/early December.

We strongly advise you NOT to attempt NAVLE in April

While April falls at the end of the US and Canadian academic year, here in Australia it is the start of the academic year. Clinical rotations later in your final year will give you invaluable practical experience and general clinical awareness, and a much better chance of passing.

The importance of passing NAVLE – the first time

It is very important to attain a first-time pass in the NAVLE – not just for your finances (total fees each time are >$1,000 AUD) and the prestige of the School, but because first-time pass rates are a key factor in the Melbourne Veterinary School's accreditation with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). That's why this test should not be taken without very thorough preparation.

Read on to learn more about the support we offer, tips and advice on taking the exam and other students' passing rates in previous years, or find out more Melbourne Veterinary School's AVMA accreditation.

Support for students sitting the NAVLE

To assist students to successfully pass the NAVLE first time, a series of seminars, learning materials, tutorials and a mock examination will be organised by the faculty during the final year, from July/Aug leading up to the November/December exam window.

  • One of the most important aspects for being successful in the NAVLE is examination technique. The exam itself is 6.5 hours of multiple choice questions (MCQs), and the pass mark is 70%, so being very familiar with the format of the questions and knowing how to rapidly rule out the distractors is essential.
  • Specialists in a number of key fields (e.g. clin path, SA medicine, equine, pigs) will use example NAVLE questions to demonstrate the thought process used to tackle them. They will also cover conditions particularly relevant to North America.
  • The Faculty will also pay for individual access to online commercial NAVLE preparation material (practice questions + answers etc) for those enrolled in the course.
  • A mock examination under exam conditions will also be arranged, with one-on-one feedback tutorials to go through the test afterwards.

The application process

NAVLE Application Process for Licensure in the U.S. and U.S. Territories

If you are applying to take the NAVLE for the purpose of being licensed by a U.S. state or territorial veterinary licensing board, you must submit TWO NAVLE applications:

  1. A national NBVME NAVLE application
  2. A state/territorial NAVLE application.

It is your responsibility to make sure both the NBVME and your licensing board office (or your board's designated NAVLE processor) have received all the necessary application paperwork and fees by their deadlines in order for you to be registered and approved to take the NAVLE. The verifying documentation required by licensing boards normally includes a letter of good standing from the Faculty on behalf of the Dean (via the Faculty Academic Support Officer), including your expected date of graduation.

NAVLE Application Process for Licensure in Canada

If you are applying to take the NAVLE in order to obtain a license to practice veterinary medicine in Canada, you must contact the Canadian National Examining Board (NEB) and follow their NAVLE application procedures and requirements. The NAVLE application and fee payment must be made directly to the NEB (not to the NBVME) by their application deadline date. The NEB has an early application deadline for some NAVLE testing windows. Contact the NEB office for additional information.

Taking the Exam

Exam format

  • The examination consists of 360 multiple choice questions, answered on computer at a private testing centre
  • There is a total of 6.5 hours test time (6 blocks of 65 min each)
  • A total of 45 min break time can be taken during the day (including lunch)
  • The pass mark is 70%

Because of the large number of questions and the time constraints, being successful in the exam requires a sensible exam strategy and familiarity with the format – that is, lots of practice tests!

Example Questions

A range of sample questions can be viewed on the ICVA website.

Frequently asked questions about the examination

  • What kind of examination is the NAVLE?

    The NAVLE consists of 360 multiple choice questions (items), administered one at a time on the computer. Sixty of the items are unscored pretest items, but the identity of these items is not apparent, and they are dispersed throughout the test. Approximately 15%-20% of the items on the NAVLE include graphic or pictorial information relevant to the item (photograph, radiograph, drawing, chart, etc.). All NAVLE items are relevant to entry level private clinical practice.

  • What does the NAVLE cover?

    The NAVLE is based on an examination blueprint. The blueprint has two dimensions: activities and animal species. Activities are tasks performed by entry-level veterinarians in private clinical practice. The NAVLE covers all animal species commonly seen by entry level practicing veterinarians.

  • How much time will I have to take the NAVLE?

    You will have a total of 7.5 hours at the test center. This will include a 15 minute orientation and tutorial, 6.5 hours of testing time divided into 6 blocks of 65 minutes each, and 45 minutes of break time, including lunch. Breaks may be taken only between blocks. Each 65 minute block will contain 60 items.

  • Does each candidate get a different length test?

    No. Each NAVLE form consists of 360 items.

  • Can I use a calculator when I take the NAVLE?

    Although any calculations required to answer a NAVLE item are intended to be simple, the NAVLE contains an on-screen calculator for candidates who would like to use it.

  • Do I need special computer skills to take the NAVLE?

    No. The NAVLE uses a simple, proven computer interface, that requires only routine mouse or cursor movements, and the use of the mouse or enter key to record the option chosen to answer the question. The NBVME recommends that you practice with the computer-based practice NAVLE before you take the actual examination, so that you are familiar with the computer interface. More information on the computer-based NAVLE tutorial, and NAVLE self-assessments can be found on the NAVLE Preparation Tools page on the NBVME website.

  • Will I be able to skip items during the exam and go back to them?

    The software allows candidates to skip and/or mark items for later review, within each block. Once a block is completed, however, you will not be able to go back and review or change your answers to items in that block.

  • Can't a candidate take the NAVLE early in the testing window and tell their classmates the questions?

    First of all, each candidate must agree to a security statement that they will not disclose any portion of the examination to any other candidate or anyone else. Second, multiple forms of the NAVLE are used, each form balanced with respect to content and difficulty. Third, each form is scrambled as it is administered, so candidates taking the same form do not see the items in the same order.

  • Can I review my study notes or use my cell phone to access reference materials while I am on a break or between blocks?

    No. Candidates may not use a telephone or other communication devices at any point during their examination, including breaks, for any purpose related to test content. You should not bring any reference materials or study notes with you to the testing center. If you do, you must place them in a locker, and must not review them during breaks.

  • What is the passing score?

    NAVLE scores are expressed on a scale where the passing point is set at 425. If the licensing board requests the score to be reported on another scale (where 70 or 75 is passing) that will be done, with the scaled pass point of 425 equivalent to different local scores. The actual passing standard is the same in all jurisdictions. The NAVLE uses a fixed, criterion-referenced passing score, and is not graded on a curve. This means that each candidate's performance is measured against a fixed standard, and the passing point does not vary based on the performance of other candidates. For additional information refer to the Scoring and Score Reports section of the NAVLE Bulletin.

  • How is the passing score determined?

    The passing score is developed using a content-based, or criterion-referenced standard setting procedure. Members of a committee composed of veterinarians representing the various content areas covered by the NAVLE work individually and collectively to determine the minimum score that a candidate has to achieve in order to be judged minimally competent to enter private clinical practice. The passing standard is approved by the NBVME, and is applied to each form of the NAVLE using a procedure called equating. Equating ensures that the passing standard remains constant in spite of minor variations in item difficulty from one form of the NAVLE to another. Raw scores (the number of items that candidates answer correctly) are converted to scaled scores (see above) and the scaled scores are reported to licensing boards and candidates. More information on NAVLE standard setting can be found on the NAVLE page of the NBVME website.

  • Why are NAVLE-style questions not included in assessments within the DVM course?

    The style of NAVLE questions, while being clinically relevant, is often very 'fact-based' or may hinge on one or two key words or phrases, which if missed can throw you off the correct answer. The DVM course in the clinical years (and throughout) tries to focus on clinical understanding, reasoning and problem solving, and therefore the NAVLE style of questions does not always align with the learning objectives and assessment in the DVM. This is also the case in most US and Canadian veterinary schools, who run separate preparatory programs.

Previous NAVLE results

USA/Canadian academic year

Year Students taking exam(s) Students passing exam(s) Percent passing
2014-2015 19 14 74%
2015-2016 26 21 81%
2016-2017 42 38 90%
2017-2018 32 28 88%
2018-2019 43 43 100%
2019-2020 29 26 90%
2020-2021 19 19 100%

Australasian academic year (Jan–Dec; cumulative April and November scores)

Year Students taking exam(s) Students passing exam(s) Percent passing
2015 23 23 100%
2016 46 40 87%
2017 31 27 87.5%
2018 40 39 97.5%
2019 30 27 90%
2020 18 18 100%
2021 27 26 96%