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What will they ask me on the NAVLE?

Posted by Jessica Gramlich on Aug 26, 2015 7:30:00 AM

NBVMEThe National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME) publishes a percentage based breakdown of what areas are covered on the NAVLE. All of the numerical information in this article can be found at the NBVME website, Most of the rest of the information in this article is either paraphrased or adapted from the NBVME guidelines and if you are interested in the original text, we encourage you to view the NAVLE website at

The NAVLE is a 360 question examination and the information can be broken down by the species asked about in each question or by the nature of the activity being discussed in the question.

The breakdown by species is as follows:

  • Small Animal (53%)
    • Canine (23%)
    • Feline: (23%)
    • Pet Birds (3%)
    • Other Small Animals (3%)
  • Food Animal (27%)
    • Bovine (15%)
    • Porcine (6%)
    • Ovine/Caprine (3%)
    • Cervidae (0.7%)
    • Camelidae (0.7%)
    • Poultry (2%)
  • Equine (16%)
  • Public Health (3%)
  • Non-Species Specific (1%)
Small Animal (canine/feline): 48% (24% canine, 24% feline)
Equine: 17%
Bovine: 17%
Other Food Animals: 12% (4% porcine, 3% ovine/caprine/cervidae, 3% food security and public health, 2% poultry)
Other Small Animals: 5% (3% pet birds, remaining 2% presumably includes, reptiles and other small mammals)
Non Species Specific: 1%

Analyzing this information tells you that 77% of the exam comes from the 4 big ones (canine, feline, equine, and bovine) with only a small number of questions coming from each other species. However, it is common to hear students complain that it seemed like there were a ton of pig questions or bird questions. This is probably because most students learn less about those areas in school and it is natural to primarily remember the questions that you thought were the most challenging. This is the same reason that over 90% of students walk out of the exam convinced that they did not study enough and probably failed while the vast majority actually did just fine.

The other way questions are broken down is by the type of activity the question is asking about and the division is as follows:

Data Gathering and Interpretation (140 items)

  • Obtain history, perform physical examination, and evaluate the environment (35 items)
    • Gather information from client, trainer, herd manager, etc., by asking appropriate questions and using interpersonal skills to
      • clarify concerns, presenting problems, and expectations
      • identify possible epidemiological problems and public health concerns
      • analyze previous medical history and/or production record
    • Determine the status (normal/abnormal) of the animal(s) and/or environment by (24 items)
      • Observation and physical examination
      • Medical or production record evaluationC. Record pertinent information in a legible and orderly system of medical records to promote retrieval and sharing of information (11 items) 
    • Develop a problem list, and a differential diagnosis list (47 items)
      • Correlate clinical signs or abnormalities with organ systems 
      • Formulate a complete problem list and differential diagnosis list(s), to determine the need to collect additional information 
      • Recommend relevant procedures to the client, trainer, herd manager, etc., to obtain specific information about the problem(s) 
      • Order or perform diagnostic procedures to further define the problem(s)
    • Interpret collected information and establish a working or final diagnosis or conclusion (23 items
Health Maintenance and Problem Management (140 items)
  • Identify and evaluate prevention, treatment, and management options (64 items)
    • Develop a plan of action by assessing the following
      • expected outcome
      • feasibility
      • urgency
      • client expectations
      • economic considerations (e.g., ability to pay, value of animal)
      • humane considerations including pain management
      • ethical and legal implications
      • environmental and public health implications
      • professional abilities, resources, and facilities
    • Communicate case management options and prognosis to the client, trainer, herd manager, etc., including prevention, treatment, and husbandry alternatives
    • Obtain assistance through information retrieval, consultation, and/or referral
  • Implement Plan of Action (47 items)
    • Obtain informed consent as needed from client or authorized representative
    • Protect animal and human health and the environment by doing the following
      • order or perform indicated tests
      • apply epidemiological principles
      • comply with regulations (e.g., government, show, legal transport, drug use and withdrawals, organic vs. conventional)
    • Perform preventive and/or therapeutic procedures (surgical, medical, etc.)
    • Communicate to the client or staff procedures that will optimize compliance with the treatment plan
    • Monitor the effectiveness of preventive and/or therapeutic measures
    • Advise the client on relevant additional issues (e.g. nutrition, behavior, genetics, husbandry, production management and performance, environment, public health)
  • Assess outcome (29 items)
    • Evaluate interventions by
      • reviewing existing data
      • collecting additional information
      • assessing client compliance
      • validating working diagnoses
    • Modify therapeutic and preventative plans as needed

Professional Behavior, Communication, and Practice Management (20 items)

  • Conduct oneself in a professional, ethical, and legal manner
  • Adhere to regulations regarding the veterinarian client patient relationship
  • Pursue educational opportunities to enhance continued personal and professional development
  • Communicate and work effectively with colleagues and staff
  • Evaluate practice methods to enhance productivity and knowledge (e.g., task delegation, time management)
  • Educate staff and public in proper animal care and health
  • Ensure safety (e.g., occupational hazards, handling/ restraint, drug interactions, food safety)
  • Address client concerns in an empathetic and understandable manner (e.g., crises, grief management, economic restraints, compliance issues)
  • Preserve and protect the human animal bond

Topics: NAVLE

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