UPDATED 2021

Veterinary Test Guide

By Sony Rane, Tests.com


After four demanding years of veterinary school, students apply to take the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination to gain their final seal as a veterinarian. Success on the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) is a requirement for practicing veterinary medicine in North America.

The NAVLE, developed by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME), is an 8-hour multiple-choice exam consisting of 360 questions. The exam measures a candidate’s knowledge of veterinary science as it relates to future job performance and competency. The NAVLE covers many topics, including veterinary anesthesia, equipments and prescriptions. Questions are based on job analysis and frequently describe situations that a candidate may face in practice. Roughly 10% of the exam questions include graphic images of such situations to test diagnostic skills.

To receive a passing score on the NAVLE, a candidate must answer 55% to 65% of the questions correctly. The NAVLE is graded using the modified Angoff method, which does not compare overall scores or consider a curve on the exam. Instead a passing score is determined only by the level of difficulty of the content on the exam. The exact passing score of the exam is normalized after testing to account for slight variations in questions and difficulty on the different forms. Technical grading reports for the NAVLE are released for each testing cycle.

The NAVLE is administered for four weeks during a testing window in November-December and again for two weeks in April. It is offered at testing locations throughout North America and at selective testing sites abroad. Candidates taking their exam in November or December will receive their testing scores in late January, while candidates taking the NAVLE in April will receive their scores in mid-March.

Licensing for veterinarians is controlled by individual states, thus policies may vary, but all states require a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (or equivalent education) as well as a passing grade on the NAVLE to certify candidates. All candidates must pass an application process before receiving approval from a state licensing body to take the exam. Candidates must submit separate applications to both the NBVME and a regional licensing board to take the exam. Several regions require that a $100 application fee be sent along with the $525 NAVLE examination fee. Applications commonly require candidates to be at least 21 years of age, a U.S. citizen or resident alien, and a graduated (or soon-to-be graduated) student of an accredited veterinary school.

Specific licensing boards have adopted their own policies on retaking the NAVLE exam, but candidates may only take the exam once during each testing window. Many state boards will not allow candidates to retake the exam more than five times or repeat the exam after less than a year has passed.

The NAVLE is administered at Prometric testing centers located throughout North America. The centers each have six to12 computer testing stations, and a Prometric staff member will be on hand to assist with registration and questions. Each candidate will have their picture taken at the center, and the exam session will be monitored by video cameras.

NBVME is launching a new computer interface for the NAVLE starting with the 2009 testing period. The NBVME offers sample questions and a short tutorial for the NAVLE on their website, which candidates are encouraged to take to practice with the new format. Check out our Veterinary Test Directory for other NAVLE test preparation materials.