Purpose of shelf exams?

Fif the Great

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    Can anyone give me a good reason why schools give shelf exams? At my school, they aren't very high stakes (a minimal 10% impact at the end of a block) and they're pretty long and cumbersome. Sure, I'm all for Step 1 prep but Lord knows I'm not going to remember a single thing about Biochem or Physio especially after Pharm, Path, Gross, Histo, Embryology, and Micro. And who cares where I rank nationally with a bunch of other first time shelf-takers? Step 1 is the only exam that really matters. I studied a grand total of 0 hours for both the Physio and Biochem shelves. I finished 1 point above the national average in Biochem, and 1 point below in Physio. So what? Should I now go buy a Physio refresh book and study in my free time between learning the borders of the femoral triangle and discerning what the heck an intercalated disc looks like on a microscope? Personally I think it's a complete waste of time. I don't recall my college biology courses making us take a practice MCAT and then counting it towards our final grade. I studied for the MCAT on my own time.

    I could be completely wrong about this and hope someone can give me a pretty good reason why. And plus, this is one of my first posts on SDN, so I have to break the ice with my first whiny post. :D
     

    Janders

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      thackl said:
      The schools also use it to compare the students against the national average to make sure they are teaching the right stuff.

      Thats a big reason why.

      It also gives you a standardized measure of how you are doing. Maybe you aced biochem at your school, but did rather poorly on the shelf. This may impact your future studying methology (Though I didn't ace the class nor flunk the shelf, my biochem scores were very... different.. think high A versus barely above national average... and I don't exactly pull in many high A's)

      It also serves as practice for the board (I want all the practice I can get).

      To me it serves something of the same purpose a SATII subject test, or AP/IB exam might (not college credit, but to see how well you know the standardized set of material, esp. vis-a-vis your peers at other institutions).

      I know our administration has run a ton of statistics, and shelf scores are very highly correlated with eventual step one scores, more than any other marker they can keep tract of. I believe they quoted a nearly 0.9 correlation.

      here they try to make them count for 10% of the grade... I think we've had a couple count closer to 15 or 20%. They generally help my grade.
       
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      thackl

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        Sharkfan said:
        Does anyone even know the national average for Anatomy??? My school didn't tell us.
        The national avg for all NBME's is 70. Your school will probably convert that to an 83. If the class avg for the test is above an 83, then your class likely beat the national avg. My school avg's were 81 Biochem, 82 Anatomy and 83 histo. We were below on two and matched national avg on one.
         

        Discobolus

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          I love the shelf exams. They test over stuff that is actually important instead of school exams which will ask a question over one unimportant obscure line from a poor power point presentation. If I had my way we would take one test, the NBME shelf exam at the end of each course and if you don't score above a certain level you fail the class.
           

          Sharkfan

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            To answer the OP's question... yeah, they're pretty much for the school to pat itself on the back if at all possible. My school straight up told us that they like to see how we compare to the rest of the country. And I guess to reinforce their desire for us to do well, the test counted for 25% of our final grade. Yippee.
             

            saanjana

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              thackl said:
              The national avg for all NBME's is 70. Your school will probably convert that to an 83. If the class avg for the test is above an 83, then your class likely beat the national avg. My school avg's were 81 Biochem, 82 Anatomy and 83 histo. We were below on two and matched national avg on one.


              hey thackl....i do'nt quite understand what you mean....so the national average is a 70 (i'm guessing 70%), and what do you mean by the school converting that to an 83??? Do you mean some kind of a curve?
               

              doc05

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                saanjana said:
                hey thackl....i do'nt quite understand what you mean....so the national average is a 70 (i'm guessing 70%), and what do you mean by the school converting that to an 83??? Do you mean some kind of a curve?


                it's some kind of curve where thackl's school decided that "83" would be the mean. possibly the course mean for the school exam was 83, and the curve was meant to normalize things for final course grade determination. don't worry how you've done in terms of either raw score or percentile. just worry about how you've done compared to the rest of your class.
                 

                Skichic56

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                  Hoya11 said:
                  you take these tests in addition to the schools tests? Ugh. We dont have that at all, just school tests with some questions from the shelf

                  Hey hoya, does georgetown (which I'm assuming you attend?) not use shelf exams? so are these exams not mandatory? are all of your other exams multiple choice? thanks!
                   

                  No Fear

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                    I believe that the shelf exams aka. subject board exams are a load of CR*P. They can be useful for personal measures so you can see how well you did as an individual. However, certain schools don't buy new ones every year and some students call their freinds who take it a day or two early and find out what's on it. I wouldn't put too much weight on what they really mean. I guess that's why many schools don't have them and those that do don't count them very much.
                     

                    thackl

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                      saanjana said:
                      hey thackl....i do'nt quite understand what you mean....so the national average is a 70 (i'm guessing 70%), and what do you mean by the school converting that to an 83??? Do you mean some kind of a curve?
                      The writers/graders of the test convert the national average to 70 with a standard deviation of 8. TTU (my school) converts that to an 83 with a SD of 8 using a very simple formula. So here, if you have a 91, you are one sd above the national mean. The final class ave is also adjusted in many courses based on class performance on the NBME (above or below an 83).

                      Here, the NBME's are pretty heavily wieghted since there is such a high correlation to the MLE (especially pathology).
                       

                      Ramoray

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                        Oddly enough my school does no shelfs other than the path one at the end of 2nd year. Imean if you have to take one i guess path is the best to know if you learned the right stuff considering that path is the bigges ton the boards but i personally would have liked to take them for every subject to get an idea of the things they ask and to make sure i studied adequatly
                         
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