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'Technical glitch' causes veterinary licensing exam mix-up

Officials send wrong comparisons, although not scores, to NAVLE test takers

January 24, 2024 (published)

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Dozens of aspiring practitioners who recently took the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, a key hurdle for practicing as a veterinarian in the United States and Canada, may have been surprised last week when they received an email regarding their test results.

That's because it did not contain their own performance metrics but instead those of a different examinee. 

Around 80 of the 6,491 examinees enrolled to take the NAVLE during the November-December session received the misdirected messages, according to the organization that oversees the exam, the International Council for Veterinary Assessment.

In a statement on Jan. 18, the ICVA acknowledged the mix-up, disclosing that they detected the error after sending the emails to examinees. They said that "a technical glitch occurred in the generation of NAVLE score reports" and promised corrected score reports by 5 p.m. EST.

Later that day, the ICVA issued a second statement explaining that the erroneously shared information did not include the pass/fail outcomes and scores of test takers: "The only information that was accidentally shared with less than 1.3% of the candidates was another candidate's name, NAVLE ID, and a generalized comparison of how the other candidate performed on the NAVLE by species and competency relative to the entire pool of candidates. However, the generalized comparison data is insufficient to derive the other candidate's score and/or pass/fail outcome."

The National Board of Medical Examiners provided updated score reports by the end of the day on Jan. 18. ICVA uses the term "score report" to describe a document containing performance data relative to a comparison group of examinees from the same test administration.

The NBME is a nonprofit that develops the United States Medical Licensing Examination, a national assessment required to obtain a physician license. The ICVA enlists the NBME to help develop, deliver and score the NAVLE — services that cost the ICVA more than $5 million in 2021, according to the group's most recent tax filing. According to its website, the NBME "generates all NAVLE score reports and posts them on an NBME portal for candidates to access." 

On Monday, NBME Communications Manager Jill Heagerty explained in an email to the VIN News Service that "all scores and pass/fail outcomes were correct as originally reported," but there was a problem with "the assembly of a small number of NAVLE candidates' score reports." She said the ICVA became aware of the issue through calls and emails from test takers concerned about seeing information on their score report that did not belong to them.

In a letter to examinees dated Jan. 19, the NBME said it's making changes to prevent future mix-ups. Despite this reassurance, some recipients have expressed on social media ongoing privacy concerns.

Dr. Heather Case, ICVA's chief executive, confirmed on Tuesday that the issue has been resolved. In an email to VIN News, she stated, "All students have their updated score reports and NBME has enhanced its login security and sent examinees new passwords." 


VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email news@vin.com.



Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.



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