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How are the NBCE examinations scored?

As a result of the statistical processes the NBCE uses in scoring, there is no association between the number and/or percentage of items you answered correctly and your final scaled score (ranging from 125 to 800). Your NBCE scaled score will depend on which items you answer correctly and their relative difficulty, as well as the relative difficulty of this specific exam. These methods ensure that your NBCE test results are the fairest possible measure of your knowledge and abilities.

The NBCE employs a statistical scoring process called Item Response Theory (IRT). Because test questions are not equally difficult, IRT scoring factors in the difficulty of each question. An examinee who correctly answers difficult questions is demonstrating greater knowledge and ability than someone who answers the same number of easy questions correctly. Scores are not simply the number (or percentage) of correct answers.

The next step in scoring is a statistical process called equating, which allows the NBCE to compare performance on the current and previous versions of an examination. Through a series of statistical calculations, the NBCE equates its exams; then translates the equated IRT scores into a scaled score between 125 and 800.

When will I get my scores?

Scores for Parts I, II, III, IV, and Physiotherapy are generally available online, six weeks after the examination. Scores for SPEC and Acupuncture are generally available online, three weeks after the exam.

Why does it take six weeks to score an examination?

In order to assure that both the processing and scoring of NBCE examinations are done in a fair, secure and accurate fashion, it is necessary to follow a number of quality assurance steps. These steps include:

  • Accounting for all answer sheets
  • Carefully reading all comments made by examinees
  • Researching certain questions based on the comments made
  • Processing scores, including answer verification
  • Conducting post-exam review for problematic test questions involving a panel of judges and several references
  • Comparing equating results
  • Hand-checking of scores just below the failing point
  • Performing data forensics to figure out possible cheating cases
  • Proofing and posting scores to an individual’s permanent record
  • Printing and releasing scores
How do I interpret my score?

Every NBCE score is between 125 and 800.

The table below shows the average (mean) scores and standard deviations for NBCE examinees on the NBCE written exams:

Exams Mean Score Standard Deviation
Part I subjects 500 100
Part II subjects 500 100
Part III 450 100
Physiotherapy 500 100


What are the passing scores for the NBCE examinations?

The NBCE recommends a passing score of 375 for its exams.

Individual states may require a different score than the NBCE recommended passing score. Therefore, contact the licensing board of the state in which you intend to practice for information concerning that state’s score requirements.

How many subjects should I pass to pass the Part I or Part II examination?

You must pass all the six of the subjects in Part I and in Part II.

Therefore, to pass the Part I exam, you must pass General Anatomy, Spinal Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry, Pathology, and Microbiology.

To pass the Part II exam, you must pass General Diagnosis, Neuromusculoskeletal Diagnosis, Diagnostic Imaging, Principles of Chiropractic, Chiropractic Practice, and Associated Clinical Sciences.

What are the current pass rates for the examinations?

The NBCE does not predetermine the number or percentage of examinees who will pass any of its exams. Theoretically, as many as 100% of candidates could pass; or, conceivably, the passing rate could be 0%. (Naturally, neither of these extremes has happened in any administration of the NBCE exams.) While the majority of examinees do pass, the passing rate may vary from one chiropractic college to another, and from one year to another.

Whether or not you pass an NBCE exam is determined by your individual performance and not on an established distribution of scores, such as a bell curve.

How are the passing scores determined?

The passing score is established through a process called standard setting. This is set by a committee of subject-matter experts (chiropractic college professors) and chiropractors representing state licensing boards.

The committee members incorporate their knowledge of examinees, curriculum, and instruction as they analyze and rate each question. They then discuss with their colleagues what examinees should know and be able to do. The ratings on each question are combined to produce a recommend passing score for the entire exam. Passing scores are periodically reviewed and they are re-examined when there is a significant change in a test plan.

What is a score analysis?

A score analysis is available to any examinee with failing scores on Parts I, II, III, and Physiotherapy. A separate analysis is provided for each failed exam (i.e., each Part I or Part II subject, Part III, or Physiotherapy).

The score analysis summarizes your relative areas of strength and weakness by listing each category within an exam’s test plan and rating your performance in that category as sufficient, borderline or insufficient. For example, on Part III, your performance might be Insufficient on questions in the category Case History, Sufficient in the category Physical Examination, Borderline in the category Neuromusculoskeletal Examination, etc.

Score analyses are provided as assessment tools for your benefit and will not be reported to any third party. You can access your score analysis and all other score reports through your MyNBCE user account.

Can I retake an examination that I passed in order to raise my score?

No. You are NOT eligible to retake an NBCE exam you have previously passed. You MUST have received express written request or requirement from a state licensing authority to do so.