The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) is an organization that designed the USMLE and is dedicated to designing high-quality assessments for health-care professionals. The NBME created the IFOM – International Foundations of Medicine exam in 2010, dedicated to assessing the core knowledge of international students taking the exam.
The USMLE traditionally has included many exam questions that were largely US-focused, such as population health, public health, and healthcare questions. International medical students tend to score lower in these domains, considering that they typically were not taught US-centric healthcare questions.
The IFOM has two exams, the BSE – Basic Science Exam and a CSE – Clinical Sciences exam. Many of the questions are modeled off of the USMLE exam and is much cheaper than the USMLE.
Students can use the IFOM exam for the following reasons:
- For your applications for post-graduate training programs. Although not required, it makes you look more competitive among other candidates.
- See how you compare among others using an international standard.
- Familiarize yourself with the types of questions that are used on exams like the USMLE.
The IFOM exam greatly benefits international medical students since they can take the exam and see how their IFOM score translates to the USMLE. However, there are no residency programs that substitute the IFOM exam for the USMLE. That means, as international medical students, you would have to take the USMLE regardless if you were interested in applying for a US residency training position.
There are not many benefits for US medical students to take the IFOM exam, mainly because the USMLE scores are needed.
Bottom Line: If you are a non-native English speaker and an international medical student who ultimately wants to practice in the USA, then the IFOM is beneficial for you mainly because it is cheaper, available in different languages. You can use it as a practice test for the USMLE.