How Does BoardVitals Adaptive Testing Work? 

boardvitals adaptive testing

It is essential to understand how your performance on practice exams will likely translate to your performance on your board exam. Having this knowledge at your fingertips can help you better prepare for test day. With Adaptive Testing technology, users can create an unlimited number of practice quizzes to get a more accurate measure of their competency level. Since this testing method is administered in some exams, like the NCLEX or ABFAS Didactic exams, users can get a feel for the test conditions they will see on exam day as they prepare with BoardVitals question banks. The exam results are designed to help students understand which content areas they are weak or strong in, rather than predict the likelihood they will pass their board exams. 

how adaptive testing works

Understanding Adaptive Testing  

In standard testing, you answer all exam questions in no specific order. With adaptive testing, questions are classified into difficulty levels based on the average percentage of correct answers given by other BoardVitals users. You will be presented with a question within a particular difficulty level. Then, the adaptive learning algorithm will adjust the difficulty of the next question based on if you are correct/incorrect. This process continues until you have answered enough questions for the algorithm to gauge your ability level.

To start your BoardVitals quiz, select “New Custom Quiz” in your dashboard. Then, choose the “Adaptive” option. 

How to Analyze Your BoardVitals Score 

Upon completing your quiz, you will receive a Score Report which provides performance assessment data. 

On your score report, you will see the following information:  

  • Percentile Rank 
  • Difficulty Band
  • Overall Score 
  • Subject Performance

What does this information mean? Below we explain each element of the score report using metrics from the example report to help you better understand your results. 

Percentile Rank: 85th Percentile of Hard Difficulty  

Your position in the rank reflects your overall achievement compared to other test-takers in the same difficulty category. For instance, if you are in the “85th percentile,” you have performed better than or as well as 85% of all candidates who received mostly moderately-challenging questions. Achieving a higher percentile rank on demanding items is desirable since it implies that you are excelling at some of the most difficult questions on the test. 

Difficulty Level: Hard Difficult 

Questions are divided into three difficulty levels: Easy, Moderate, and Hard, which is based on how many test-takers answered them correctly. It is an indicator of the average difficulty level of your questions. 

Overall Score: 87% Correct  

The adaptive exam offers questions that align with the student’s aptitude level, resulting in an approximate 88% likelihood of obtaining the correct answer. As a result, it is common for a student’s overall percentage score to range between 50% to 60%, irrespective of the difficulty category. 

While a score of “0%” is often seen as a failing grade, it’s worth noting that achieving an overall percentage score of 88% does not necessarily imply poor performance by a student. Instead, it signifies that the scoring algorithm has been successful in reducing estimation errors in determining the student’s aptitude level and selecting items with a suitable difficulty level. 

Total Questions: 75  

The length of each test is the result of the student’s response patterns, and will range from 75 to 145 questions. The adaptive testing algorithm selects items that students have a 50% chance of answering correctly based on their previous responses. If an assessment terminates after a student has completed a minimum of 75 items, it indicates that the adaptive algorithm has enough information to accurately estimate the student’s ability level, without the need to administer more items.   

Subject Performance  

This section in your report aids you in identifying your areas of proficiency and weakness based on your Subject Score percentage, Correct/Incorrect/Unanswered Questions, and your Average Response Time. Use it as a reference while preparing for your exam. 

Prepare for your upcoming board exam with a BoardVitals question bank. Sign up for a free trial today. 

The writing staff at BoardVitals is passionate about medicine, healthcare, and education. We’ve trained over 1.5 million physicians and work with more than 300 top teaching institutions. Learn more about our board review and continuing education products at

Try BoardVitals free for 10 days.

Free Trial. No credit card required.