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The NBOME’s learning assessment platform


CATALYST is a learning and assessment platform designed by the NBOME. After answering the questions delivered on CATALYST, candidates receive immediate performance feedback and educational resources that can assist further learning and reduce knowledge gaps. In addition, candidates can take assessments, part or whole, on CATALYST at their own pace.


For individuals, CATALYST is convenient and easy to use. It presents immediate feedback with learning resources to help medical students, residents, physicians and health care professionals learn and retain relevant knowledge. Learners can see their relative areas of strength and weakness, and where they need to focus efforts in learning such as independent study, reading, or Continuing Medical Education (CME). Questions can be answered during a particular period of time or as schedules permit.

For organizations, CATALYST offers a state of the art assessment platform allowing assessments to be delivered over time; unlike assessments that offer a single snapshot of a learner’s performance. Collecting information over time allows an organization to feel secure that their learners are up to date with important concepts. An assessment delivered on the CATALYST platform could potentially take the place of certain proctored examinations, allowing more flexibility for the organization and its stakeholders.

Assessments on CATALYST can be customized with content for all levels of medical education and practice (students, residents, practicing physicians or other health care professionals) and for a variety of purposes (retaining content, learning new content, focused remediation).

How does CATALYST promote learning through assessment?

Studies in cognitive learning have shown that more complex and durable learning can be accelerated in a number of ways: by asking learners to retrieve what they learned previously (quizzing), by providing immediate feedback, by spaced repetition and by waiting to re-study material.1,2 Learning and retention can also be enhanced by interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another and by varying the content to generalize the learning.3

For example, research has demonstrated that residents retain and transfer surgical skills better if taught in a distributed manner rather than a single multi-hour event.4

How is CATALYST different from traditional examinations?

A traditional examination, such as COMLEX-USA, is focused on evaluating an individual’s performance following a program of learning, often measured in terms of passing or failing, and is based on a predefined standard. In contrast, the CATALYST platform encompasses a learning methodology referred to as formative assessment. Formative assessment focuses on a learner’s development and provides ongoing feedback to help the learner identify strengths and weaknesses and target content areas that need attention.

While traditional examinations may only provide a single score as feedback, assessments on the CATALYST platform provide learners with immediate feedback with the correct answer, a rationale explaining why that answer is correct and why the other choices are incorrect, as well as references to additional learning resources.

How do learners access CATALYST?

Assessments on the CATALYST platform are accessible 24/7 via computer, tablet, smartphone, or on the CATALYST app.

How can learners follow their progress on CATALYST?

Learners can follow their own progress on the CATALYST dashboard, which includes the total number of questions to be answered and how long they will be available, the number of questions the learner has answered, and the number of correct and incorrect responses. The CATALYST platform also provides learners with their strengths and weaknesses in different content areas and ongoing access to learning resources.

For more information about using CATALYST for your assessment, please contact Client Services at 866-479-6828 or clientservices@nbome.org.


1 Roediger HL & Karpicke JD. Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention. Psychol Sci 2006; 17: 249 – 255.

2 Brown PC, Roediger HL, & McDaniel MA. Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.

3 Pan SC. The Interleaving Effect: Mixing It Up Boosts Learning. Scientific American, 2015.

4 Moulton CA. Dubrowski A, MacRae H, Graham B, Grober E, & Reznick R. Teaching Surgical Skills: What kind of Practice Makes Perfect? A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Surg 2006; 244 (3), 400- 409.

For further reading:

Horber DT, Flamini J, Gimpel JR, Tsai T-H, Shrum K, Hudson K. CATALYST: Piloting a Longitudinal Assessment and Learning Program for Board Recertification and Continuous Professional Development. Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 2020; 120(3): 190-200. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2020.031.