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Applied Basic Science

Exam Administration

The Part I examination, entitled "Applied Basic Science" (ABS), tests the underlying basic science concepts necessary to enter the clinical practice of optometry. Most ABS items reference a clinical condition, either explicitly or implicitly. There are 350 scored items and 20 non-scored pre-test items on the ABS examination. Candidates will not know which items are scored and which are pre-test. The exam is two sessions in length, each session consisting of 185 items. Candidates will have 4 hours to complete each session. The morning session includes an additional 15 minutes devoted to a tutorial and the reading and signing of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). There is an optional break of up to 45 minutes between the morning and afternoon sessions.

Beginning in March 2017, the ABS exam will be administered by computer at Pearson VUE testing centers. Information on registering for the exam can be found below. Student candidates must be in the spring of their third academic year to take the ABS exam. There will be three opportunities to sit for the exam prior to graduation.

The Examination Content Matrix, which contains the subject areas and their relative emphases, can be viewed by clicking here. Sample ABS items can be viewed by clicking here.

Most items on the ABS exam require candidates to choose the single best or correct answer. Approximately 10-15% of the items on the exam are multiple-response (MR) items; with MR items the required number of responses (2, 3, or 4) is indicated after the item stem. MR items are scored as completely correct or incorrect; there is no partial credit.

On the ABS examination, drugs are referenced only by generic name. However, to help those candidates who may be more familiar with the trade names of some drugs than the generic names, a list of generic drugs and their trade name equivalents will be available as a searchable PDF. Candidates can see a sample drug list used on a past ABS exam by clicking here. It is important that candidates note that the sample drug list is not intended to be a study guide, nor is it a complete list of drugs that may appear on the ABS exam.

Candidates should also be aware that the drug list will include only those drugs that have commonly used trade names. Drugs such as tetracycline or homatropine will not appear on the list.

Trade names are sometimes used on the ABS exam when referring to preservatives since some preservatives cannot be identified by a single generic ingredient.

An on-screen scientific calculator (TI-30XS) will be available to candidates throughout the ABS exam. Candidates should note, however, that all Optics items on the exam are designed such that the correct answer can be determined without the use of trigonometric functions. The scientific calculator is provided to give candidates the option of using trigonometric functions should they choose to do so.

The tutorial for the ABS exam can be downloaded here. Candidates are strongly encouraged to go through the tutorial prior to exam day so that they can become familiar with the mechanics of taking the exam by computer. Candidates will only have 10 minutes to go through the tutorial on the morning of the exam, and candidates may have difficulty completing the tutorial in that amount of time. Note that the tutorial requires a Windows-based PC and is not available for Mac platforms.

The tutorial includes a short (4-item) sample test. Candidates should be aware that the layout of items on the sample test for the downloadable tutorial is somewhat different than the layout that will be used on the actual exam. On the actual exam, the items will be approximately centered on the screen; on the tutorial, the items are left-aligned. This difference is necessary to allow candidates to view the items on the tutorial regardless of the screen size or resolution they may be using. There are also some minor differences between the downloadable tutorial and the actual exam regarding how the drug list and the calculator can be adjusted on the screen.

A marker and a booklet of pages that can be used as "scratch paper" will be given to each candidate at the test center. If a candidate uses up all of the booklet pages, the booklet can be turned in for a new booklet.

Candidates should note that the non-possessive form will be used on the ABS exam for eponymous terms (e.g., Horner syndrome will be used rather than Horner’s syndrome, and Descemet membrane will be used rather than Descemet’s membrane). This usage is in accordance with the growing trend in medical and scientific writing to remove the possessive when using eponyms.

Sections within the Examination Content Matrix are linked to PDF files. To ensure your ability to read these PDF files, please download the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat Reader® by clicking here!


Updated February 28, 2017


Registration and Scheduling

Candidates wishing to take the Part I ABS examination must register and pay the exam fee using the NBEO’s online registration system. Upon completion of the NBEO online registration, candidates will receive 2 automatic emails.

1. Email from NBEO Confirming Registration

(Subject Line: “NBEO Exam Confirmation”)

Your registration was successfully received. After your registration is processed, you will be sent a second email providing the Pearson VUE instructions for selecting a test center. If you have questions, please contact our Registrar at 704-332-9565.

2. Email from NBEO with Instructions for Site Selection

(Subject Line: “Contact Pearson VUE ***Site Selection***”)

Once your registration is processed, you will receive a second email with instructions for contacting Pearson VUE to select your site. Candidates will select a single day to take the exam (the Part I ABS exam is offered on four different days in March, but candidates will select one of the four days). Click here for a list of Pearson VUE test center locations. Candidates may schedule the exam for any time slot that is available at their chosen site. ABS candidates will be scheduled for an 9-hour time slot.

If at any point you are unable to review your registration through the NBEO website, please visit http://www.pearsonvue.com/nbeo/ to confirm your registration and seat selection.

Be sure to check your spam/junk mail folders in case the emails are indirectly routed.

If you have questions, please contact our Registrar at 704-332-9565. If you need assistance with a site selection contact Pearson VUE customer service 800-359-3345.

Copyright © 2017 National Board of Examiners in Optometry, Inc. All rights reserved.

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