When researching how to become a veterinarian, most [American] sources will tell you that the process involves completion of prerequisite courses (usually with the completion of an undergraduate degree), followed by four years of veterinary school. They often leave out the small detail that you also have to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE), also referred to as “boards,” as well as state-dependent licensing exams. True, with an 90+% pass rate, I don’t particularly begrudge these sources their omission, but I’m pretty sure that I didn’t actually understand that this was part of the process until after I was already enrolled in vet school.
The morning I was to take NAVLE, I woke up with an odd sense of nervous calm. I felt like I was about to do a trust fall with vet school – the kind where your heart does a little biological flutter as you slip through the air, but you let yourself fall anyway, hoping your judgement was correct to trust the person behind you. I ended up putting more trust in the curriculum than I necessarily meant to, since I didn’t study as much as I originally intended. Many people spend weeks to months studying for the NAVLE with various test-prep programs, the most popular of which are Zuku Review and VetPrep. Both have a guarantee that if you complete a certain percentage of their practice questions, and you still fail, they will renew your subscription for free so you can study for your second attempt at no additional cost. Zuku’s magic percentage was 80% — I had completed 34%.
The exam itself is grueling. It consists of six 60-question sections, each of which you have 65 minutes to complete. You also get up to 45 minutes break time. If you finish a section early, you get extra break time, but no extra time for the sections. Your brain is thoroughly mush after you’re done.
The results return approximately four weeks after the testing period concludes, but they don’t provide a specific release date. As the expected release date approached, panic started rising. A classmate emailed the organization responsible for release of the scores and asked when the scores would return. The spokesperson replied with a somewhat non-committal response that essentially meant, “Soon.” The panic heightened.
The next day, the emails reporting our scores arrived. People darted out of rounds rooms to seek solace in the sunshine outside (or the bathroom down the hall) to look up their scores. I didn’t want to look. I wanted to wait until I was home and look then. But after an hour of being asked every 5-10 minutes if I had passed, I couldn’t take it anymore and looked anyway. Fortunately, I passed!
This doesn’t mean I’m a doctor yet, since I still have to finish my final year of vet school and take the North Carolina State Licensing Exam, but it is definitely a relief to have one more hurdle behind me!