NAVLE Exam: What You Need to Know

October 23, 2023


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 10/23/23

On the final stretch of your path to becoming a practicing veterinarian, one of the most important steps is to take the NAVLE exam. This article will cover what you need to know about taking your NAVLE exam. 

As an aspiring vet, you might have spent much of your time looking into the best veterinary programs and working hard to meet the requirements to get into your dream school. 

If you’ve been studying to become a licensed veterinarian or are looking into a potential career path in veterinary medicine, you’ll likely have an idea of what the NAVLE exam is. An integral part of becoming a veterinarian, the NAVLE is one of the final steps one must take to achieve their goal of becoming a practicing vet. 

This article will go over everything you need to know about taking the NAVLE exam, including test format, content, scoring, and exam dates. Additionally, we will cover some tips to help you prepare for your exam, followed by some FAQs to answer any lingering questions you might still have. 

Let’s get started!

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What Is the NAVLE?

We’ll begin by answering your most important question: What is the NAVLE? The NAVLE exam, otherwise known as the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, is a multiple-choice exam administered by the International Council for Veterinary Assessment (ICVA) and has been a requirement since 2000. 

The NAVLE is mandatory for all aspiring vets to get their licenses in the US and Canada. While some states require additional steps after completing your NAVLE, most states accept this exam as the final step to attain your veterinary license. 

To take the NAVLE exam, you must follow these six steps: 

Step 1
: Submit your application 

Step 2: Submit an application from your state or territory to confirm your eligibility

Step 3: Apply for your Scheduling and Admission Permit

Step 4: Schedule your test

Step 5: Take the NAVLE exam 

Step 6: Receive scores

While these steps are fairly straightforward, they can take some time to process–so ensure that you are able to allot enough time in advance to get your applications in order. This will allow you to take your exam on time and without much hassle!

NAVLE Test Format

Now you might be wondering what to expect on test day. If you’ve been studying for your NAVLE exam, you’ll know that the test is a multiple-choice test that you’ll be taking on a computer. You can expect to complete six sections, with 60-minutes allotted for each section. You will also receive a total of 45 minutes of break time, occurring as follows:

NAVLE test format times
Source: ICVA

The test has a total of 360 questions, with 60 being “warm-up” or pre-test questions which will not contribute to your final score. While this gives you some leeway, these questions are scattered throughout the exam. This means that you won’t know which questions are pre-test and which ones aren’t–so make sure you prepare adequately!

What Is on the NAVLE?

The NAVLE exam is based on three pillars: 

  • Diagnoses (species-based)
  • Competencies
  • Foundational Veterinary Sciences

Furthermore, the subject matter on the exam will be distributed based on species and practical skills. We will be providing a breakdown of each below. 

Species Breakdown

In addition to the three primary components of the exam, the NAVLE exam will test your species-based knowledge in relation to each component. Each species will be distributed on the exam accordingly:

NAVLE species breakdown
Source: ICVA

These percentages are based on the relevance of each species to everyday veterinary practice, so as you take your exam, you’ll be reinforcing knowledge that will be most essential to your work as a veterinarian. 

Practical Skills and Competency

In addition to species-based testing distribution, the NAVLE exam will also test your knowledge of practical skills required to be a vet. This aspect of the exam is designed to assess your competency as a practicing veterinarian and include the following topics:

Competency domain and subcategories on the NAVLE
Source: ICVA

Similar to the species-based questions, the distributions for competency are based on their relevance in veterinary practice. So, in taking the NAVLE, you’re essentially getting an overview of the knowledge you’ll need to be a stellar licensed veterinarian.

How Is the NAVLE Scored?

On the NAVLE exam, you can score on a scale between 200-800, 200 being the lowest score you can receive and 800 being the highest. 

Similar to other standardized medical licensing tests such as the USMLE, the NAVLE test utilizes a pass-fail scoring system, where the passing score is typically set at 425 points. The NAVLE score is fixed, which means that it is not graded on a curve.

NAVLE Exam Dates

The NAVLE typically has two testing periods per year. One between November to December and the other during the month of April. For 2022-2023, test dates are as follows: 

  • November 1 - December 16, 2023
  • April 1 - April 26, 2024
  • November 4 - December 21, 2024

In order to schedule tests for each period, you’ll have to complete all applications by August 1st for the November to December testing period, and February 1st if you’re planning on taking your NAVLE exam in April.

Tips To Prepare for the NAVLE Exam

Now that we’ve gone over the technical details about the NAVLE exam, we’ll be going over some tips to help you ace your test and start your career as a licensed veterinarian! 

Come up With a Study Plan 

Before you even send your NAVLE exam application in, you should create a study plan and schedule to keep you on track. It is recommended to start studying for the exam three to five months before your scheduled test date, so ensure that you plan out a study method that works best for you. 

It would be best to determine your baseline of knowledge and use that to assess how long you need to study and what areas you need to work on.

Test Yourself

As you study, you’ll be working hard to retain all the information you’re taking in, so remember to take some time to test yourself along the way. This ensures that your studying is paying off and allows you to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the subject matter. 

The ICVA provides test-takers with free resources such as sample questions, tutorials, and self-assessments, and also has practice exams that students can pay for. 

Take Some Time to Rest

Finally, taking some time to rest and take breaks is often overlooked when studying for any kind of exam. With all the challenges that come with test-taking, it is integral that you take some time to take care of yourself as it will ultimately aid in your mental well-being both throughout the study process and on the day of your exam.


Here are some FAQs about the NAVLE exam to answer any lingering questions you might still have. 

1. What Score Do You Need To Pass the NAVLE?

A passing score for the NAVLE exam is 425. 

2. How Much Does It Cost To Take the NAVLE?

For the 2023-2024 cycle, the NAVLE costs $740 USD. For international students who wish to take the test, an additional fee of $355 is applied.

3. How Hard Is the NAVLE Exam?

The NAVLE is notoriously one of the most difficult exams that a veterinary student will take. With a wide range of topics to cover, it proves to be challenging for many. So ensure you prepare adequately and give yourself enough time to review all the material. 

4. How Many Times Can You Take the NAVLE?

Test-takes are able to retake the NAVLE five times in a five-year period after your first attempt. You may only take the exam once per testing cycle, and may need board approval to retake the test after your fifth try.

Final Thoughts

While the NAVLE exam is deemed one of the most challenging tests you’ll have to take on the road to becoming a veterinarian, it’ll be one of the last steps you’ll take to reach your goal. With hard work, perseverance, and the right attitude, you’ll have all the tools you need to pass the exam and move forward with your career in veterinary medicine. 

Best of luck!

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