Failed Pediatric Boards? Here’s A Study Schedule That Works!
A failed pediatric boards attempt is devastating, so having a study schedule that’s detailed is essential to helping you pass next time. I know this because the PBR has helped pediatricians who have failed the peds boards repeatedly FINALLY pass the exam.
I’ve never hidden the fact that I failed the boards the first time, and that the Pediatrics Board Review (PBR) books and website are all meant to make it as easy as possible for ANY pediatrician to pass the boards. But, it may surprise you to know that almost 50% of the pediatricians who end up purchasing the PBR study guides do so because other resources have failed them. I think the record number of failed attempts is currently held at ELEVEN! Given the new 7-year rule put in place by the American Board of Pediatrics,
My Favorite Emails
While I love hearing from ANYONE across the world that has used PBR to pass their boards, my favorite emails are the ones from members who have finally passed after previously failing the boards. Here’s one that I keep in my “happy file” to cheer me up when I'm down:
I just wanted to thank you for helping me pass the Peds Board with your study materials. I failed the Boards multiple times (4). I used your materials last year but I also failed. I think the reason was that I only reviewed your material probably 2.5 times. Despite the failure I somehow still had faith in your PBR materials.
You were/are right about reviewing the materials in your PBR OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER again until you know it inside out… I really credit my success to going over your materials multiple times.
… going over your materials multiple, multiple times really consolidates and focuses [what you need to know] to pass the Boards… Please pass this on to others who are having the same issues that I had. Thanks again for your materials.”
– Dr. Gorkong
Goals of this Article
My goal in writing this article is to outline a schedule that will allow you pass the pediatric exam if you’ve ever had a failed pediatric boards attempt, or if you have failed ANY medical board exam before. You will need to figure out if your failure(s) were due to a lack of knowledge, or due to poor testing skills. If due to knowledge, following this 16-week schedule to the letter should will give you the best possible chances of finally passing to boards. I won’t go into it here, but if you think other factors may be at play (attention to detail, falling for traps, timing, anxiety, etc.), consider reading the PBR article on board prep coaching.
And if this is your first time taking the boards, read the PBR article covering a 14-week study schedule for first-time test takers. MUCH of the schedule below has been adapted from that schedule, but with some modifications. For example, I recommend studying 300 hours and going through the PBR 3 times first-time board takers. For anyone who has previously failed the pediatric boards (or ANY medial board exam), I recommend studying 400 hours and going through the PBR FIVE times.
Study Schedule for Repeat Board Exam Test Takers
This comprehensive study schedule includes both the PBR books (Core Study Guide and Q&A Book) and the AAP PREP ® questions. I’ve mapped out 16 weeks, and this should be quite manageable if you can commit to an average of 23 hours of studying per week. By the end of it, you will have gone through the PBR materials 5 times and you will have worked through over 700 practice questions. Based on your individual needs and commitments, you will need to modify the schedule to fit your life.
While going through 3 years of AAP PREP ® questions is vital to help you prepare for the exam, you shouldn’t get too bogged down with these questions. They should only be used for practice as I’ve mentioned in the article titled “How Many AAP PREP Questions Should I Do?”
Spend roughly 5 minutes on each question (75-90 sec to answer each question and 3-3.5 minutes to review). As you get closer to the exam, decrease the time per question to 75 seconds since that’s what will be expected on the actual exam. At 5 per question, that’s about 60 hours in total. The other 340 hours will be spent going through the PBR materials. Make sure you treat both PBR books (Core Study Guide and the Q&A Book) as “core content” that you MUST KNOW!
HIGHLIGHTER TIP: Some people (me included) use a new color highlighter for each successive reading of their study guides. I would suggest NO highlighter for the first read, yellow for the 2nd, orange for the 3rd, green or blue for the 4th, and possibly a pen for the 5th reading of the PBR. The idea is to start with a LIGHT color and then use darker colors with each successive reading. With each new color highlighter, ONLY mark the areas that you are still struggling with an need to read again (and again) in detail.
Okay… here we go!
STUDY SCHEDULE WEEK #1 – WEEK #4
GROUP A (RECOMMENDED STRATEGY): Your first read through of the PBR materials should be very fast and take around 80 hours. Force yourself to simply read all of the content so that you become familiar with the high-yield content within the PBR. DO NOT aim for deep learning or memorization. Just focus on familiarity. Aim for an average of 12 minutes per page and be sure to go through both PBR books (Q&A Book and Core Study Guide). If you have questions, just write them in the margins for now. By following this method the first time through, you will avoid the death trap of wasting your time by spending weeks on a single chapter. JUST GET THROUGH IT! Discipline is going to be key for studying and for question answering strategy. Start working on it NOW.
GROUP B (ALTERNATE STRATEGY): I’m SURE there are those of you who will refuse the above suggestion and “need” to completely understand all of the content on the first read. If that describes you, take 6 weeks to do so and allot 120 hours in your study schedule for this (20 hours each week). Crosscheck facts, create mnemonics, and make notes in the margins so that you never have to go outside of PBR for additional knowledge or clarification. Be sure to pay close attention to challenging areas. Aim for an average of 18 minutes per page.
BOTH GROUPS A & B: Break up your studying with an average of 5 AAP PREP ® questions per day as directed by PBR. Aim for 5 min per question including the answer review. Group A should do 140 questions over 4 weeks and Group B should do 210 questions over 6 weeks. Questions will take about 3 hours of your time each week.
STUDY SCHEDULE WEEK #5 – WEEK #10
GROUP A (RECOMMENDED STRATEGY): For your second and more detailed read through, allot 120 hours in your study schedule over 6 weeks for this. Crosscheck facts, create mnemonics, and make notes in the margins so that you never have to go outside of PBR for additional knowledge or clarification. Pay close attention to challenging areas. Aim for an average of 18 minutes per page. Highlight or underline areas that you feel will need more review and repetition.
GROUP B (ALTERNATE STRATEGY): Since you’ve already gone through the book in painstaking detail once, this round should be MUCH quicker and should take you a maximum of 80 hours over 4 weeks (weeks #7 – #10). Aim for an average of 12 minutes per page and try to only highlight/underline areas that you think will need more review and repetition.
BOTH GROUPS A & B: Break up your studying with an average of 5 AAP PREP ® questions per day as directed by PBR. Aim for 5 min per question including the answer review. By the end of Week #10, you will have completed a total of 350 questions.
STUDY SCHEDULE WEEK #11 – WEEK #14
Stick to the schedule and stay disciplined!
Consider taking 4 weeks OFF (Weeks #13 – #16)!
You should now be familiar with the PBR content but still need to review the books a few more times to develop the solid knowledge base you’ll need to pass the exam. For the next 4 weeks, read the PBR materials 2 more times. Aim for no more than 40 hours per read. You’ll need to average about 6 minutes or less per page. If the 3rd read through takes 3 weeks, that’s OKAY. Anticipate your 4th and 5th readings to be MUCH faster, and there IS some built in “cushion” time within this schedule.
Refresh your memory of familiar topics and work to cement your knowledge of the difficult ones. If you're mentally struggling and need a boost, or you have questions about the PBR content, reach out to members of the private Pediatrics Board Review Facebook Group.
Continue working on questions with an average of 5 AAP PREP ® questions per day as directed by PBR. Aim for 5 minutes per question including the answer review. At this point, you may want to consider batching questions and doing at least 20-30 questions in a single sitting per week. Remember, the boards give you approximately 75 seconds per question.
STUDY SCHEDULE WEEK #15 – WEEK #16
TAKE TIME OFF!… TAKE TIME OFF!… TAKE TIME OFF!…
It is POSSIBLE that some of you have been through the material 5 times already since each PBR reading gets faster and faster. Even if you’re only done with 4 readings, you should now have a solid foundation of knowledge. During your 5th reading, VERY quickly read the topics you know well to ensure your understanding is correct, and continue to focus on the more challenging topics until they’re cemented in your mind. The challenging topics should be easy to identify if you’ve been using different and darker color highlighters for each successive reading.
If you have extra time after your 5 readings of the PBR, I would only go over your “trouble topics” again and again. You MUST KNOW the PBR core study guide and the Q&A book inside and out. If you don’t, KEEP studying! I can’t stress this enough. It will be the key to your success!
If you’re still having trouble with certain topics, lean on the PBR Facebook Group of your pediatric peers. It’s a MUCH more efficient and FUN way to learn than doing a ton of scattered research yourself!
Are you comfortable with your knowledge of “core pediatrics” a this point? If you’re not, stop memorizing ANY pediatric content that has changed over the past 10 years… and focus specifically on “core pediatrics” that has not changed in over a decade.
For PREP ® questions, you should have done about 490 questions by now (35 per week x 14 weeks). That leaves about 200-225. The difference for these remaining questions will be that you MUST INCREASE your speed and you must BATCH your questions. You have to make sure that you can answer questions in real, exam time. That’s 75 seconds, or 1 minute and 15 seconds per question! You can read more about timing of questions on the boards in the PBR article called, “Peds Boards Exam – Time Per Question, Number of Blocks, Ahhh!!!!! It’s so confusing!”
Week #15 Questions: Set some time aside (4 hours per session) on two separate days to work through 50 questions on each day. Time yourself! At 75 seconds per question, each block of 50 questions should be 63 minutes long.
Week #16 Questions: Set 8 hours aside about 1-2 days prior to the exam and do two separate blocks of 50 questions in ONE sitting. Only give yourself a 15-minute break in between. Spend the rest of the day reviewing your answers and the PBR. At 75 seconds per question, each block of 50 questions should be 63 minutes long.
Test Day Questions: Personally, I like to “get in the mood” for the boards and get my brain ready for a test. I would wake up early and do a small block of TIMED questions prior to the exam. DO NOT worry about the answers. It’s just meant to “prime your brain” and remind you of the pace you’ll need to maintain.
CONGRATS! YOU’RE DONE!
If you’ve gone through over 700 practice questions and 5 readings of the PBR as I’ve recommended, you’ve put yourself in an AMAZING position to pass.
There are tons of things you can do the day before the test and the day of to make sure it’s a success. Just go to the Pediatrics Board Review Test Day Tips area to get some more of my personal recommendations.
TIP: Determining Your Pace Early On
In case TIMING your studying has been an issue, or in case you’re afraid that you may not be able to stay on track with the schedule above, here’s how you can MAKE SURE that you do!
Time yourself as you go through 50 of the PBR pages quickly as recommended above for your first round of reading. Then time yourself as you go through the same 50 pages in painstaking detail. This will kind of help you mimic your first and second read through of the PBR.
Use those times to work out roughly how long it will take you to get through the entire book twice and adjust your schedule accordingly. I would be surprised if your 3rd, 4th and 5th readings don’t average out to about 40 hours per reading as scheduled above, so you shouldn't have to adjust the timings for those weeks.
Be sure to add in some extra “cushion” time when calculating your pace (maybe 15-20%) since it’s easier to go through 50 pages quickly during this pace test since the material will be fresh in your mind. It’s a different story after you’ve gone through 30 chapters over x number days. Also, some chapters are much more dense than others.
TIP: Make Your Weaknesses Your Strengths
As you work through the PBR, pay attention to the content that you are consistently struggling with. PLEASE don’t make the mistake of repeatedly skipping over difficult areas, or spending tons of time on the “fun and easy” topics. If you find a topic that’s difficult, set aside some extra time to make sure you’ve answered all of your own questions and that you understand it WELL. Get HELP from your PBR peers!
We often “know” what we did wrong the last time we failed. For example, I often blame the study materials that I used. In fact, that's why I ended up creating my own materials to begin with… BUT, there were also other things under MY CONTROL that I would definitely have changed the first time I studied:
I would have taken time off instead of doing sporadic locums work which interfered with my study schedule
I would have limited my studying to one resource and focused on it exclusively
I would have used timers during my study
I would have studied in a library or café
- As soon as I started to notice that I wasn’t studying fast enough, I would have set boundaries with family and friends and expectations around my study schedule
The list goes on an on. Make one for yourself and review it frequently. Do whatever it takes this time to pass the boards. The country is getting more strict, as is the American Board of Pediatrics. Failing this exam again could affect your livelihood. Don’t believe me? Just click HERE to read an article from the AMA. Or, click HERE to read the American Board of Pediatrics 7-year time limit on when you must obtain licensure after residency. Did you know that if don’t get certified within 7 years that you have to go BACK to residency for ONE year?
Passing this exam is very much possible, but only if you commit the time to study for it. I proved that by increasing my score by such a massive number. As I mentioned in the article titled “Need a Pediatric Board Study Plan?,” you MUST TAKE TIME OFF! Especially the two weeks before the exam.
I can't guarantee you’ll succeed this time. At the end of the day, only YOU can do that. But, I can say with certainty that if you follow the study schedule outlined above, you are going to put yourself in an excellent position to finally pass the pediatric board exam.
If you're still “shaky”, nervous, and think you need a medical test coach, consider taking Ashish's TEST-TAKING Strategies & PBR Coaching Secrets course. Find out more about the program by clicking HERE.
Not a PBR member yet? What are you waiting for? Click HERE if you’re ready to take control and become a PBR member.
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