AAP PREP®QUESTIONS – WHEN YOU SHOULD (AND SHOULD NOT) USE THEM!
A question I’m often asked is “Ashish, what makes your pediatric study guide better than prep questions?” Whether they are talking about general board prep questions or the American Academy of Pediatrics PREP®questions, my answer is always the same (read on).
THE SECRET NO ONE TALKS ABOUT WITH AAP PREP QUESTIONS
The AAP PREP questions are NOT written by the American BOARD of Pediatrics (ABP). They are written by the American ACADEMY of Pediatrics (AAP). The names of these organizations are so similar (American ______ Pediatrics), that MANY pediatricians believe that they are one and the same.
THEY ARE NOT!
Yet, the AAP's annual question series has somehow become the “go-to” Q&A resources for the pediatric boards.
Many pediatricians tend to use AAP PREP questions exclusively as their source of study for the boards. I'm baffled by this. While PREP is a great resource for anyone who is a board-certified pediatrician looking for Continuing Medical Education (CME), or for any non-board certified pediatrician trying to simulate an ABP practice session, these questions should NOT be used as a primary study resource while studying for the ABP initial certification exam.
THE MOST COMMON REASON PEDIATRICIANS FAIL THE PEDIATRIC BOARDS
Here is a note I received from a PBR alum, now a Board Certified Pediatrician, who made one of the most dangerous test-taking mistakes the year that she failed her pediatric boards:
Hello Ashish, Last year I failed my boards. I spent countless hours studying using prep questions but didn't have one good source to use to really learn from and I thought using questions would be my key to success. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I was so lost and frustrated after I received that FAIL, and I thought there is no way that I was going to pass. I had spent hours and months studying… What more could I have done?!? I googled ‘failed pediatric boards' and PBR came up. It was an answer to prayer. It was exactly what I needed. I was blown away by the help that PBR gave me. From the PBR book itself to the videos, audio and online portals – I am so incredibly thankful. I think PBR should be adopted by residency programs nationwide as it would be a great resource to have to study for in-training exams and to use alongside rotations. Just my two cents!! If there is something that I could do to help you and the PBR membership, please let me know!
Dr. Stephanie Moses, Board Certified Pediatrician
Learn from Stephanie’s experience; it takes more than questions to pass the pediatric board exam. There are three pillars I like to refer to when it comes to successfully passing the boards:
CONTENT: How well you know the material.
TECHNIQUE: How to quickly and effectively process board-style questions.
COMMITMENT: How disciplined you are to the process.
In order to succeed on the boards, you have to separate your board prep time into two buckets. Your CONTENT TIME (the time to develop your knowledge base) and your TECHNIQUE TIME (the time to develop your test-taking strategy).
Again, the AAP has put together a GREAT resource. I actually think it stands above all others in the marketplace for simulating the board exam experience. It's also wonderful for pediatric continuing medical education (CME). However, it should NEVER be used as a standalone resource for board study. I simply cannot imagine that the AAP would ever cover all of pediatrics as a comprehensive board review in a set of 200-300 questions.
STEPHANIE FOCUSED ON QUESTIONS, AND FAILED THE BOARDS
Dr. Stephanie Moses is now a board-certified pediatrician practicing emergency medicine. But, that wasn't always the case. In the video below, she talks about the advice that she received and how she focused on PREP the first time that she took the boards. Her second experience was very different. What she says is amazing. Watch the video below now, and be sure to watch until the end.
HOW MANY AAP PREP QUESTIONS SHOULD I DO?
In short, you should do at least 5 practice questions per day in addition to your studying materials. These should be from PREP as well as from other Q banks. This way, you are able to get a taste of various question flavors and have a broad understanding of how questions can be written for the boards. Read my article called “How Many AAP Prep Questions Should I Do?” and learn more about why I recommend this.
When it comes to how many questions you should do before taking your boards, the answer is “it depends.” At the end of the day, answering board-style questions is a skill. You can only answer so many questions before you reach a plateau. Once you do that, the rest of your time should be spent on maintaining your newly developed test-taking skill. For most physicians, though, having “skill” at taking a board exam is a foreign concept. However, through PBR's test-taking strategy courses, we've proven that investing a fraction of your time in learning the technique behind processing and answering board-style questions can produce unbelievable results.
Here are a few additional key points about using the AAP's questions, as well as any other board prep questions:
If you insist on using questions to study, pick a company that creates study materials for the boards as well. This will (hopefully) ensure that the questions actually correlate with the content you need to know for the boards. This way, the answers/explanations tie in seamlessly with the core content necessary to pass the boards. However, finding this magical batch of questions that will give you everything you need to know for the boards typically does not exist. That’s why it's IMPERATIVE to study from a well-written and easy-to-understand study guide and to use questions for the practice of your test-taking TECHNIQUE.
The boards are not always current! PREP does a great job of staying current, but the ABP questions you'll see on the boards are not always that up to date. So BE CAREFUL.
PREP answers/explanations often go into excellent detail to explain all possible viewpoints. When you're studying for the boards, EFFICIENCY ISKEY so SKIM the answers. If you answered the question correctly, pat yourself on the back and MOVE ON! If you answered the question incorrectly, focus only on the answer that you chose and also on the answer that was the correct answer. Figure out where you went wrong. Was it a TECHNIQUE problem, or was it purely a CONTENT problem? If you felt like you had a good handle on the subject matter but still answered the question incorrectly, it was definitely a TECHNIQUE problem and you must figure out how to strengthen your test-taking strategies.
So, to answer the question posed in the title of this article, “Ashish, what makes your pediatric study guide better than prep questions?”, it’s near impossible to find ANY board prep questions that would do a good job of serving as a stand-alone STUDY resource.
Yes, you will undoubtedly learn some information about pediatrics by going through board prep questions. But your primary goal should be to use prep questions for PRACTICE and refinement of your test-taking TECHNIQUE rather than a STUDY resource.
THEN, HOW DO I STUDY FOR THE PEDIATRIC BOARD EXAM?
Set time aside to specifically grow your knowledge base and work on your test-taking technique. If you aren’t sure how to create such a schedule, I have two articles with step-by-step directions on how to set up your study schedule. Regardless of how much time you have left before the boards, these articles are great resources!
If you consider yourself to be a great test-taker, or if you are taking the boards for the first time, follow this schedule.
For those who are wanting to take that next step to pass the boards, the go-to resource is Pediatrics Board Review. As a PBR member, you’ll have access to high-yield board review questions and our test-taking strategy resources!
To get the most out of our catalog of study materials, we created the No Brainer package. The No Brainer package is the most common bundle used by our members to prepare for, and pass, the Initial Certification Exam. It provides you with a comprehensive and multimodal approach to studying. It also includes three 90-Day Personalized Schedules created by Team PBR and our Full Online Test-Taking Strategies Course.
Passing the the pediatric boards is challenging, but it's far from magic. In this article I'm going to introduce you to the 3 main areas you must focus on to pass the boards. If you don't, then even as a good pediatrician you will be at high risk for failing the boards.
By the end, you will have a much better handle on the general framework within which you will need to focus your energy. I predict that it's going to be quite liberating for you!
Let's start with a few stories…
Each year after the pediatric board results are released, I ask PBR members for feedback. “How was it for you?” The replies vary considerably, but there are specific overwhelming emotions which come through time and time again;
“a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I feel lighter and free.”
– “Dr. Wiseman”
“My family and I celebrated all day long. We cried tears of happiness knowing the endless hours of studying are over AND payed off!”
Why You DO Need A Study Schedule for the Pediatric Boards
I often get asked questions along the lines of…
“Can you give me a general pediatric board study schedule?”
“I'm in practice and very busy. Can you provide me with a pediatric board study plan that's going to work for me?”
“Can you provide a pediatric board study schedule for those of us with an erratic schedule because we're in fellowship?”
The answer to all of these questions is "yes." But, when you’re preparing for your pediatric board exam, the most essential first step is to map out a dedicated amount of time for your studying based on your personal availability and the recommendations in this article. If you are a first-time test taker, and you:
Have done well on your most recent In-Training Exam
Then you are likely at low risk for failing the pediatric boards, and this is the study plan for you! For low-risk test-takers, I recommend finding a MINIMUM of 300 hours to block out in your schedule, with plans to go through your Pediatrics Board Review material at least THREE times.
Please remember, though, a schedule is only as valuable as your DETERMINATION to follow it. In this article, I break down those 300 hours into a manageable, concrete schedule that you can use to guide your studies and PASS the pediatric boards.
Since it’s impossible for me to know exactly what your commitments are, what I’ve tried to do below is map out 14 weeks of study time based on the goal of studying approximately 300 hours.
Even if you do not agree with everything I recommend, keep reading to get some ideas that you can incorporate into your own board preparation plan. At the end of this article, I also share some pearls of wisdom towards to help you manage all of the study time that will be needed to pass your boards!
What If I'm at "Moderate to High Risk" of Failing the Pediatric Boards?
If the risk calculator helped you realize that you are at moderate or high-risk for failing the boards, don’t worry! I've created a 16-week study schedule to help you succeed on the boards! The recommendations in the other article are tailored towards graduates who were told that they were "at risk" of failing the boards based on their in-training exam scores, and those who have already failed the boards at least once.
The MOCA-Peds exam is the default option to meet your Part 3 requirement within each five-year MOC cycle. Pediatricians have found MOCA-Peds preferable to the ponderous and stressful standard proctored exam. MOCA-Peds (Maintenance of Certification Assessment – Pediatrics) may seem like an easier option, however, you’ll still need to study with efficiency. PBR can prepare you in an easy and painless way. We give you brief, targeted summaries of the exact topics you will see on the exam.
How Hard is it to Study for the MOCA-peds?
It’s not hard as long as you have the right resources. To become familiar with the content, we recommend the MOCA-PBR Study Guide & Test Companion. Remember, you’ll have access to the open-book and open-computer resources of your choosing. Be sure to use the right resources for you.
How to Study for the MOCA-Peds Exam?
Locate the American Board of Pediatrics topics for this year
Find a high quality guide, such as the MOCA-PBR, for this year’s MOCA-Peds topics
Review Your Study Guide at Least Once From Beginning to End
Have the Online Version of your MOCA-Peds study guide available during testing
Review the one-page list of topics on the day that you attempt MOCA-Peds questions
Have the online version of your MOCA-Peds study guide available during testing
Use all available open-book resources to answer each question within 5 minutes
Take notes on questions you missed because they may repeat in future quarters
Repeat this process for every MOCA-Peds exam
After you’ve reviewed the steps, you will undoubtedly have more questions. Our Reminders can help.
Locate the American Board of Pediatrics Topics for This Year
The topics change every year, but they are released in advance. You can typically locate them by clicking here. Trying to research every topic can be grueling as a full-time physician, which is why we recommend that you use a structured study guide to help you prepare.
Find a High Quality Guide, such as the MOCA-PBR, For This Year’s MOCA-Peds Topics
We recommend the MOCA-PBR Study Guide & Test Companion. PBR reviews the new topics and creates a new, high-quality study guide every single year. It's created with efficiency in mind so you can easily find the answers you're looking for.
Review Your Study Guide at Least Once From Beginning to End
Go through your complete study guide at least once toward the beginning of the year. This will give you a solid foundation for the questions that you will encounter over the four quarterly exams.
Have the Online Version of your MOCA-Peds Study Guide Available During Testing
The MOCA-Peds exam is open-book and open-computer. Keep your study resources handy!
Study Pro-Tip: If this year’s list of topics includes migraines, when you come across a patient with a headache, you can keep migraines at the top of your differential. This kind of test-taking strategy is considered key in passing the MOCA-Peds exams.
Review the One-Page list of Topics On the Day That You Attempt MOCA-Peds Questions
A quick scan of the MOCA-Peds topics will give you a tremendous edge. By reviewing just the topic names, you will remind yourself of the types of diseases and disorders that you are going to be tested on.
Have the Online Version of your MOCA-Peds Study Guide Available During Testing
Having your online study guide available during your questions will help you quickly find the answers. If you are using the MOCA-PBR Study Guide & Test Companion, the topic summaries are usually only 1-3 pages, and our online search function allows you to quickly find the answers to your questions. If you can’t find the answer in the study guide, use the clickable reference links located at the bottom of each topic summary.
Use All Available Open-Book Resources to Answer Each Question within 5 Minutes
You get a total of 5 minutes per question, and you can use any available resource to help you during the test. Our MOCA-PBR online edition allows you to quickly search for and find the answers to your questions. However, if you cannot find the answer through our study guide and reference links, keep other resources (e.g., UpToDate and Pediatrics In Review) open in additional tabs.
Take Notes on Questions You Missed—They May Repeat in Future Quarters
Be sure to take notes on any MOCA-Peds questions you missed or skipped. Plan to review those notes immediately before you take the next quarter’s questions because they are likely to be presented again if you missed a question or had low confidence in your answer.
Repeat This Process for Every MOCA-Peds Exam
Get ready to do it all again! You’ll need to complete MOCA-Peds for each MOC 5-year cycle, and you’ll need to study efficiently and strategically.
What are the Differences Between the Proctored MOC Exam and MOCA-Peds?
The proctored MOC is a 4-hour exam offered to board-certified pediatricians to fulfill Part 3 of MOC by the American Board of Pediatrics. The MOCA-Peds Assessment is an at-home, self-paced, open book option with approximately 20 questions per quarter which satisfies the same requirements.
Key Details for the MOC:
Administered in a testing facility
Closed book, 4-hour exam
Overseen by an authorized ABP representative
Can include ANY topic related to pediatrics
You only have 75 seconds to answer each question
You pay an additional fee to take this exam
Key Details for MOCA-Peds:
Open book exam
Take from your home, office, or anywhere you have online access
The cost is covered through your maintenance of certification enrollment fees.
You get 5 minutes per question
Answer one question per day, or all in one sitting.
How Do You Prepare For MOCA-Peds?
There is good news with MOCA-Peds! The ABP provides Learning Objectives and Featured Readings in advance. This “sneak peek” offers a huge advantage—you now have the ability to study the exact diseases and disorders that you will be tested on through MOCA-Peds.
Pro-Tips for MOCA-Peds:
Do NOT “wing it.” A goose chase with Google, UpToDate, Pediatrics in Review, and other online resources within the five-minute window will result in dead ends, anxiety, and failure.
Also NOT recommended: Poking around for resources related to the Learning Objectives and Featured Readings. Yes, you can study on your own with a lot of individual research, but oftentimes, this method yeilds a fruitless, frustrating, and unfocused hunt.
We Recommend: The MOCA-PBR Study Guide & Test Companion — online and/or hardcopy format. Each year we do the work and research for you. We dive deep into the ABP Learning Objectives and Featured Readings the moment they are published. This allows us to build concise study guides to capture the common and uncommon information that may be covered on the exam. Use the MOCA-PBR Study Guide and Test Companion as your resource tool. Our efficiency-focused online resources make it easy to search, easy to answer questions efficiently, and easy to PASS your MOCA-Peds exams.
What Happens if You Fail MOCA-Peds?
If you fail a MOCA-Peds quarterly assessment, nothing happens right away. Certification is maintained by passing at least 12 quarterly assessments within the first 4 years of your 5-year cycle. If you do not pass at least 12 quarters by the end of your fourth year, then you must pass the proctored exam by the end of the 5-year cycle.
Failure to meet your recertification requirements is a big deal, and will result in loss of your status as a board-certified physician and possibly the loss of your job. Many hospitals and clinics will only employ board-certified pediatricians.
Please don’t be discouraged—there is a clear-cut road to PASSING. With these high-yield tips and the MOCA-PBR Study Guide & Test Companion, you can PASS the exams easily!
What Else Do I Need to Know about MOCA-Peds?
The MOCA-Peds Assessment is greatly preferred for its format and flexibility.
Answer approximately 20 questions per quarter, every quarter, for the first 4 years of your MOC cycle (16 quarters of questions).
You must pass at least 12 quarters to meet your MOC Part 3 (Exam) requirement.
The ABP will drop your 4 lowest-scoring, or skipped, quarters. Your score can only go up or stay the same.
If you get 100% for the first 12 quarters, you will have PASSED/satisfied your Part 3 requirement, and you will not have to go through MOCA-Peds for your 4th year.
You’ll see your raw scores (percentage of questions answered correctly) immediately after you complete each question.
Scaled scores, which consider the difficulty of test questions, are updated annually in mid-January.
You can answer one question at a time, or all of them in one sitting.
You get 5 minutes per question.
Take the exam at home, in the office, on your mobile device, or any place with internet access without a proctor.
You’ll study a targeted number of topics selected by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) for the year. Instead of studying everything in the world of pediatrics, you only have to study the Learning Objectives and Featured Readings chosen by ABP. The 80 questions per year come from these study topics, and each year we create a new MOCA-PBR Study Guide & Test Companion to cover the new Learning Objectives and Featured Readings.
What are MOCA-Peds “Learning Objectives” and “Featured Readings”?
The American Board of Pediatrics provides approximately 40 Learning Objectives and up to 5 Featured Readings. Learning Objectives are the areas of pediatrics that you will need to read, study, and absorb. Featured Readings are typically medical journal articles or guidelines that you will also need to read. Learning Objectives and Featured Readings are usually published on the ABP website in the fourth quarter of the previous year.
Some examples of prior MOCA-Peds Learning Objectives include:
Differentiate between normal and abnormal variations in head growth and manage appropriately.
Evaluate and manage a child with an inguinal mass.
Some examples of prior Featured Readings include:
Management of Infants at Risk for Group B Streptococcal Disease. Pediatrics. 2019.
Acute Treatment of Migraine in Children and Adolescents: Report of the Guideline Development, Dissemination, and Implementation Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society. Neurology. 2019.
Are you ready to take on MOCA-Peds?
At Pediatrics Board Review, we know MOCA-Peds. We created the first-ever MOCA-Peds study guide, and we have pioneered newer, faster, and more effective study strategies to help pediatricians just like you.
Our job is to help you study efficiently and worry less. In fact, we believe so strongly in our proven track record to help our members pass that we put a Money Back First-Time Pass Guarantee on it.
Ready to go for that clear-cut PASS? Then what are you waiting for?
Getting to the pediatric boards is a major step in your career. Congratulations!
You’ve, no doubt, thought of exam preparation and winced. Think of it this way: the exam is the performance (or the game) and the exam prep is the rehearsal or scrimmage – authentic practice.
Pediatrics Board Review is here to make sure you are prepared and confident in your abilities to pass the boards.
The Three Pillars of Passing the Pediatric Boards
Passing the pediatric boards is hard. We know that. We’re not just an exam prep company. Pediatrics Board Review was created by a pediatrician who failed the pediatric boards and then did so well that the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) asked him to write questions for them. So, we know what it’s like to go through these exams. We have the knowledge base and continuing education to help you pass.
There are three pillars for passing the pediatric board exams. They are content, technique, and commitment. Strength in each of these three key areas is crucial for success.
Content is the fund of pediatric knowledge you develop as you prepare for the pediatric boards. You may think that this is a time when you need to gather all the resources, read countless books, and spend agonizing hours flipping from one cross-reference to another. But the truth is, when taking this exam, less is more. Turning to other textbooks, medical journals, and notes can be disastrous. What you need is a single source that is comprehensive, focused on board-relevant information, and allows for repetition in order to guarantee reinforcement of the concepts.
Using PBR's proven content will get you across the finish line. The reason is congruency. Our digital resources mirror our hardcopy resources precisely. Audio, video, online, and hardcopy resources in congruency allow for an easy preparation process as you weave in and out of different resources. This allows for greater repetition and greater repetition results in greater reinforcement. By using the tried and tested Pediatrics Board Review initial certification exam resources, you’re guaranteed a pass.
“Content is king.” Whether you are coming to PBR as a first-timer, or have failed previously, getting the right content in hand is the single most important aspect of passing.
Technique refers to how you process both individual board-style questions and how you approach the entire exam. Board-style questions are vastly different than living and breathing people. These questions are NOT miniature patients. The medical board exam is a standardized, artificial environment complete with its own set of rules and strategies to navigate.
The thing is, there are rules to the “board game.” Think of each question as a silent puzzle and there are strategic rules in place to help you solve it. This has to do with understanding the various styles of pediatric board exam questions, how to navigate those different styles of questions, and how to process the answer choices in a way that leaves only the answer that the question writers want. Once you are able to do this well, you can start to answer certain questions even without remembering all of the clinical medicine that you studied!
Also, PBR has noticed something significantly different with our members who are International Medical Graduates. Standardized tests, such as the board exam, are different from the board exams with oral and essay questions that they may have been used to in other countries.
A good example of this is the time expectation. 75 seconds is the recommended length of time per question. What do you do when the time remaining on a block of questions is only two or three minutes and you’re still not done? Do you continue to process the questions in order? If you cannot pace yourself at approximately 75 seconds per question, that could prevent you from completing your exam block. What if you knew the answers to those last five questions, but time ran out? So if you are an International Medical Graduate who has struggled with American standardized exams, know that you are not alone, and we can help.
Helping you understand how to decipher what the question writers are asking of you, how to systematically process answer choices and how to manage your time on the exam, are just a few of the many strategies we teach in PBR’s Test Taking Strategies and Coaching courses.
Commitment is a huge reason why pediatricians fail the board exams. It takes a lot of effort and time to prepare yourself for the test. We recommend that low-risk, first-time test takers should study a minimum of 300 hours. For moderate and high-risk test takers, that number increases to 500. Regardless of which study plan you will need to follow, the commitment needed to take on 300-500 hours of board preparation is an absolute must for success.
PBR takes a deep dive into what is required to develop the study habits that you’ll need to get to where you want to be. This is done in our Live Test-Taking Strategies & Deep Study Course. PBR’s lectures around the concept of “Deep Study” are so impactful in multiple areas of life that they are often described as life-changing. There is no easy path toward passing your pediatric boards. But we will help you achieve this career milestone. It may mean studying every day, sacrificing time with your family, less time at your job, and maybe even passing up short-term opportunities in pursuit of the long-term goal. If you set these expectations for yourself you’ll be ahead of the game.
You can do it. We can help you.
High Risk vs Low Risk for Failing Your Pediatric Boards
What is your risk level for failing the pediatric boards? It’s a worthwhile question, right? Even though everyone needs to study and get ready for the exams, a high-risk candidate will need to put in additional effort. We can help you get there, and we can even help you identify whether you’re high-risk or low-risk.
Who is High-Risk?
A high-risk physician or resident may include someone who:
Struggled to pass (or failed) ANY board exam
Self-identifies as having difficulty with standardized board exams
Is an International Medical Graduate
Was classified “at-risk” of failing the boards based on In-Training Exam scores
Are the Study Plans Different Based on Risk Level?
Yes. As we mentioned in the commitment pillar, a minimum of 300 hours is recommended for low-risk pediatricians and 500 hours of board preparation is recommended for moderate to high-risk pediatricians. Your risk profile should also help you select the right resources to maximize your chances of passing the pediatric boards.
For low-risk test-takers, the minimum set of resources we recommend would be included in the All Access Pass. This includes 100% of our Initial Certification exam educational resources. The All Access Pass primarily focuses on providing concise, board-relevant content presented to you through multiple modalities. This bundle gives you everything you need to take on the Content pillar we discussed above.
But, the most common bundle for test takers of the Initial Certification exam is the No Brainer Bundle. It includes resources to support all 3 of the key pillars needed to pass the pediatric boards. It includes PBR’s:
All Access Pass
Full Online Test-Taking Strategies Course
Three 90-Day Personalized Study Schedules created by Team PBR
PBR’s No Brainer bundle is the best pediatric study package on the market, and it costs less than the price of a traditional video board review course.
We’ve helped thousands of pediatricians get through the initial certification exam, including those who have failed many times before. PBR offers focused, easy-to-use resources that will get you across that finish line. In fact, we back it up with a Money-Back First-Time Pass Guarantee. And of the thousands who have utilized our resources, less than 0.5% of pediatricians have asked for their money back.
We’ve helped them, and we can help you.
Are you ready to take on the pediatric board exams?