The pediatrics board exam is an essential component of your career in pediatrics, but, as with any standardized test, there’s more to the board exam than simply memorizing answers to thousands of questions. Successfully passing the exam comes from having a solid command of medical knowledge and test-taking strategies. This includes knowing what to expect on the day of the exam and doing everything possible to have a methodical approach to the big day.
So, here are some things that you can expect from Pediatrics Board Review (PBR) to help you prepare for your initial certification exam. For information on the ABP Maintenance of Certification (MOC) exam and MOCA-Peds, please visit our recertification page.
Risk Calculator Quiz
While the American Board of Pediatrics provides the ABP General Knowledge Self-Assessment, do not assume your results will act as a true indication of your ability to pass the initial certification exam. This assessment is more appropriate for the ABP Maintenance of Certification (MOC) exam, not the initial certification exam.
PBR’s free, online Risk Calculator Quiz will help you understand your risk profile of possibly failing the pediatric board exam and will place you as either low, moderate, or high risk.
Knowing your risk profile for the initial certification exam will give you a plan for how to move forward with your pediatrics exam. For example, pediatricians in the low-risk group will use the 300-hour study plan in the PBR Efficiency Blueprint, while those in the moderate-to-high risk groups will use the 500-hour study plan. Your plan will not only differ in how many hours you need to set aside for studying, but also how many times you'll review the material and whether improving your test-taking strategies should be a key point of focus.
For all of the risk categories, we have provided structure and guidance that will help you get to your goal of passing your pediatrics board exam. We help you with time management, community support, and we have a proven track record of success.
Did you know that PBR has helped pediatricians pass after as many as seven failed attempts? We even helped one pediatrician pass on his tenth attempt!
We can help you too.
What Should You Expect from the Pediatrics Board Exam?
If you've never taken the exam before, you can go through a short tutorial before the exam begins. PBR members are trained to go through the ABP tutorial BEFORE the exam day. Keep in mind that this tutorial is technically for the ABP MOC exam. Initial certification exam test-takers SHOULD go through it because it’s almost the exact same tutorial seen on their exam day. The slight difference will be around the number of blocks that the tutorial mentions for the exam (the initial certification exam has four blocks rather than the two mentioned in this tutorial). Going through this tutorial before your exam can remove one point of stress at the beginning of a very important day.
According to the American Board of Pediatrics, you must arrive for your pediatrics board exam at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test time. If you arrive late, the test proctor may actually bar you from entering to take the exam, meaning that you'll have to pay a rescheduling fee and take the exam the following year.
When you arrive at the testing center to take your pediatrics initial certification exam or maintenance of certification exam, you'll initially be scanned for prohibited electronic devices and will need to show a valid ID to be admitted into the testing center. You'll be given a secure storage locker to stow away your personal belongings and effects. You'll also have to turn your pockets inside out to ensure that you're not carrying prohibited items, and you’ll be asked to roll up your sleeves to show that you're not wearing a wristwatch. After that, you'll be given two laminated note boards and two markers. Immediately before you enter the exam room, you'll be asked to sign your name and document the time.
After you've signed in for the exam, someone will escort you to a workstation where the exam will take place. You will be allowed to take in your photo ID, your storage locker key, earplugs, the two laminated note boards, and two markers. If you would also like to take something else into the room, you can check the Prometric pre-approved items list.
You'll be monitored at all times while you're in the facility, and all testing sessions will have audio and video recorded. Testing advisors will also periodically walk through the exam room to monitor for any irregular behavior.
If you need any assistance, you can raise your hand for help. If you encounter a hardware or software problem while taking your exam, it's important to leave the message on your screen so that an exam official can determine the source of the error. You shouldn’t lose any testing time and your score shouldn't be affected because of any technical problems, but must communicate any such problems to a testing official as soon as possible.
If This Sounds Daunting, We Can Help!
So much of passing your boards comes down to not only your knowledge of medicine, but to your ability to take standardized tests under the very artificial environment mentioned above. This includes the development of your test-taking strategy, and it also includes understanding the many ways to optimize your test-week schedule, your test-day schedule, and yourself. PBR helps in all these areas with a team-based approach led by Dr. Ashish Goyal. Dr. Goyal is PBR’s author and he has coached members to success after as many as nine failed attempts.
Want to skyrocket your scores and get the greatest bang for your buck? We recommend:
PBR’s No Brainer Bundle
Increase your chances of board success to 95% with ALL of our pediatric knowledge base resources. You will get access to our hardcopy books, online editions of the books, audio course, video course, access to live ASK THE EXPERT webinars, a digital picture atlas, our Full Online Test-Taking Strategies Course, and even three 90-Day Personalized Study Schedules created just for you by Team PBR. The No Brainer is the BEST way to leverage your study time for maximum results.
Dr. Goyal will teach you how many questions are in each section and what kinds of questions to expect. He has also identified three major categories of questions that every ABP question will fall into, and he’s created algorithms to help you process each category of questions. He’s also discovered shortcuts to help get questions correct by identifying answer choices that are similar, opposite, contain “hard stop” words, contain “hedging” words, and those that are meant to leave you wondering why it feels like there are multiple correct answer choices.
You will learn all of this through PBR’s test-taking strategy courses. These courses have repeatedly been the key to success for professionals taking medical board exams, and they’ll help you too.
So, if you would like help preparing for your pediatrics board exam, look to the leader in this field here at Pediatrics Board Review (PBR). From helping you build your fund of knowledge the right way, to helping you with all the ins and outs of your exam day, we can help you pass your exam the very first time or your money back — guaranteed!
Test-taking strategy is often overlooked when you are preparing for your board exams, yet it can be the difference between passing or failing. Since there is no question that physicians are extremely bright, why is it that even great physicians often fail their board exams?
Answer: A good clinician is not the same thing as a good test-taker.
When I failed the boards the first time, I was confused. I felt like I had a good handle on the material, but I quickly realized that how you treat a board style question is very different than how you should treat a patient. But it was too late. I had the “standard” top to bottom approach to answering board-style questions, and I ultimately failed the board exam.
I simply did not know how to approach the questions on the test effectively.
And this isn’t uncommon.
However, during my 2nd attempt at the pediatric board exam, I had a strong focus on pacing and a strategic approach to questions. That led to me not only passing my boards, but I increased my score by 160 points! I scored above the national average, and after failing the previous year, the American Board of Pediatrics asked me to write questions for them.
The skill set needed to be a master clinician is completely different than the skill set needed to be a master test-taker and win this “board-game”. Developing this strategy requires training and education like any other skill that you have had to practice. But with practice, you can have dramatic increases in your score like this member of our test-taking strategy course.
HOW CAN I WORK ON MY TEST-TAKING STRATEGY?
While having a strong knowledge base is important to pass the pediatrics boards, it will mean nothing if you are unable to apply what you know to the test.
If you consider yourself to be a test-taker with average (or below average) scores on standardized tests, then learning test-taking strategies can QUICKLY give you an advantage to increase your score, and pass the boards.
Plus, unlike studying for a single chapter that may be applicable to 5% of your exam, test-taking skills can be leveraged throughout 100% of this exam (and every future board exam that you ever take).
Study a ton, remember none. Sound familiar?
If you've previously done well on standardized exams, just follow the PBR “Roadmap to Success” and you will do great.
BUT, if you:
Struggle with standardized tests,
Get test anxiety,
Find yourself running out of time on exams,
Were told that you were “at-risk” of failing the boards based on IN-Training Exam scores,
Have taken a year off from studying for the exam, or
Scored less than a 222 on the USMLE Step 1
… then improving your test-taking technique is just as, if not MORE, important for you to study than the actual material.
Below you’ll find some of my top strategies I teach our PBR students to sharpen their test-taking skills before the board exam.
TOP TEST-TAKING STRATEGIES FOR MEDICAL EXAMS
NEVER process a question in a top to bottom manner. Processing the information in a different order will give you much more control and clarity over the question
Do not try to predict the question or answer. When you try to guess what will be asked, or what the answer will be, you waste time and energy as you think through hundreds of possibilities.
Start by reading the question being asked of you, and then reading the vignette. This narrows your focus and gives you tremendous insight into what information from the vignette will be crucial to extract in order to answer the question correctly.
Find your answer through the process of elimination. It’s easier, less stressful and more appropriate to eliminate weaker answer choices rather than choosing the first answer that seems to be correct.
Skip “data blocks” and come back to them if needed. Most vignette-style questions can be answered by just using the text, so try that before reviewing tables of data, x-rays or images.
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!”
NO! Pediatric board questions are NOT like mini-patients.
Don’t believe me? Well, by the end of this article you’re going to:
Learn the difference between real life patients and test patients
Learn 3 strategies towards correctly answering board-style questions that you can put into practice IMMEDIATELY to increase your board score
Become familiar with free and paid resources at your disposal to help you work on your test-taking techniques
Feel inspired to approach board-style questions as 75-second puzzles rather than stressful patient encounters
A SAMPLE PEDIATRIC BOARD REVIEW QUESTION
How would you proceed with the little girl below? It’s a short question, so please set your timer to 60 seconds, read the question below and commit to ONE answer choice.
A 3-year-old female toddler presents for a routine well child visit. You note an abdominal mass on exam. You suspect the child may have a Wilms tumor. There have not been any urinary symptoms, but urine dipstick shows evidence of blood. There’s a history of breast cancer in the family.
Which of the following is the most appropriate diagnostic test to determine the cause of the patient’s abdominal mass?