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!
I have found that the biggest differentiating factor between failing and passing the boards is having a schedule that takes a more strategic approach to studying and keeps you accountable.
Almost 50% of the pediatricians who buy our study guides have failed the pediatric boards before. With the right plan in place, though, you can pass. We know this because we have helped multiple people pass after as many as SEVEN failed attempts.
My goal in writing this article is to outline a detailed schedule that will help you pass the boards, even if you’ve had a failed attempt. Specifically, how to do so with materials that will HELP you (not fail you) during your next pediatric board exam.
Some housekeeping items before jumping into the schedule:
Your failure(s) on the boards may have been due to a lack of knowledge or because you have a poor handle on test-taking. For most people reading this article, failure is the result of a combination of both of those factors. Following this 16-week schedule will give you the pediatric knowledge that you need to pass the boards. For help with test-taking strategy, poor attention to detail, falling for traps, pacing, and you must also start to explore solutions through the PBR article on test-taking strategy.
Throughout this study schedule, you’ll find references to the AAP PREP® questions you should be practicing with. Please keep in mind that PREP® questions should NOT be used to study. PREP® questions, along with other question bank queries, should be used to help you master your test-taking strategy. You can learn much more about why we recommend this and how to best use the AAP questions here.
If you are a first-time test taker, and you:
Consider yourself a decent test-taker,
Have done well on past board exams, or,
Come from a residency program with a high passing rate,
As you go through this schedule, try this great highlighter trick that I teach my PBR members as a focused studying tool. If you can master this, you will have a more efficient board preparation experience.
For each reading of the material, you highlight (or underline) only the areas you are interested in reviewing again. If you know something well enough to recall it on the day of the exam, don’t highlight it.
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!”
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.
Unlike other pediatric board review courses, the PBR's Core Study Guide gets corrected and updated EVERY year. Many of the corrections and clarifications of the are made available to the PBR community (below) prior to the initial certification exam. This allows members to have a more secure pediatric board review experience.
For non-members who are trying to figure out how they will approach the board exam for next year, or for anyone preparing for the MOC, this is a great opportunity to essentially have a sneak peak into the 2018 edition.
In this article, you will:
Get a preview of the most EFFICIENT 2018 pediatric board review course available
Get a great review of several excellent and high-yield topics
Get a FREE MP3 Audio Chapter from PBR
Get 50 FREE High-Yield Images from PBR
Get a FREE Test-Taking Strategies Video Training Session
Get the opportunity to PREORDER the 2018 edition books for 50% off of the value of the Ultimate Bundle Pack or 85% OFF of the LIFETIME package called “PBR FOR LIFE!” Please note that the PBR FOR LIFE package is NOT typically available through the PBR catalog, so this is a SPECIAL opportunity!
A FEW WORDS OF THANKS TO THE PBR COMMUNITY
Every year I like to go through all PBR error submission and send corrections to PBR members before the initial certification exam. It’s an EXTREMELY time consuming task (takes several full days), but I believe it’s worth it.
If you have been following THE PBR EFFICIENCY BLUEPRINT, the information in this guide WILL NOT make or break your test-experience. Having said that, several test-takers have previously said that they enjoyed reading the clarifications, and that the review of the guide even helped them correctly answer several questions that came up on the exam.