How Many AAP PREP Questions Should I Do?
PRACTICE VERSUS STUDY – A BIG DIFFERENCE
I love the American Academy of Pediatrics' PREP series of questions for PRACTICING test-taking skills, but NOT as a substitution for studying for the boards form a board-focused study guide.
The difference can be confusing! That is why it's IMPERATIVE that you understand my thoughts on why PREP questions are NOT the best study questions before you read the rest of this article. The gist is that it's almost impossible for any question bank out there to give you a comprehensive, board-focused review of what you need to know for the pediatric boards. Therefore, you should focus on one, primary study resource for the CONTENT, and then use question banks for PRACTICE of board-style questions.
THE REAL VALUE OF AAP PREP QUESTIONS – PRACTICE
Where does the real value lie in PREP questions as they relate to your preparation for the American Board of Pediatrics initial certification exam or MOC exam? Or perhaps a better would aim to address that misperception that you “must” go through PREP questions in order to pass the boards.
While I do feel that they are the BEST pediatric board review questions to simulate the boards, I also believe that ANY pediatric board review question bank will help you PRACTICE your test-taking techniques.
I also believe that you SHOULD use other question banks to practice your skills as a test-taker so that you can gain exposure to a VARIETY of question styles and question-writers. The ABP's questions were not developed by one person. They have been slowly created over decades by MANY questions-writers, including myself.
Dr. Robin Scott, a PBR Alum, summed it up VERY WELL in her message below.
“I did not look at PREP at all. I passed the 2013 exam after multiple prior attempts by reading PBR, taking the [Test-Taking Strategies] course and practicing hundreds of questions (from Board Vitals). I used questions just for practice, not for content. I asked Ashish about using other sources outside of PBR; I wanted to study/memorize all of MedStudy pediatrics. He dissuaded me. I was skeptical, but I had nothing to lose so I did what he recommended. That's my story, and I'm here to say it worked!”
– Dr. Robin Scott
Again, PRACTICE is the absolute best reason to use any board-style prep questions. You must NOT confuse practicing test questions with building knowledge, but since we all have a desire to review the answers (discussed more in detail below), this particular series of questions is probably the BEST pediatric question bank you could use. The AAP's questions have likely been vetted to the nth degree, and you can usually be sure that the correct answer is in fact correct. They also seem to be a good mix of short and long questions.
- PRACTICE TIMING: Since the questions are often LONG, they are perfect for allowing you to work on your TIMING. Give yourself the same same amount of time you'll give yourself on the exam. About 1 minute and 15 seconds per question. Once you have broken down and “processed the question” to the best of your abilities, if you still can't narrow down your search to a single answer then GUESS, MARK IT, an GO on to the next question!
- PRACTICE DISCIPLINE: It takes a great deal of discipline to move through questions at a regular pace. The more often you do it, the more likely this will become a habit for you. You must get comfortable with the idea of processing questions in a systematic manner so that you always have an endpoint to the question in front of you. Getting to that realization is CRITICAL in allowing you calmly move on to the next question without frustration and anxiety.
- PRACTICE AVOIDING TRAPS: You have to be able to look for traps and avoid falling into them. PREP does a good job of giving extra and misleading information. The more questions you GET WRONG, the more familiar you will become with the types of traps question writers try to use. Trust me, I've written several questions for the ABP.
- Do NOT go into all of the details that the ANSWERS have to offer. Focus on understanding the details of the CORRECT answer as well as the details of the answer that YOU chose. Hopefully they were one in the same. Doing this allows you to get a very quick topic review. For the rest of the incorrect answers, either skip the explanations completely, or give them a very quick and disciplined scan. Do NOT waste your time trying to understand every single answer. Unless you're using the questions for leisure, or for CME, this is a huge waste of your time. When focused on board prep, your time is precious and limited! It is MUCH better spent reading the PBR core study guide again… and again.
- TAKE 5: Actually, consider taking frequent 60 – 90 minute “breaks” from your hard core studying time so that you can practice your question-taking skills on 15-20 questions. Studying for me became almost like a full-time job. There's a lot of material to get through if you want to learn all of pediatrics. So, it was actually a welcomed break to mix things up with 15 – 20 questions.
Remember, I LOVE PREP questions, and they are great for PRACTICING board-style questions, but they should not be used for STUDYING your core board content. It's a fine line, so don't forget to read “Why PREP Questions are NOT the Best Study Questions,” and to use ONE AWESOME primary study guide as your source for STUDYING board-focused content.
Click the image below and to get the full online version, or the full hardcopy version of thePediatrics Board Review Questions & Answers book.