How to Prepare For the Pediatric Boards

Pediatric Board Exam Time Per Question, Number of Blocks & More

Getting to the pediatric boards is a major step in your career, but passing isn’t a walk in the park. You’ve worked your way through test after test, through medical school and residency, and now comes the time to take your boards–are you going to lose it all now?

Pediatrics Board Review is here to make sure that you don’t. We’ve helped thousands of pediatricians get through the initial certification exam, including those who have failed it many times before. PBR offers focused, easy-to-use resources that will get you across that finish line. Don’t believe us? 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 had to ask for their money back.

We’ve helped them, and we can help you.

The Three Pillars of Passing the Pediatric Boards

Passing the pediatric boards isn’t easy. We know that; we’ve taken them ourselves. We’re not just a testing company: we’re board-certified pediatricians who know what it’s like to go through these exams and we have the knowledge base and continuing education to help you pass.

There are three must-have ingredients for passing the pediatric board exams. They are content, technique, and commitment. Each one is important in its own way, and you won’t get far into the exam if you’re lacking in any of these three areas. Let’s look at them each in turn.


Content refers to the development of your fund of pediatric knowledge as you prepare for the pediatric boards. You may think that this is a time when you need to gather all the resources possible, read countless books, and spend agonizing hours flipping from one cross-reference to another. But the truth is, more is not better when it comes to taking this board exam. Turning to other textbooks and medical journals and notes can be a recipe for disaster. 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 the PBR Core Study Guide and Q& A Book, in both online and hardcopy formats, as well as audio and video courses and virtual atlas (the PBR All-Access Pass), will get you on the pathway to success faster than turning to every resource under the sun. The reason is congruence. Looking at every available text will result in the cardinal sin of “information overload.” In fact, we recommend that after you get the PBR study guides you don’t consult outside information at all. Resist the urge. Having a single signpost pointing you in the right direction will give you better information than trying to listen to a hundred voices.[1] [2]

“Content is king.” So, getting the right content in hand is the single biggest thing you can do to change your FAILED pediatric board experience into a PASS.


Technique refers to how you process board-style questions and how you take the exam. Exams are different from clinical work, different from laboratory work, different from hands-on skills. Taking a standardized test is a challenge all its own and it requires a certain set of skills. Some people are born great test-takers. Others may be brilliant clinical physicians but struggle to tackle the format and code-breaking that is a standardized pediatric board exam.

The thing is, there are “rules to the board game.” Medical board questions cannot be viewed as miniature patients. They have to be viewed as silent puzzles with rules that can help you solve the puzzles, oftentimes even without the supporting clinical knowledge in place. 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 test makers want.

We’ve noticed that the test-taking technique is especially difficult for non-U.S. trained pediatricians (aka International Medical Graduates). They may have the content nailed, but if they don’t know the technique of answering questions, they’ll get eaten up on the test. This is often because standardized tests in this country are different from the types of exams used in their home countries: some had essay questions and others had oral exams. This is an entirely different world.

A good example of this is the time of test questions: you’re only expected to spend 75 seconds per question. What do you do when time gets running into two or three minutes and you’re still not done? Do you pass the question by or keep at it? You might waste a lot of time on a single question and blow five questions at the end of the test–that you knew the answer to–because you were out of time. (This is a particular issue when it comes to international students, who may be used to different test formats: some tests penalize you more for leaving a question blank whereas some penalize you more for entering a wrong answer. Learning the right way to answer the right test is essential.)

Time management is only one of the many test taking strategies we teach you in the technique section of our PBR Test Taking Strategies and Coaching course. [3]


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, and if you’re an intelligent physician who is confident in your abilities but doesn't take the time to devote to studying, you will fail. We recommend that low-risk, first-time test takers should have a minimum of 300 dedicated study hours. For moderate and high-risk test-takers, at least 500 hours should be set aside.

PBR dives deep 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. The lectures around PBR’s concept of “Deep Study” are so impactful in multiple areas of life, that they are often described as life-changing. They won’t be easy; but with the study skills gained through PBR, this may free up time for you to spend with your family and doing things for yourself. The key is to have high-quality study time or deep study, you won’t have to waste time spinning your wheels later on. Make the time that you’re spending in front of the books more impactful and important, so you can spend time on other things as well.

We offer three 90-day personalized schedules, which are customized to you, your personal schedule, and your learning style, and those personalized schedules come free with the package.

You can do it. We can help you.[4]

High Risk vs Low Risk for Failing Your Pediatric Boards

Are you at high risk or low risk for failing your pediatric boards? That’s something you’d want to know, right? Even though absolutely everyone needs to study and get ready for the exams, if you’re at high risk then you know that you have to put in that extra effort, and do so in the right way, to pass. We can help you get there, and we can even help you identify whether you’re a high risk or low risk.

What Makes Someone High Risk?

A physician, or resident, who is “high risk” would be anyone who:

  •       Struggled to pass (or failed) ANY board exam
  •       Classifies themselves as having difficulty with standardized board exams
  •       Is an International Medical Graduate
  •       Was told they are “at-risk” of failing the boards based on In-Training Exam scores
  •       Comes from an “at-risk” residency program with a pass rate of less than 90% – click here to see where your residency program stands
  •       Has taken a year off from studying for the exam
  •       Scored less than a 222 on the USMLE Step 1

What Makes Someone Low Risk?

A physician, or resident, who is “low risk” would be anyone who:

  •       Has never failed any medical board exams
  •       Typically scores near, or above, the national average
  •       Self-identifies as someone who is a good test-taker and generally does well on standardized board exams
  •       Graduated from a US medical school
  •       Was never “at-risk” of failing the boards based on residency In-Training Exam scores
  •       Comes from a residency program with a pass rate of greater than 90% (click here and check your residency's pass rate)
  •       Will take the boards in the same calendar year as their graduation from residency
  •       Scored at least a 222 on the USMLE Step 1

Use Our Risk Calculator To Find Out Where You Are

Are the Study Plans Different if You Are High Risk Versus Low Risk?

For low-risk pediatricians, we recommend that you definitely set aside at least 300 hours of prep time. At a minimum, we recommend the All-Access Pass, which includes 100% of our Initial Certification exam educational resources. It primarily focuses on providing you with concise, board-relevant content presented to you in a multimodal manner.

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:

  •       All-Access Pass
  •       Full Online Test-Taking Strategies Course
  •       Three 90-Day Personalized Study Schedules created by Team PBR

The No Brainer is the best pediatric study package on the market, and it costs less than the price of a traditional video board review course.


Are you ready to take on the pediatric board exams?


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Pediatric Board Exam Time Per Question, Number of Blocks & More
Ashish Goyal, M.D.

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