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Improving Pediatric Residency In-Training Exam Scores: Tip #4 – If it Ain’t Broke…

Tip #4 – If it Ain't Broke…

The Traditional Books versus the TabletImproving pediatric residency in-training exam scores can be challenging. In this PBR article, we look at “tech” and whether or not new “tech” is better than tried and true methods.

I’ve always been a huge advocate of embracing technology as it relates to medicine and accelerating learning. Especially when your time is almost nonexistent, like when you're in pediatric residency, the speed with which you can locate information is a valuable asset.

The growth and availability of e-books and online study materials have certainly expanded the number of resources available to medical students and residents. Traditional study materials, where a student spends vast amounts of time pouring over textbooks, are quickly being replaced by electronic and digital resources.

Pediatrics Board Review (PBR) has tried to embrace many of the advantages offered by technology, so both the PBR Core Study Guide and the PBR Question and Answer book have been made available for access on iPads, iPhones, and via your desktop computer.

The question is … Is this “E-time” well spent?

There’s a growing body of evidence that indicates that the brain absorbs information from transmitted light differently from information received from reflected light. The visual cortex processes the information received from each in a different manner from the other. Recent research conducted by Kate Garland, a psychology lecturer at the University of Leicester in England, has found subtle differences between the amount of time it takes students to absorb information between that which is presented in print, and that received electronically.

Two groups of students were presented with the same information. Both groups learned it to a similar degree by the end of the study, but the group that studied printed media learned it faster than those who studied digital media.Is it the best use of your time?

Was it because the text on a screen is read with less attentiveness than the printed word? Or because there’s a “fuller” experience with printed material? Kent Anderson of The Scholarly Kitchen likens it to the difference between staring at a place in a picture and actually living in it.

So how does this affect you? Well, if you’re studying for the pediatric in-training exam, or for an exam that’s 8 hours long, like the American Board of Pediatrics’ Initial Certification Exam, I don’t think you should be studying purely from online materials.

There are several benefits from using more traditional hardcopy books that just shouldn’t be overlooked:

  • You can highlight or underline particularly valuable, or difficult to learn, sections
  • You can make notes in the margins
  • You can create memory aids and write, or draw, your pediatric mnemonics on the side

These techniques were essential to helping me pass the pediatric board exam. My study materials were littered with thousands of words explaining various complicated and interrelated diseases, but it was done in my own language. There were also embarrassingly bad drawings I made as mnemonics, many of which even made it into the PBR Core Study guide.

Reach Your Ultimate GoalThe next time I visited those same, difficult-to-understand topics, the time I needed to understand them was cut by over 75%.   Making notes and adding mnemonics to your book throughout your pediatric residency should result in improved pediatric in-training exam scores, and bring you one step closer to your ultimate goal of passing the pediatric boards.

So, those are my thoughts. I think there’s a time and place for online and hardcopy materials. For example, physicians’ libraries have traditionally been FILLED with hardcopy books. In this day and age, I think that’s overkill. You should no longer have to keep a copy of your Nelson’s or your AAP Journals. They’re both available online for easy reference and they aren’t resources you’re going to need to make notes in.

But, when you’re studying for a major, life-changing exam that has been failed by some pediatricians more than 10 times, I would NOT abandon the old for the new. Use a blended approach and maximize the benefit of each.

As a reminder, the PBR Ultimate Bundle Pack does contain both hardcopy books as well as online versions of both the study guide and the Q&A book.

Regardless of which study guide you decide to buy (PBR or a random one), please buy something to frequently reference during your pediatric residency. Also, if you can, avoid any systems that do not offer you a combination of the old (hardcopy) and the new (digital).

* For to see a list of all of the previous PBR tips for increasing residency in-training exam scores, visit “Can I Improve Pediatric Residency In-Training Exam Scores For Myself? Or For My Program?

Have you ever opted to buy a hardcopy book instead of a digital one? Or opted to buy a hardcopy book in addition to a digital one? If so, why? I'd love to hear about the experience. Please share your thoughts at the bottom of the page!

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Ashish Goyal, M.D.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
RosalinaValcarcel-Ruiz -

Hi! I certainly agree with your comments.

Ashish Goyal, M.D. -

Great! Thanks for your thoughts Rosalina!


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