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.
A failed pediatric boards attempt is devastating and having failed once myself I can only imagine what is going through your head.
But before you throw yourself back into the depths of studying, here are two things I want you to understand:
Failing the boards doesn’t make you a bad pediatrician.
Passing the boards in 2020 has more to do with having a comprehensive strategy rather than a board review resource.
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.
Well, friends, the day is here. The results of the pediatrics board exam results have been announced! This is always an emotional day for pediatricians, but especially for us here at PBR HQ, as this is when we get flooded with emails from our members who have worked so hard, FINALLY passing the boards. The stories that have been wonderful. To have members say that we have changed their lives has been nothing less than humbling. Our members are also providing feedback on making the resources we have even better so that the PBR system continues to be the best pediatric board review available. While we are known for being the premier resource for anyone at moderate to high risk of failing the pediatric boards, the results below will help you see that if we can help pediatricians pass after SIX failed attempts, helping you pass the pediatric board exam should be easy.
In this article, I’ll be covering:
The pass rate for PBR members and first-time test takers
Feedback from our board-certified alumni on how to pass the pediatric board exams
Next Steps if you FAILED the boards (and common mistakes to avoid to make sure you pass next year)
Free upcoming webinar on how to ensure you pass the 2020 pediatric boards
BEFORE WE GET INTO THE ARTICLE:
You are probably here because you either PASSED the boards, you FAILED the boards, or, you are preparing for the boards for the first time. Here are some quick steps you can take if you fall into one of those three categories:
The national pediatric board exam pass rate for first-time test takers taking of the American Board of Pediatrics the initial certification exam has ranged from 81% – 88% over the past few years. For the MOC exam, pass rates have been > 95%.
The Pediatrics Board Review (PBR) pass rate was 100% for all pediatricians taking the ABP MOC Exam for multiple years, and the first-time pass rate for the initial certification exam test-takers has consistently been 98%-99%.
This is based on surveys, email responses and the almost nonexistent requests received from pediatricians asking to cash in on PBR's 100% Money-Back First-Time Pass Guarantee!
While I'm always excited for when any member passes the boards, I'm especially proud of those members who, after failed last year, have PASSED in 2019! Especially those who I was able to personally mentor at our Live Test-Taking Strategies & Deep Study Course in Atlanta. All the wonderful emails and messages have been bringing so much joy, as this is the moment I and Team PBR work for; helping doctors FINALLY, pass the boards after multiple attempts.
Here's an example of an email that we received from a Live Test-Taking Strategies Course member:
Tears of joy are wonderful. No thank you could ever be sufficient for all the support and guidance from Ashish and PBR over the past couple of years. Ashish who truly cares and believes in each individual person and helps guide them. I honestly used to laugh at the people who said they improved by 30 or more points, didn't think it was possible. It’s more than possible with PBR and can't thank Ashish enough! I failed each of the past 3 years not even getting within 5 points of passing. I never ever thought of quitting or giving up. I went all in with PBR including the core study guide (8X!!), all access pass including the videos and audio, live test taking strategies course and a 2 hour 1-on-1 session with Ashish after having a moment of revelation. LISTEN to this man. Follow his advice word for word. I finally PASSED on the 4th attempt! I improved my score by 42 points!!! It takes an army to go through this. I had to sacrifice being with my family, but we did it together. I hope and pray everyone reading this that's ever failed or struggled with test taking in general to not give up hope. It can be done. Cheers!
-Dr. Russell Zweiner Board Certified Member
Russ passed on his FOURTH attempt. And here's a video of Dr. Yessenia Castro, who finally passed on her FIFTH attempt because she followed all of the advice that PBR had to offer. Now she's making about $20,000 more per year, and she's in a job that she loves! I had the chance to meet her at the American Academy of Pediatrics' conference and even recorded this great little video.
Caught On Tape At the American Academy of Pediatrics Conference
Here's another video from the American Academy of Pediatrics conference. It's a conversation between a PBR alum and a resident in training. Watch the ENTIRE thing (it's only 2 minutes). Click Here And Continue Reading…
In this article we’ll learn about pediatric board review courses being offered in 2020 and learn why live courses are broken. We'll also discuss the pediatric board review course created in 2020 by Pediatrics Board Review (PBR), and we'll share resources and recommendations for those looking into live board review courses.
PBR was created by me, Ashish Goyal. As a pediatrician, I excelled when I increased my score by 160 points on the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) Initial Certification exam. I was then asked by the ABP to write questions for them.
Now, as an author, my mission is to provide the best pediatric board review materials to residents and pediatricians. And I’ve been doing this successfully doing so with PBR since 2011.
As physicians, we're trained to learn "everything” in our field, and we apply the same methodology to how we prepare for an exam. We start from the first sentence and take a top-to-bottom approach.
But these strategies do NOT work when you are studying for the pediatric boards.
That’s why at Pediatrics Board Review, we focus on creating a full, one-stop shop for you to focus your learning on three things:
The specific topics that will be tested on the exam
The strategy behind test taking, and how to deconstruct difficult questions with ease.
The tools, schedules, and systems needed to promote efficiency and accountability
This article will be covering a LOT about what pediatricians just like you need to pass the pediatric boards (and how we have been providing that successfully for the past decade).
The system that we’ve created has been proven to be much more effective (and cheaper) than attending a 4-6 day long course where you're expected to learn everything about pediatrics. And if the thousands of happy pediatricians are any indication, using the PBR Retention Methodology is the way to go (but more on that later).
If you are set on finding a traditional, live pediatric board review course, we do offer some advice and resources to help. Keep reading below to find a list of companies we've compiled who are offering live pediatric board review courses and the cost of attending.
But, if you have 5 minutes, take the time to read this article because it will likely save you time, money, and energy.
Through this article, and through videos like the one below, you will begin to quickly understand why a "traditional" pediatric board review course can lead to failure. PBR is not a traditional board review company, and we focus on helping physicians in ways that have never been done before. In the video below, I share with you the arrival of the NEW2020 Edition of the PBR Core Study Guide, the NEW 2020 Edition of the Question & Answer books, our NEW Test-Taking Strategies Course, and information around the differences that allow PBR to excel.
Click the PLAY Button Below & Watch Now (2020 Book Release Video Pending!)
Click here to get the full Pediatric Dermatology and Pediatric Gastroenterology chapters from THIS YEAR's EDITION of the PBR so that you can TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!
THE MAKINGS OF A GREAT PEDIATRIC REVIEW COURSE
What Makes a Great Pediatric Board Review Course?
Having been around pediatric board materials (and helping pediatricians pass!) for almost 10 years, I have found the key to any successful pediatric review course boils down to 5 key elements:
CONTENT CONGRUENCY: Having materials that work cohesively together has been proven to better reinforce knowledge in our brains. This is compared to having several disjointed study materials with competing methodologies. Congruency promotes a smarter, not harder, studying experience.
BOARD RELEVANT MATERIAL (NOT ALL MATERIAL!): No course should try to shove as many topics as possible into your brain; that will only lead to overload! Pick a course that provides a laser focus on the topics that are known to be tested, and curates your study experience around those topics.
A FOCUS ON THE TEST-TAKING STRATEGY (JUST AS MUCH AS THE TOPICS): Everyone has a colleague, a friend, or a family member who is very intelligent, but tests poorly. When it comes to standardized tests, knowing how to test is just as important as knowing about the subject being tested! So, your chosen course should place a high emphasis on teaching you how to TEST well.
INTERACTION: A course that promotes interaction with both your peers and the instructor can lead to a better study experience. Trying to study in isolation for hours on end, with an instructor just talking at you, will only limit the amount of information you retain. It will also provide zero opportunity for you to gain clarification on the difficult topics you struggled with.
MULTIPLE RETENTION TECHNIQUES: Everyone learns at a different pace, so finding a course that utilizes several retention techniques to help you solidify what you are studying is key.
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 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.
AAP PREP®QUESTIONS – WHEN YOU SHOULD (AND SHOULD NOT) USE THEM!
A question I’m often asked is “Ashish, what makes your pediatric study guide better than prep questions?” Whether they are talking about general board prep questions or the American Academy of Pediatrics PREP®questions, my answer is always the same (read on).
THE SECRET NO ONE TALKS ABOUT WITH AAP PREP QUESTIONS
The AAP PREP questions are NOT written by the American BOARD of Pediatrics (ABP). They are written by the American ACADEMY of Pediatrics (AAP). The names of these organizations are so similar (American ______ Pediatrics), that MANY pediatricians believe that they are one and the same.
THEY ARE NOT!
Yet, the AAP's annual question series has somehow become the “go-to” Q&A resources for the pediatric boards.
Many pediatricians tend to use AAP PREP questions exclusively as their source of study for the boards. I'm baffled by this. While PREP is a great resource for anyone who is a board-certified pediatrician looking for Continuing Medical Education (CME), or for any non-board certified pediatrician trying to simulate an ABP practice session, these questions should NOT be used as a primary study resource while studying for the ABP initial certification exam.
THE MOST COMMON REASON PEDIATRICIANS FAIL THE PEDIATRIC BOARDS
Here is a note I received from a PBR alum, now a Board Certified Pediatrician, who made one of the most dangerous test-taking mistakes the year that she failed her pediatric boards:
Hello Ashish, Last year I failed my boards. I spent countless hours studying using prep questions but didn't have one good source to use to really learn from and I thought using questions would be my key to success. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I was so lost and frustrated after I received that FAIL, and I thought there is no way that I was going to pass. I had spent hours and months studying… What more could I have done?!? I googled ‘failed pediatric boards' and PBR came up. It was an answer to prayer. It was exactly what I needed. I was blown away by the help that PBR gave me. From the PBR book itself to the videos, audio and online portals – I am so incredibly thankful. I think PBR should be adopted by residency programs nationwide as it would be a great resource to have to study for in-training exams and to use alongside rotations. Just my two cents!! If there is something that I could do to help you and the PBR membership, please let me know!
Dr. Stephanie Moses, Board Certified Pediatrician
Learn from Stephanie’s experience; it takes more than questions to pass the pediatric board exam. There are three pillars I like to refer to when it comes to successfully passing the boards:
CONTENT: How well you know the material.
TECHNIQUE: How to quickly and effectively process board-style questions.
COMMITMENT: How disciplined you are to the process.
In order to succeed on the boards, you have to separate your board prep time into two buckets. Your CONTENT TIME (the time to develop your knowledge base) and your TECHNIQUE TIME (the time to develop your test-taking strategy).
Again, the AAP has put together a GREAT resource. I actually think it stands above all others in the marketplace for simulating the board exam experience. It's also wonderful for pediatric continuing medical education (CME). However, it should NEVER be used as a standalone resource for board study. I simply cannot imagine that the AAP would ever cover all of pediatrics as a comprehensive board review in a set of 200-300 questions.
STEPHANIE FOCUSED ON QUESTIONS, AND FAILED THE BOARDS
Dr. Stephanie Moses is now a board-certified pediatrician practicing emergency medicine. But, that wasn't always the case. In the video below, she talks about the advice that she received and how she focused on PREP the first time that she took the boards. Her second experience was very different. What she says is amazing. Watch the video below now, and be sure to watch until the end.
HOW MANY AAP PREP QUESTIONS SHOULD I DO?
In short, you should do at least 5 practice questions per day in addition to your studying materials. These should be from PREP as well as from other Q banks. This way, you are able to get a taste of various question flavors and have a broad understanding of how questions can be written for the boards. Read my article called “How Many AAP Prep Questions Should I Do?“and learn more about why I recommend this.
MORE THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Here are a few additional key points about using the AAP's questions, as well as any other board prep questions:
If you insist on using questions to study, pick a company who creates study materials for the boards as well. This will (hopefully) ensure that the questions actually correlate with the content you need to know for the boards. This way, the answers/explanations tie in seamlessly with the core content necessary to pass the boards. However, finding this magical batch of questions that will give you everything you need to know for the boards typically does not exist. That’s why it's IMPERATIVE to study from a well-written and easy-to-understand study guide and to use questions for the practice of your test-taking TECHNIQUE.
The boards are not always current! PREP does a great job of staying current, but the ABP questions you'll see on the boards are not always that up to date. So BE CAREFUL.
PREP answers/explanations often go into excellent detail to explain all possible viewpoints. When you're studying for the boards, EFFICIENCY ISKEY so SKIM the answers. If you answered the question correctly, pat yourself on the back and MOVE ON! If you answered the question incorrectly, focus only on the answer that you chose and also on the answer that was the correct answer. Figure out where you went wrong. Was it a TECHNIQUE problem, or was it purely a CONTENT problem? If you felt like you had a good handle on the subject matter but still answered the question incorrectly, it was definitely a TECHNIQUE problem and you must figure out how to strengthen your test-taking strategies.
So, to answer the question posed in the title of this article, “Ashish, what makes your pediatric study guide better than prep questions?”, it’s near impossible to find ANY board prep questions that would do a good job of serving as a stand-alone STUDY resource.
Yes, you will undoubtedly learn some information about pediatrics by going through board prep questions. But your primary goal should be to use prep questions for PRACTICE and refinement of your test-taking TECHNIQUE rather than a STUDY resource.
THEN, HOW DO I STUDY FOR THE PEDIATRIC BOARD EXAM?
Set time aside to specifically grow your knowledge base and work on your test-taking technique. If you aren’t sure how to create such a schedule, I have two articles with step-by-step directions on how to set up your study schedule. Regardless of how much time you have left before the boards, these articles are great resources!
If you consider yourself to be a great test-taker, or if you are taking the boards for the first time, follow this schedule.
For those who are wanting to take that next step to pass the boards, the go-to resource is Pediatrics Board Review. As a PBR member, you’ll have access to high-yield board review questions and our test-taking strategy resources!