In the article titled “Need a Pediatric Board Study Plan?” I talk about how important it is to commit enough time to your studies.
I often get asked questions like…
“Can you provide a general pediatric board study schedule?”
“I'm in practice, can you provide me with a pediatric board study plan that works for me?”
“Can you provide a pediatric board study schedule for those of us in fellowship?”
For first-time test takers who usually score ABOVE the national mean on their board exams, I recommend a MINIMUM of 2-300+ hours, and a MINIMUM of 3 rounds of reading all of the “core” Pediatrics Board Review material.
Please remember, though, a schedule is only as valuable as your DETERMINATION to follow it. In this article, I breakdown those 300 hours into a manageable, concrete schedule that you can use to guide your studies. In the next article, I’ll share a schedule specifically for pediatricians that have failed the pediatric boards.
Since it’s impossible for me know exactly what your commitments are, and create a pediatric board study schedule around that, what I’ve tried to do below is map out 14 weeks of study time based on the goal of studying approximately 300 hours.
You may not agree with everything I recommend, but keep reading to get some ideas. I also share some pearls of wisdom towards the end that could prove extremely valuable in terms of helping you manage your time!
A comprehensive study schedule should include both the PBR materials and practice questions. I usually recommend AAP PREP ® questions. Below you’ll find a guide that breaks down how you should consider spending your time.
It’s based on committing to an average of 23 hours of studying per week. If you follow the schedule, you will go through the PBR materials 3 times and you will go through over 750 practice questions. If you stick to the plan, you’ll be done in 14 weeks or LESS. Based on your individual needs and commitments, you should also be able to modify the schedule to fit your life.
When you go through AAP PREP ® questions (I recommend going through about 3 years of questions), you should NEVER get bogged down with any individual question. Those questions should only be used for practice as I’ve mentioned in the article titled “How Many AAP PREP Questions Should I Do?”
Spend roughly 5 minutes on each question. That's 90 sec to answer each question in a block of questions, and then 3-3.5 minutes to review each answer. That comes out to about 58 hours of practicing questions. The other 240 hours will be spent going through the “core” PBR materials.
CRITICAL NOTE: My schedule is simply an outline that I created based on the assumption that most people would start their studying at least 14 weeks prior to the date of the exam, and they would be working full-time. Your situation could be completely different, but that's okay!
We've helped pediatricians pass their board exams even when they waited until the last 4-6 weeks to study! But you have to have the commitment to put the time and energy in.
Use this schedule as a guide. You do not have to spread the studying across 14 weeks. If you can find the time to get through 300 hours of studying in 8 weeks, GREAT! Consider working part-time until after the boards. Or, consider taking 2 weeks off completely before the boards to focus on nothing else except for your PBR!
Getting through the material and getting through enough practice questions is very doable in as little 6 weeks, but only if you can structure your life around the boards, and only if you have the commitment to use that time effectively.
Now let's get started!
STUDY SCHEDULE WEEK #1 – WEEK #4
If you NEED complete understanding of the material on the first read and you are paralyzed by the thought of moving past a page without complete comprehension, then use the GROUP A strategy below. However, if you think that you might be able to read the study guide to simply become familiar with it during your first read, and then dive DEEP into it during your second round, then use the GROUP B strategy below.
GROUP A (SLOW AND STEADY): Go through the Core Study Guide and the PBR Q&A book at a pace of 18 minutes per page. Take 6 weeks to do so and allot 120 hours in your study schedule for this (20 hours each week). Cross check facts, create mnemonics, and make notes in the margins so that you never have to go outside of PBR for additional knowledge or clarifications, and pay close attention to challenging areas. Aim for an average of 18 minutes per page of the two PBR books.
GROUP B (FAST AND FURIOUS): Your first read through of the PBR materials should take approximately 80 hours and should be a very fast read. Force yourself to simply read all of the content so that you become familiar with the high-yield topics and the content within the PBR. DO NOT aim for in-depth learning or memorization. Just familiarity. Aim for an average of 12 minutes per page of the two PBR books (PBR Core Study Guide + PBR Q&A Book). If you have questions, just write them in the margins for now. By following this method the first time through, you have the potential to prevent yourself from “getting stuck” on a particular chapter or topic. Discipline is key for studying and for question answering strategy. Start working on it NOW.
BOTH GROUPS A & B: Break up your studying with an average of 5 AAP PREP ® questions per day as directed by PBR. Aim for 5 min per question including the review of the answer.Group A should do 210 questions over 6 week and Group B should do 140 questions over 4 weeks. Questions will take about 3 hours of your time each week.
STUDY SCHEDULE WEEK #5 – WEEK #10
GROUP A (SLOW AND STEADY): Since you’ve already gone through the book in painstaking detail once, this round should be MUCH quicker and should take you a maximum of 80 hours over 4 weeks (weeks #7 – #10). Aim for an average of 12 minutes per page of the two PBR books and try to only highlight/underline areas that you think will need more review and repetition.
GROUP B (FAST AND FURIOUS): For your second and more detailed read through, allot 120 hours in your study schedule over 6 weeks for this. Cross check facts, create mnemonics, and make notes in the margins so that you never have to go outside of PBR for additional knowledge or clarifications. Pay close attention to challenging areas. Aim for an average of 18 minutes per page of the two PBR books. Highlight or underline areas that you feel will need more review and repetition.
BOTH GROUPS A & B: Break up your studying with an average of 5 AAP PREP ® questions per day as directed by PBR. Aim for 5 min per question including the review of the answer. By the end of week 10, you will have completed a total of 350 questions.
STUDY SCHEDULE WEEK #11 – WEEK #12
Stick to the schedule and stay disciplined! You should now have a strong foundation of pediatric knowledge and your goal for these two weeks should be complete your last round of reading the PBR materials over 40 hours. Spend 20 hours each week over the next 2 weeks to do this for your 3rd read through. Refresh your memory of familiar topics and finally cement your knowledge of the difficult ones.
Use a different, “special” color highlighter or pen to indicate the areas that you’re especially having trouble with and will need to review again during weeks leading up to the exam. Aim for an average of 6 minutes per page.
Reach out to members of PBR in the private members’ only Facebook Group with any questions or trouble spots.
Continue working on questions with an average of 5 AAP PREP ® questions per day as directed by PBR. Aim for 5 minutes per question including the review of the answer. At this point, consider batching questions and doing at least 20-30 questions in a single sitting per week.
STUDY SCHEDULE WEEK #13
By now, you’ve studied 276 hours over 12 weeks. You’ve gone through the Pediatrics Board Review core study guide + the Q&A three times, and you’ve practiced 420 questions. What remains is another 280 questions (23 hours). The difference for the remainder of the questions will be that you need to INCREASE your speed. You must start answering the questions in real, exam time. That's 75 seconds, or 1 minute and 15 seconds per question!
You can read more about timing of questions on the boards in the PBR article called, “Peds Boards Exam – Time Per Question, Number of Blocks, Ahhh!!!!! It’s so confusing!“
I recommend going through 140 questions this week (12 hours), and 140 questions next week. Increase the number of PREP ® questions to an average of 20 questions per day this week, and make sure you're doing them on a timed basis of 75 seconds per question.
You will also have 12 extra hours of study time this week. Use it to catch up on your PBR reading and work on your trouble areas. GET HELP from the PBR Facebook Group of your pediatric peers.
STUDY SCHEDULE WEEK #14
You now have 140 questions (12 hours) left to do. That's it! I recommend taking a few days off of work this week (NOT off of studying) to continue reviewing the PBR materials and to practice questions. Make SURE you know the PBR core study guide and the Q&A book inside and out. I simply can't stress this enough. It will be the key your success!
If you're still having trouble spots in your knowledge, lean on the PBR Facebook Group of your pediatric peers.
Push hard on practicing your timing and accuracy of questions and continue refreshing your mind with the Pediatrics Board Review materials.
Are you able to average less than 75 seconds per question while maintaining a high level of accuracy?
Are you comfortable with your knowledge of “core pediatrics”? If you’re not, stop memorizing ANY pediatric content that has changed over the past 10 years… and focus specifically on “core pediatrics” that has not changed in over a decade.
The 140 questions that you have remaining should be used this last week to help you work on pacing, focus and stamina. Two days will be spent on questions and the remainder of the time should be spent KNOWING the PBR materials.
3 DAYS BEFORE THE EXAM: Take the day off of work and do 70 questions in ONE sitting. At 75 seconds per question, that's 87.5 minutes (1 hour 28 minutes). Spend the rest of the day reviewing the answers.
1 DAY BEFORE THE EXAM: Take the day off of work and do the remaining 70 questions in ONE sitting. At 75 seconds per question, that's 87.5 minutes (1 hour 28 minutes). Spend the rest of the day reviewing the answers and reviewing the PBR.
At this point, your knowledge base should be sound and it's really just about making sure you can stay on track to finish the exam. There are tons of things you can do the day before the test and the day of to make sure it's a success. Just click on Test Day Tips to get a few of my personal recommendations.
By the end of this week, you will have gone through over 300 hours of studying. All by simply scheduling 23 hours of study time per week. If you were able to push through and make the above happen, CONGRATS! I'm excited for you AND GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL PASS THE BOARDS!!!
“I’m nervous because I’m not sure if the above-mentioned times will work for me?”
Well, that’s a valid concern!
Just because it will work for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Maybe you’ll take longer to get through the book the first time… or the second time. Or, maybe you will not be able to maintain the discipline needed to get through practice questions + reading the answers in average of 5 minutes per question that I recommend…
So what can you do to stay on schedule? Well… YOU CAN STAY ON SCHEDULE! Read on…
Here’s how you can MAKE SURE that you know exactly how much time you need to allot in your life to study in order to stay on schedule.
Time yourself as you go through about 20 pages of the PBR. MIX IT UP! Go through a few easy pages as well as several CHALLENGING pages. Go through each page in pain-staking detail. Are you able to maintain an average of 18 minutes per page? If not, then you'll need to adjust your estimates for the DETAILED round of studying.
Go back through those pages AGAIN and time yourself. This will kind of help you mimic your FASTER round of study. Adjust your time, your predicted pace, and your schedule accordingly.
Consider adding in some extra “cushion” time (maybe 15-20%) for your FASTER round because it's very easy to go through 20 pages that you have just recently reviewed, but it much harder to go through those same 20 pages if you have not seen them for a month.
These tricks will help you quickly figure out if PBR’s pediatric board study schedule is going to work for you, or if you’ll need more (or less) time to accomplish what’s needed to pass.
I CANNOT make sure that you will study. At the end of the day, only YOU can do that. But, I can GUARANTEE that if you follow the study schedule outlined above, you WILL PASS THE BOARDS!
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