How to Study Successfully for the Internal Medicine Board Examination

How to Study Successfully for the Internal Medicine Board Examination

Jul 04, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Table of Contents

The Internal Medicine Board examination is a voluntary process for every resident and it’s not required for medical licensure. However, most residents decide to take this exam to demonstrate expertise in their specific medical specialty. It’s an important credential that most healthcare organizations require as a condition for employment. More so, board certification is incredibly important to residency training programs which are usually assessed by the program’s ability to lead their trainees to pass the board certification.

The exam itself is challenging, but your pre-board process is even so. Studying for the board while in the process of clinical training is exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Especially during these times where the pandemic pushed residents to their boundaries.

When it comes to board preparation, you have to do it smartly. The daily grinds of hospital life will make it seem like the time is flying and the next thing that you know is you’re taking the exams next week. There are certain nuances of studying that you have to know so you’ll reach your maximum learning ability. Here are some neat tips to help you help yourself when it comes to studying for the board examination:

1. Go Through Your ABIM Initial Certification Exam Blueprint

The American Board of Internal Medicine gives out the certification exam blueprint ahead of time, so you’ll know everything there is to know about the exam’s coverage and content including the percentage assigned to it.

Your examination blueprint is your key to reviewing for the boards. You have to accept that you simply don’t have the time to review everything that you learned from med school and residency which is why you have to be smart and efficient about it.

2. Categorized Your Review Schedule

If you think that you have to start reviewing for your boards at least three months before your exam, then create a review schedule for four months.

The reason behind this is to leave you enough time to transition yourself to your new studying pace. By giving yourself an extra month, you have extra time to figure out which study routine works best for you. Think of it as a trial period that you can explore all the possibilities that you like.

When it comes to subject scheduling, take note of your ABIM exam blueprint. Categorize the medical content by its exam percentage and start from the category with the highest chunk of the exam. For example, if Cardiovascular Disease has the highest percentage of exams, then make sure that you start with it until you move on to the lower percentile. With that kind of portion, you’ll be able to study efficiently with the category that you know have higher chances of showing up frequently in your exam.

Another important thing to remember when it comes to reviewing scheduling is to create it in a way that’s attainable to your schedule. Most residents would overestimate their abilities and create a schedule that’s impossible for them to stick to, in return, they become discouraged and even more stressed out. When it comes to your board exam, stress-studying is the last thing that you should do because it’s counterproductive and your brain won’t absorb any information.

So create a schedule that you know you could follow. Make it flexible too. Don’t be ashamed to push things back because you need extra rest from a draining shift. As long as you keep track of where you are, then that should make things easier for you.

3. Assess Your Own Knowledge

Again, you won’t have the time to cover all bases and that’s perfectly fine. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll let things be.

By continuously assessing your own medical knowledge, you’ll be able to fill the gaps in with studying. Remember that you’ve gone through med school already so your theoretical knowledge should be more than enough. The studying that you’re doing is to simply refresh your memory and reinforce your knowledge.

Along with your medical knowledge, you should also take note of your practice. Take advantage of clinical rotations and try your best to explore and cover every department. If you’ve already spent a significant amount of time on a certain area and you feel like you already know the basics and beyond, move on to another department. Let your instincts lead you with this. If you “feel” good about a subject matter, then it’s time to tackle other areas that you might not feel confident about.

4. Familiarize with the Exam

The ABIM exam is in a multiple-choice format with a single best answer. It this type of exam, it’s incredibly easy to give up halfway and just randomly choose your answers especially if you really have no idea what to write. This is why it’s so important to familiarize yourself with the exam as much as you can for you to correctly use this format to the best of your abilities.

All of ABIM exam questions revolve around the work done and the tasks performed by physicians in the course of a different practice. That involves making a diagnosis, ordering tests as well as the interpretation, recommending treatment and patient care, and more.

Before your actual exam, The American Board of Internal Medicine strongly advises everyone to take their Internal Medicine Certification exam tutorial that can be found on their website. That way, you’ll be able to improve your efficiency on exam day.

Another method that residents use to guide their study is to take practice tests or quizzes. By doing so, you’ll be tested not only on your medical knowledge, but you’re also subjected to the time pressure. You could effectively assess your performance on board examination-style questions because simply knowing the answers to the questions isn’t enough. Exams like these also test your time management and efficiency.

There are a lot of resources online that can help you with this, ranging from free mock tests to paid services with more extensive question banks. As long as you get your resources from a credible source, then you should be good to go.