Last week we started with some tips on preparing for the written board exam by Matt Cannon, Sophie Dennison and Randi Drees. The article covered the timeline for starting to prepare and dividing your time, as well as reviewing the literature. This week they cover their favorite study resources and the top three tips for studying for the written exam.
If you have tips for next year’s residents, please add them to the comments section! Everyone is welcome to contribute. As you can see from last year’s and this year’s interviews, each resident has a unique approach that worked for them. The more advice we can gather, the greater chance we’ll have of finding good advice to suit any study style.
AZ:What subject took the most time?
Probably Alternate Imaging, just due to the sheer volume of information. The material is familiar because most of it is what we do on a daily basis, but there is a lot of associated literature and physics. I ended up making a decision early on that I would not get bogged down in the fine details of things like MR physics and instead be sure that I had a basic knowledge and understanding of the material to fall back on. I think this helped me avoid spending too much time on details that would probably never show up on the test anyways. For me, the easiest sections to study were Radiation Biology (there is only so much material to read on this subject) and Anatomy (again, itâ€™s knowledge that we use daily).
Pathophys without a doubt.
Reading the papers, including Phyisology & Pathophysiology. Physics went only fast bc I went though it in depth before.
AZ:What was the hardest subject to study?
Pathophysiology, hands down. Studying for this section is like looking into a black hole. The objectives are nebulous and open-ended and the source material is varied and overwhelming. If you donâ€™t set boundaries you could spend an infinite amount of time on each objective. Even after studying this section extensively, I still felt like 99% of the material I studied was not asked, and Iâ€™m still not sure where some of the questions came from. I wish I had better advice to give on how to prepare for this section, but if I had to do it over again Iâ€™m not sure what I could have done differently.
Pathophys â€“ the objectives donâ€™t really advise what level of learning is needed ie. organ level, cellular level, receptor level. So it becomes a little bit of guesswork and gambling.
Pathophysiology, because it is very hard to determine where to set the limit, how in depth one may be asked.
AZ:What were some of your favorite resources (books, websites, etc)?
Standard books I read included the NM handbook, Nyland/Mattoon, Thrall, Christensenâ€™s Physics, Bushberg for CT/MR/Digital radiography, Kremkau for US, Hall for Rad Bio, Wallack for contrast agents, and Ettinger for pathophysiology. Other resources I found helpful were Slatter and Bojrab for surgical/bone stuff and pathophysiology, Radiographics review articles for MR/CT physics and artifacts, Dr. Kittlesonâ€™s cardio website via UC Davis (www.vmth.ucdavis.edu/Cardio/cases), Dr. Buchananâ€™s cardiac embryology website via UPenn, an MRI physics website at www.e-mri.org, and various review articles in Vet Clinics of North America and Clinical Techniques in Veterinary Practice. The online resident notes were really hit-or-miss. Sometimes they were great, but other times they were too detailed or not detailed enough.
Ettinger on line, I also went through Guyton before I started Ettinger back at the start of my second year, but not convinced that was really necessary although the background was good. Raphex physics exam and Huda for physics practice. WIKIPEDIAÂ – its amazing what shows up on there…but only trust the referenced stuff.
Guyton for physiology. Zagzebski for US. Bushberg for general physics and radbio. Nuclear medicine Handbook. And my paper collection. Wikipedia. Google.
AZ:What are your top 3 tips for studying for the written exam?
- Plan ahead â€“ I felt that having at least a loose study timeline was very helpful in keeping me organized and not freaking out, even if I didnâ€™t always adhere precisely to the timeline. Starting a year ahead of time should be more than sufficient, even if you just plan to read a few hours each week. I actually made a 5 week timeline before the exam detailing how I would spend each week, and I think it prevented me from losing it.
- Use the people around you – Before you start, ask older residents or faculty members what books/articles/resources they would recommend reading and what resources probably arenâ€™t necessary to read. There is a lot of material out there and you canâ€™t read it all, so having a game plan as far as what you are going to study is key.
- Relax â€“ Itâ€™s a clichÃ© but you must do it. All the time you are really stressed out is wasted time. Everybody kept telling me that I would pass but I didnâ€™t believe them and got stressed out and you probably will not believe them either. But the fact is that most residents pass the exam, although you will not feel that way when you finish. There are at least several sections that you probably could pass without even studying so that should make you feel better as well (although I donâ€™t recommend trying this).
- Start early â€“ its easier to get in the habit of an hour or two a night and then step up from there rather than freaking out at the last minute and trying to get brain to engage.
- Use other notes eg. the 2005 answers as a skeleton but make sure YOU can answer all of the objectives questions. Making a summarized version of your notes is a great way of giving yourself a â€˜quick referenceâ€™ guide for the last couple of weeks before the exam.
- Remember you are training to be a radiologist not an internist and gauge study to that.Â I tried to study to the level I felt I needed to know on the clinic floor to answer most questions.
- Read as much as you can during your residency along the objectives. Read as many papers as you can during your residency, I found it easier to read by organ system than by year. Understand the physics at least halfway before you really start studying right before the exam.
- Compile some kind of short form of the objectives for yourself to review. It is too overwhelming otherwise.
- Sleep enough. Do lots of sports.