After the written exam is done, the radiology residents start preparing for the oral (certifying) exam. This is a long exam, broken into several parts over two or three days. Itâ€™s quite different from the detail oriented written exam, and focused on putting all of that information together for interpreting imaging cases. I asked Ryan Schultz and Winnie Lo from UC Davis, and Randi Drees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to give us their perspective on how to prepare for this portion of the exam.
AZ:How many months ahead of the exam did you start preparing?
I guess I started preparing with KCCs the first year of the residency, but specifically I started studying for the oral boards about July (2 months before).Â I needed time to recover from the writtens first.
2 months minus 2 weeks for ECVDI meeting travel = 1.5 months study time.
I started earnestly preparing about 2 months before the oral exam.
AZ:What did you start with and how much time did you study per week?
I started by having faculty members present about 2 cases once a week and really trying to improve my report style by making it more concise.Â I was used to spending a lot of time on findings and then thinking over all the differential diagnoses in KCC. When preparing before the orals I would be very thorough on the findings (so as not to miss subtle lesions at the edge of the film) but would make a timely list of 1-3 differential diagnoses in the order I thought was my likely.Â I did this for about a month before boards while also skimming over books on differential diagnoses and contrast studies which I hadnâ€™t seen much of (just looking at images and reading the descriptions).Â The month before the boards I would practice making oral reports on a couple cases at a time at least 2-3 times per week with other residents or faculty.Â I also practiced making oral reports and talking to myself the remainder of the weekdays (go somewhere where no one else will hear you â€“ but it really helps, otherwise when Iâ€™d read the answers on cases I would believe I would have said some stuff that I may not have).Â The week just before boards I practiced making oral reports on cases in front of people everyday for maybe an hour.
I started with a â€œquickâ€ re-read of Thrall that took a little longer than anticipated, and typing up a list of differential diagnosis from that per chapter. I was full time on clinics between the written and orals, hence study time was not much more than 1 hr during the weekdays and maybe total of 8hrs on the weekends.
Preparing for orals was very different than for writtens.Â I didnâ€™t really have any sit down sessions to study.Â I did spend about 2-3 hours going over old cases in our archives.Â Mostly it was being on clinics and seeing cases.
AZ:What was your approach to studying? (journals, cases, mock orals, any software, etc)
I mostly went over a lot of cases; digital, hard copy and on the ACVR website.Â I also looked at a lot of images in a book or two on contrast studies.
I had read the pertinent veterinary radiology books at one point in my residency, however as my memory sometimes tricks me in deleting important details I did a quick review. As stated above I started with Thrall, making myself a â€œrescueâ€ list of differentials in case of getting lost. For Large Animals I used Butler as baseline knowledge, for US Nyland / Matoon (both of which I had summarized at some earlier point) & Penninck / dâ€™Anjou. Reading titles & looking at pretty pictures and figure legends is great as a refresher. I topped that up with flipping through other radiology books that were available in our department library.
I had previously summarized and copied title / abstract / pretty pictures the papers of the recent years to a single page per article and went through those on the weekend before the exam. That was my baseline especially for CT / MRI, as this is still marginally covered in books at this point. For NucMed I used the handbook and my paper summaries.
For artifacts I went down the lists on the objectives and wrote a brief statement for each for appearance, cause, remedy. I tried to memorize those, my brain was a little resistant to studying & memorizing after the writtens, however I still could remember some of it during the exam.
The most important thing however were the mock board sessions generously given by my faculty and fellow residents. I had about 8 weeks of Mon-Fri 8-9am mock boards with 4-5 cases per session. It is pretty hard on the self esteem, but really worth it as it gets you in the swing of talking / thinking through consecutive cases in an organized fashion even if you have no idea what you are dealing with. And that is going to happen on the exam in one or the other way and that way I didnt get too thrown off by that then.
Additionally it is a very valuable and condensed one on one learning experience. I feel I have almost learned more in this short period than before in the residency, or lets say got more fine tuning on my skills. So if you dont have that in place, I would strongly reccomend to ask your faculty or fellow residents to do something similar for you.
I thought being on clinics was the best preparation.Â Mock orals were also extremely helpful.Â They helped me organize my thoughts and to practice my delivery in a concise and direct manner (getting in the groove, so to speak).Â I also did review recent journal articles to refresh some topics in my mind.