You have reached a milestone in your podiatric career. It’s time to sit for the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ABFAS) qualification exams. They are broken down into two exams: Part 1 primarily deals with forefoot surgery and part 2 deals with rearfoot and ankle surgery.
I’m not going to sit here and proclaim that there’s a tried and true method to prepare for these tests. Get this straight… this is not the time to revamp your entire test preparation strategy. Rather, do whatever it is that got you to this point.
Somehow or another, you made it through undergrad, podiatry school, and at least part of your residency. You have figured out a system that works for you; this is not the time to change it. Straying from your routine will likely increase your stress and anxiety. In many respects, the ABFAS qualification exams are not any different than all the other tests that came before.
Let me explain my background: like you, I have taken the exams prior to the ABFAS. Unlike you, I have written practice questions, and at times, actual questions for the ABFAS exam. With that said, I can speak from experience in that there isn’t one magic formula that will help you ace both parts of this exam.
Think about it… these exams have been created to assess the knowledge that you’ve learned throughout your podiatric career. You know the information. You either learned it in the classroom, clinic, or operating room. So, preparing for this test there should be very little “learning,” and more emphasis on reviewing and mental organization.
Specifically, it will be a good idea to brush up on some classification systems or, if you’re like me, review bone and soft tissue tumors. Heck, it’d even be smart to take a look at local anesthetics and their pKa and percent of protein binding.
At the end of the day, only you know what you’ve struggled with in school and residency, so, if you reinforce those weaker areas by increasing the strength of the foundational material that supports it, then you’ll be solid. Don’t overthink things.
I have always compared medical education to an attempt at drinking from a fire hose. In front of you is a ton of information, blasting you from all angles; however, your education brings with it the ability, in the form of managing information, to reduce that pressure so that you can take feasible gulps of water. Sadly, you won’t be able to make up for 4-5 years of education in a few weeks or months. You just can’t. The bulk of information needed to pass this exam and turn down the pressure has already been provided in the form the education you’ve experienced thus far.
Personally, I referenced ABFAS document 500 to familiarize myself with the allocation and format of questions. For online question banks, I would recommend the BoardVitals ABFAS Foot Surgery Certification Review — it’s fantastic, and I wish it existed when I was in the midst of studying. Check out their free Foot Surgery sample quiz — it’s fun to take — see if you can get 100%!
When it came study materials I referenced back to my clinical texts from residency and school. To this day, my McGlamry text is the most broken down book in my library because it has been referenced hundreds and hundreds of times. In case you haven’t figured it out, the question writers must pull their questions from a reference source… (wink). Lastly, most writers will reference publications that are known to be widely read in the podiatry educational arena. They aren’t out attempting to trick you by pulling from some esoteric Peruvian foot journal, although that would be kind of fun to witness.
Of course, the obvious things are true: get a good night’s rest, avoid simple sugars, hug your dog for good luck, etc. That is, if you normally do those things. But the bottom line is, do whatever it is that you normally do. Your techniques and strategies have helped you get this far. There is not one thing that you will be questioned on that you didn’t cover in your classroom, clinic or operating suite.
I hope I didn’t disappoint you by not providing you some secret strategy or a plethora of inside information. But now is the time just to put a pretty bow around everything you have learned over these past few years and use your knowledge and review as the means to succeed at the AFBAS examinations.
About the author: Dr. Offutt attended undergraduate at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. He attended Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida for his Master’s and Doctoral Degrees. He then completed a PSR 36 program at the former Winona Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Dr. Offutt has been in practice since 2004. He is board certified in forefoot and rearfoot/ankle surgery as well as a certified wound specialist. Dr. Offutt has extensive experience in reconstructive foot and ankle surgery, arthroscopy, and limb salvage.
Dr. Offutt resides in east central Indiana with his wife, six lovely children and his dog. His hobbies include saltwater aquariums and the Indianapolis Colts!