If you are about to complete your 18 months of Anesthesiology Residency, you’re probably starting to prepare for your Anesthesiology BASIC exam. You learn so much in medical school and residency, it can be overwhelming when you have a comprehensive exam. Here’s a guide to help you prioritize.
And why am I providing this advice?! I consider myself a terrible test taker, but I managed to pass both the written and oral Anesthesia Boards on the first attempt.
Practice, read, and…. repeat!
Do as many practice questions as you can for both the written and oral exams. For the written exam, you can find practice questions on the American Board of Anesthesiology website or utilize the highly rated and continuously updated ABA Anesthesiology BASIC exam question bank provided by BoardVitals.
Practice answering the questions and become familiar with the format of the exam. If you answer the questions correctly, great! Make sure you know why that was the correct answer. Knowing why helps you understand the material more comprehensively so wording won’t trip you up on your exam. If you answered incorrectly, read their explanation and also read the chapter in your textbook of choice. By practicing with the questions first, before going back to read the corresponding chapter, you can better focus your reading on your weak material. You will “see” the questions within the textbook and your reading will be high yield.
For the Oral exams, practice stem questions out loud! Practice out loud with colleagues, with students and by yourself. Having the knowledge between your ears is fine, but you must be able to articulate the information and your clinical judgment. If you’re too shy to practice with others, talk to yourself in your car, when no one is listening. You would be surprised how many verbal pauses we use in everyday language. A study buddy can call you out for using too many “likes,” “ums,” and “you knows.” Verbal pauses are fine during casual conversations. But in front of a board examiner, you want to portray yourself as the expert you are! You only want to take the exam once, so practice, practice, practice. If you record yourself, play it back and critique yourself. What is your impression of yourself? How is your posture? Do you sound confident? The examiners know you have the knowledge base – you’ve already completed and passed the written exam by this point. Now they need to know you’re able to articulate your knowledge and judgment.
The ABA website has a content outline to help you clearly define your studying. Speaking from experience, this is a good way to hammer down what you need to know and makes approaching studying more digestible.
Finally, reward yourself once you have passed the biggest test of your career!
Dr. Edna Ma is practicing, board-certified anesthesiologist, from Los Angeles with a B.S. in biology and M.D. degree from the University of Colorado. Dr. Edna completed residency training at UCLA’s Department of Anesthesiology. During her career, she launched BareEASE, a prep kit featured on SHARK TANK, that numbs the skin before bikini waxing or laser. She’s able to juggle all of these roles and enjoy her “tiger mom” responsibilities of raising her two children with the help of her supportive husband.