An Insider’s Guide to the Pathology Boards



This post was contributed by a guest who recently passed their boards

The best way to prepare for the Pathology Boards is to be really involved in your rotations throughout residency. Be ready for signout: write up all your cases, pay attention to the details, stage everything, read about the IHC, prognostic factors, demographics, and molecular in particular. Same goes for CP- especially handling calls from clinicians and troubleshooting.

Go to unknowns.

When you present at conference, choose your topics wisely. It’s tempting pick a topic that you already know a lot about, or have presented on another rotation, but resist the urge. Pick a topic you aren’t comfortable with or that you find conceptually challenging. Read everything you can about it, especially the difficult questions/diagnostic pitfalls. You’ll thank yourself when it’s time to study for boards, and these topics are just a quick review instead of an overwhelming jumble of information. I referred to my old presentations (and other people’s) a number of times while studying.

People say RISE is very different from boards but I did not find this to be true at all! I thought the RISE was harder, overall, but the topics that show up are the sorts of things you should be familiar with for boards. Go through the questions you got wrong- for me this was really high yield right before boards.

Logistics and Study Plan:

– Make sure all your stuff is logged in at the beginning of your 4th year. The ABP website has an autopsy log form that I used. Tally up your numbers for your cytology and CP cases. It makes it a lot easier when it’s time to fill out the application (which can take a while).

Make an aggressive but realistic study plan and stick to it (more or less). I think this is incredibly important. It’s such a broad test that if you don’t have a plan to review everything, it’s really easy to not get to huge topics. Build in some flexibility because you’ll probably fall behind (I did). My study plan: I started with areas outside of my comfort zone so that I’d have time to review them again before boards. It will also freak you out less to study stuff you don’t know when you still have lots of time before boards. I studied a CP topic and an AP topic each week. I also tried to adjust the schedule according to the rotation I was on (topic-wise and time-wise). The amount of time to budget totally depends on how comfortable you feel/how diligent you’ve been during residency. I think 4-6 months if you’re AP/CP and 2-4 months if you’re only taking one test is reasonable. On that note, if you plan to take both tests at some point, I highly recommend taking both at the same time. Not only are some topics truly overlapping (hemepath, molecular, lab management, stats, micro), but there’s a bunch of stuff (tumor markers, endocrine stuff, forensics/toxicology, etc) that show up on either or can help you figure out answers.

Below is the schedule that I used (hope it helps):

Week 1 AP GYN
Week 1 CP Immunoassay, TDM, Toxicology

Week 2 AP Bone/ST
Week 2 CP Diabetes and Renal Function

Week 3 AP Renal, Endocrine, Neuro
Week 3 CP Lipids and Proteins

Week 4 AP Liver, Pancreas, GB, Forensic
Week 4 CP Enzymes and Liver

Week 5 AP Derm
Week 5 CP Endocrine

Week 6 AP Pulm
Week 6 CP Acid Base, Electrolytes, Tumor Markers

Week 7 AP GI, Breast
Week 7 CP Bacteriology/Antibiotics

Week 8 AP GU, Male reproductive
Week 8 CP Bacteriology/Antibiotics

Week 9 AP Inflammation/Repair, Neoplasia
Week 9 CP Virology

Week 10 AP ENT, Cardiovascular
Week 10 CP Mycology

Week 11 AP Catch up
Week 11 CP Parasitology

Week 12 AP Peds, Placenta
Week 12 CP Mycobacteria

Week 13 AP Immunopath, Molecular, CG
Week 13 CP Humoral and Cellular Immunology

Week 14 AP Hemepath
Week 14 CP Immune Deficiencies and Autoimmunity

Week 15 AP Hemepath
Week 15 CP Platelets

Week 16 AP Cytology
Week 16 CP Coag

Week 17 AP Cytology
Week 17 CP RBC Disorders

Week 18 Catch Up

Week 19 Catch up

Week 20 AP Derm
Week 20 CP Cytogenetics & Molecular

Week 21 AP GYN
Week 21 CP Lab Management & Informatics

Week 22 AP Bone
Week 22 CP Stats and Quality Control

Week 23 AP Neuro
Week 23 CP Blood Bank

Week 24 AP Cytology
Week 24 CP Blood Bank

Week 25 AP Tumor Syndromes
Week 25 CP Blood Bank

Week 26 AP Review/Catch up

Week 27 AP Review/Catch up

Week 28 AP Review

Week 29 Review

Week 30 PASS!!