Neurology Board Review – Neurology Board Prep

Neurology Board review may seem quite intimidating when you consider the volume and difficulty of the topic at hand. It may seem impossible to recall so much information in such a broad topic, and while Neurology itself is a challenging subject, there is no reason the Neurology board exam has to be. When studying for the Neurology Board Exams, the tendency is to overstock on text books and review courses. But that tactic would only serve to overwhelm you. Frantically trying to learn everything for the boards is not efficient – it is time-consuming and expensive. A better method is to focus on a few key concepts and topics, recognizing their importance by percentage emphasis, and dedicating your time to mastering them. This is concentrated focus, and this method will help eliminate any fears you may have about what will be tested on the exam.

Narrowing your studies on certain topics within the umbrella of Neurology will be key. In general, the board exams are not like your run-of-the-mill standard medical exams. The board exams tend to test on overall knowledge of a topic, rather than the ability to recite or regurgitate facts, figures and numbers. With regards to which topics to focus on, the good news is that the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) has a definite set of topics they like to emphasize for their questions, and those topics don’t vary much from year to year.

The Neurology board exam is divided into three major parts: (A) Basic Neuroscience, (B) Behavioral neurology, cognition, and psychiatry, and (C) Clinical Neurology, which is further divided into 60% adult neurology questions and 40% pediatric neurology questions. The following list will give you the approximate percentage of emphasis for major topics found on the Neurology boards. Focus your studies on some of these topics and remember to exercise your pattern recognition and association skills throughout:

(A) Basic Neuroscience (125 questions)

  • Neurophysiology at approximately 5 – 7% of 125 questions
  • Neuropharmacology at approximately 4 – 6% of 125 questions
  • Neuroanatomy at approximately 3 – 5% of 125 questions
  • Neuropathy at approximately 3 – 5% of 125 questions
  • Neurochemistry at approximately 2 – 4% of 125 questions
  • Neuroimmunology/neuroinfectious Disease at approximately 2 – 4% of 125 questions
  • Neurogenetics/molecular neurology, neuroepidemiology at approximately 2 – 4% of 125 questions
  • Neuroendocrinology at approximately 1 – 2% of 125 questions

(B) Behavioral Neurology, Cognition and Psychiatry (85 questions)

  • Clinical and Therapeutic Aspects of Psychiatric Disorders at approximately 5 – 7% of 85 questions
  • Clinical and Therapeutic Aspects of Behavioral Neurology at approximately 5 – 7% of 85 questions
  • Development Through the Life Cycle at approximately 3 – 5% of 85 questions
  • Psychiatric and Psychological Principles at approximately 1 – 3% of 85 questions
  • Diagnostic Procedures at approximately 1 – 3% of 85 questions

(C) Clinical Neurology (210 questions)

  • Clinical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures at approximately 2 – 4% of 210 questions
  • Child Neurology Specific Disorders at approximately 2 – 4% of 210 questions
  • Neurologic Complications of Systemic Diseases at approximately 2 – 4% of 210 questions
  • Neuromuscular Disease at approximately 2 – 4% of 210 questions
  • Headache disorders at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Pain disorders at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Epilepsy and episodic disorders at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Sleep Disorders at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Genetic Disorders at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Congenital Disorders at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Cerebrovascular Disease at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Cranial Nerve Palsies at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Spinal Cord Diseases at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Movement Disorders at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Demyelinating Diseases at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Neuroinfectious Diseases at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Critical Care at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Trauma at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Neuro-ophthamology at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Neuro-otology at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Neuro-oncology at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Neurotoxicology at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Pregnancy and neurology at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Ethics at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions
  • Systems-based Practice issues at approximately 1 – 3% of 210 questions

Neurology is obviously a broad topic, but knowing the breakdown for the exam helps you hone in on where you might be having trouble. If you’re fine with Neuroanatomy, perhaps de-emphasize that section or save it for last. If you know you need a little more help with Neuroinfectious Diseases, tackle that topic first. Hone in and focus on the topics you know will count and need your attention. Practice questions are essential here; and the emphasis should be on getting to the diagnosis.

A general guideline to follow is to spend the most time on those disorders and procedures that are clinically seen more often. Practicing case studies will be useful in getting accustomed to making quick, accurate diagnoses. Stay motivated, stay organized and stay calm! Good luck!

Written by Andrea Paul, you can find me on

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