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 textbooks 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.
Beginning in 2017, the Neurology board exam will conform to a two-dimensional content specification with Dimension 1 focusing on Neurologic Disorders and Topics, while Dimension 2 is devoted to Physician Competencies and Mechanisms. 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:
Dimension 1: Neurologic Disorders and Topics
- Headache and pain disorders 4-6%
- Epilepsy and episodic disorders 8-12%
- Sleep disorders 3-5%
- Genetic and developmental disorders 6-8%
- Vascular neurology 8-12%
- Neuromuscular diseases 8-12%
- Movement disorders 8-12%
- Neuroimmunologic disorders of the CNS 8-12%
- Neuroinfectious diseases 2-4%
- Brain and spinal trauma 2-4%
- Neuro-ophthalmologic and neuro-otologic disorders 2-4%
- Metabolic diseases, nutritional deficiency states, and disorders due to toxins, drugs, and physical agents 3-5%
- Neuro-oncology and paraneoplastic disorders 3-5%
- Behavioral neurology and neurocognitive disorders 7-9%
- Psychiatric disorders 5-7%
- Autonomic nervous system disorders 1-3%
- Normal developmental processes and development through the life cycle 1-2%
Dimension 2: Physician Competencies and Mechanisms
- Neuroscience and mechanism of disease 22-28%
- Clinical aspects of neurologic disease 17-23%
- Diagnostic procedures 17-23%
- Treatment 22-28%
- Interpersonal and communication skills 2-3%
- Professionalism 2-3%
- Practice-based learning and improvement 2-3%
- Systems-based practice 2-3%
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 Neuromuscular Diseases, 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 Google+