NBME Surgery Shelf Exam Review Questions and Practice Tests

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“This Q-bank is awesome. When I used this bank for the first time, I said to myself 'oh wow' because I was missing little bits and pieces which I filled in with BoardVitals. These questions are hard but very similar to questions on NBME exams. I would strongly recommend BoardVitals for everyone who is studying for Step 1, 2, 3 and shelf exams. I used this bank for Step 1, and right now I'm using it for Step 2 and for my upcoming Internal Medicine shelf exam.”

Nadia Badar
Medical Student

gold key Key Board Review Features


Surgery Shelf Exam Board Review Topics Covered:

  • Breast
  • Transplantation
  • Skin and Soft Tissue
  • Vascular
  • Trauma
  • Pediatric Surgery
  • Abdomen
  • Miscellaneous Topics
  • Alimentary Tract
  • Surgical Critical Care
  • Applied Science
  • Surgical Specialties
  • Endoscopy

About the NBME Surgery Shelf Exam (Subject Exam)

As outlined by the NBME, the Subject Exams are designed to provide institutions with effective evaluation tools and useful examinee performance data that can be compared with a large representative group of examinees at the same stage of training.

What content is covered on the Surgery Shelf Exam?

According to the NBME Clinical Science: Surgery content outline, the following topics are covered on the exam:

General Principles 1%–5%

Organ Systems

  • Immunologic Disorders 1%–5%
  • Diseases of the Blood and Blood-forming Organs 5%–10%
  • Diseases of the Nervous System and Special Senses 5%–10%
  • Cardiovascular Disorders 10%–15%
  • Diseases of the Respiratory System 10%–15%
  • Nutritional and Digestive Disorders 25%–30%
  • Gynecologic Disorders 5%–10%
  • Renal, Urinary, and Male Reproductive System 5%–10%
  • Disorders of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Puerperium 1%–5%
  • Disorders of the Skin and Subcutaneous Tissues 1%–5%
  • Diseases of the Musculoskeletal System and Connective Tissue 5%–10%
  • Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders 5%–10%

Physician Tasks

  • Promoting Health and Health Maintenance 1%–5%
  • Understanding Mechanisms of Disease 20%–25%
  • Establishing a Diagnosis 45%–50%
  • Applying Principles of Management 25%–30%

What question formats are on the Surgery Shelf Exam?

As outlined in the NBME Guide to the Subject Examination Program, the following question formats will be on the exam:

Application of Knowledge

This exam will have an increased emphasis on the application of knowledge instead of the recall of isolated facts.


Questions are framed in the context of clinical vignettes.

Single-best-answer (A-type)

This is the most widely used MCQ format. Each question is comprised of a focused item stem (e.g., a clinical vignette) and a lead-in question, followed by a series of options with one correct answer for each item.

Extended Matching (R-type)

These questions are organized into sets that use one list of options for all items in the set. Examinees must select one best answer.

NBME Surgery Shelf Exam Prep and Readiness

Surgery Shelf practice questions are a great way to make sure you’re ready for the exam, especially if you’re scoring higher than your peers. We make sure that every question tracks how well others are doing so that you make sure you meet the percentile threshold. We also offer a pass guarantee on all of our shelf exam question banks.

Surgery in general is not a harder exam than the other shelf exams. Like many of the shelf exams, there is an emphasis on ‘next best’ questions... focus a portion of your study time on the next best action to take. Several of the physicians we interviewed indicated that it was their easiest exam. It’s 100 MCQ, and you’re given 130 minutes, so you’ll need to move quickly, and a couple of physicians ran out of time in the process.

If you need any help, feel free to reach out us.

View all of our NBME Shelf Exam Prep Offerings here.