Friday, December 26, 2008

My first NBME board exam

It's Christmas break.

Thank God.

I just wrote my Surgery exams and they were well-timed to occur just before the break. I'm not sure I would have lasted if I had to go back to work the day after my first NBME (National Board of Medical Examiners) written & oral exam of the year.

Now only 4 more to go. We write 5 NBMEs in our third year - Psychiatry, Obs/Gyn, and the "Big Three" - Surgery, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.

Before I wrote my first NBME, I was given a heads up about what they're like. The way these exams were explained to me by those who had written it?

"You study your butt off for 8 weeks for one of the subjects, you live and breathe it, you learn everything there is to know, all the basics, all the obscure rare diseases you'll never see, and then you show up to the exam and feel like you get 0 of the 100 questions correct. Everyone thinks they failed. Everyone does just fine."

Another piece of advice, which I'm not sure how it was supposed to help me prepare for the test (other than psychologically):

"People walked out of the exam room crying. I heard someone sobbing during the exam."

On the test day, we had to sign and be read a few dozen disclaimers about the exam and not sharing questions, so the following isn't word-for word, but it suffices as a sample question:

A 42-year-old man presents with bilateral ear pain. Choose the correct diagnosis from the following list of options (a through f):

Or, to compliment the questions with too little information, there are also long, detailed clinical scenarios of patients who present with a plethora of symptoms, have every known comorbidity, and their family history, social history, physical examination results, and lab data are all spelled out for you. So, you read through and underline the pertinent information, convert the lab data from American to International units, and then realize the question at the end of the scenario has nothing to do with the scenario and simply asks something like,

What is the most common cause of small bowel obstruction?

I'm not sure the point of writing an exam that gets curved so vehemently that it doesn't really help you learn what you know and what you don't, or why we aren't given the opportunity to see where we went wrong and use the questions as a learning experience.

Just another hoop to jump through, I suppose. Just like the oral exam.

I'll rant about that one another time.

For now, you'll find me on the couch by the TV, sipping egg nog.

One more thing - thanks to Medblog Addict for including me in the unique Christmas feature interviewing a different blogger for the 12 days of Christmas. You might enjoy the picture of myself that I submitted :)


Anonymous said...

What do you mean you don't have to go back to work after your NBME? Weak...

Dragonfly said...

Gotta love those badly written exams. I've sat some doozies. "From the options A through X...." Bustards.

Anonymous said...

Are those "9 pipers" really yours?