Easy does it
A more effective way to study for your board exam
U023 – Board Review: Work Smarter, Not Harder
Friday, March 17 | 4:30-5:30 p.m.
New Orleans Theater B
The dermatology board certification exam by the American Board of Dermatology is the testing pinnacle that challenges every dermatology resident. One of the most daunting challenges may not be the exam itself, however, but rather the stress and fear that accompanies the method by which many dermatology residents study for the exam.
“You don’t need to study harder to pass your boards with flying colors, you need to study smarter,” said Sima Jain, MD, FAAD, author of Dermatology: Illustrated Study Guide and Comprehensive Board Review, one of the most-read board review study guides. “There is a way to study for the board exam that doesn’t have to be stressful. Studying smarter helps you pass your board exam more easily but more importantly, also makes you a better dermatologist in the long run.”
In this afternoon’s session, “U023 –Board Review: Work Smarter, Not Harder,” Dr. Jain will discuss effective ways to prepare for the dermatology board exam. The key to acing your boards, she said, is not about memorizing details about skin conditions.
Deeper understanding required
The specialists who write board exam questions aren’t looking for rote memorization, Dr. Jain explained. They are looking for understanding — the ability to synthesize patient history, visual clues, and clinical elements to guide clinical decisions.
“Learning the buzzwords does not mean you understand the disease,” Dr. Jain said. “Dermatology residents are bright. They are used to being the top of the top students and often do very well on exams. However, this exam is different. Passing the board exam is about understanding information, not memorizing more information. Focusing on effectively understanding the different aspects of skin disease from the start is less stressful than trying to cram more facts into your head. And you will be much more successful when you finally sit for your exam.”
The smarter, more effective way to study is to go through multiple question and answer banks and boards study charts to determine your own strengths and weaknesses to guide and focus your study. It is an important way to gauge if you truly understand the material and make sure you are truly translating everything you have learned to help your real-life clinical acumen. Spending more time with skin atlases can also improve understanding and illustrate diagnostic clues that can be difficult to understand in text form.
It helps to review as many photographs of skin conditions in as many different skin tones as possible. Some dermatology training programs have the benefit of an ethnically diverse patient population. Other programs may not be home to a population that is as diverse, which can leave residents unsure when examining skin of color, as skin conditions look different in different skin tones.
“I trained in Chicago, and our patients were ethnically diverse, but if you haven’t had that kind of background during training, you could miss a diagnosis because a rash might not look the same in a patient with skin of color. This is where photos can help supplement your clinical training. It all comes back to being a good dermatologist,” Dr. Jain said. “And this way, you’re not studying harder, you’re studying smarter.”
“Studying smarter takes a lot of angst out of the board exam,” she said. “That exam is just one day, and we want you to pass with flying colors. We also want you to pass with flying colors every single day while you’re practicing. You can meet both of those goals by studying smarter.”
The AAD has curated an extensive list of resources for boards study at www.aad.org/education/residents/external. The AAD also has a large archive of Boards Fodder study charts at www.aad.org/boardsfodder.
Visit AAD DermWorld Meeting News Central for more articles.