Monday, November 20, 2017

American Board of Radiology Certifying Exam: My Perspective

Completed the certifying exam this year and got the results today (takes 4 wks). Here is my experience.

-Number of questions: 275 questions total (255 cases)
-Exam time: 4 hours and 50 minutes plus 30 minute break
-80-85% of the questions were image based.

Before the Exam:
-got email to register mid-July
-Chose GI, GU and ultrasound specialities (I did abdominal radiology fellowship)
-There is additional default General Radiology

At exam center (similar to Core exam):
-started at 8am and finished 1:30pm
-need ID to enter the exam center
-locker to put food; need to check in your cell phone
-I flew in the night before and got to hotel at 10pm. Terrible idea. Fly or drive in early the day before to relax, get your food, etc ready.
-Took exam Saturday but should have taken in Friday (no difference with having one more day; in fact, was ready to done w/ it)
-Stayed at Viscount Suite (got a deal on Priceline) 1 mile away; but stay at Marriott Inn (walking distance) or I heard you can rent rooms at ABR for $120

-the exam is NOT easy as I had heard from everyone. The style of the clinical questions are very similar to Core.  There were about 10 of us who hung out at the airport after the exam, discussing the questions. One person took 3 MSK and said it was tough! There were 3 IR guys who took 3 IR sections and they said it was hard. I took GI/GU/US plus general radiology. GI/GU was not bad but US (especially pregnancy related questions) were tough. 
-But seriously, many of us at the airport and some of my friends I spoke to had no confidence whether we passed or fail although I'm sure did well.
-format and style of questions very similar to Core exam
-more clinically oriented but level of difficulty the same.

-5-10 questions. Had HIDA, Bone scan, RSO responsibilities, doses
-Study guide: I would recommend reviewing all the images from Core Radiology Nuc Med chapter to get familiar with the cases (flip through just the images and dx only if limited on time); Radiation Safety Mettler chapter and Crack the Core chapter on RISE are not enough!
-If I would do it again, I would review Case Reviews (just flip through the cases and answers...the discussion section is long and probably not needed).
-I only did MCQs from Board Vitals and that's insufficient
-Apparently, you have to ask for Authorized User certificate (complete Form A and B that the residency program has to submit (verifying the I131 treatments and training))

-Got 10-15 questions
-know: artifacts on CT, ultrasound and how to fix them

Specialty exam: US
-Overall, harder than expected.  A lot more fetal and gyn US than I expected. 
-My recommendation: it's mostly image based so seeing as many cases as possible is the key. 
-Again, just did mcq on Board Vitals and that is not enough for US
-Recommend: Case review series on ob and gyn, general and vascular ultrasound case review (skim through the images and corresponding diagnosis if limited on time). 
-Maybe would also review images on Core chapter on US.
-know: artifacts on US and how to fix it. Twinkle, aliasing artifact.

Specialty exam: GI
-Overall doable. I felt prepared for  GI given my fellowship was in abdomen. 
-know: pancreatic cystic lesions, Chron’s, cholangioCa, liver masses, celiac, barium (esophagram, stomach, small bowel follow through)
-a lot more barium studies than I expected. 
-recommendation: again, would review/flip through as many cases as possible (case reviews, maybe Core...only review images and corresponding dx if you're limited on time)

Specialty exam: GU
-Overall doable. I felt prepared for this given my fellowship was in abdomen

-study guide: ABR paper.
-5-10 questions. No much this year. Others from prior years told my class to study a lot of this but all the time spent as not really worth it. 
-know contrast and CKD

General diagnostic:
-overall: doable
-covers head to toes

My approach:
-I did Boardvitals Certifying Exam prep. I paid for 3 months, but realistically didn't study till 3 weeks before the exam, so save your money and just do the 1 month subscription. 
-my effort was 10-20% the effort that I put into Core exam. I didn't have the same level of motivation as I did for Core.

-I would have done more dedicated review in US and flipped through Core looking at only images/dx.

Time frame:
-I think the 3 mo/3 wk approach is more than enough. 3 months for Core and 2-3 wks for Certifying exam (mine was about 14 days (not including weekends) primarily doing about 100 MCQ per day.

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