TEXTBOOK + QUESTION BANKS + HARD WORK = SUCCESS
We’ll get to the shelf exam shortly but first…
This blog post is part of a series for medical students that offers advice on which study aids and question banks to use while preparing for each shelf exam.
Generally, for each shelf exam, you will want to have a textbook or reference book that you can use to study the material as well as several ways to actively test recall, such as question banks or practice exams.
Clinical medicine starts with the need to make a clinical decision and applying knowledge to make the decision. It’s the opposite of the way they teach you in med school!
- The interactive format is better at getting information to stick
- You don’t really know the material till you have to reproduce it when asked
- It’s the closest format to the shelf exam
- As questions expose weak areas, go back and fill them in with textbook material.
For every rotation
I would highly recommend the following resources:
- What it is: Classic often-used question bank that covers topics from all shelf exams
- Pros: Comprehensive, likely covers all topics needed for each shelf exam. Easily divided into subjects so that students can select pertinent questions for each rotation.
- Cons: More expensive than other resources. At the time of this blog post, a 360 day subscription is $519.
- Find it here: https://www.uworld.com/
- What it is: Practice tests designed similarly to the shelf exam
- Pros: Similar to actual shelf exam. Can be taken in timed mode to simulate actual exam. Score corresponding to the actual exam is provided.
- Cons: Full answer explanations are not provided.
- Find it here: https://www.nbme.org/examinees/subject-exams
The textbooks or reference books you can use include Case Files and Pre-Test. I would recommend buying them at the start of the rotation and then carrying them into work every day so that you can brush up on some reading during any down time.
Once you feel like you have a strong knowledge base, you can move on to testing your knowledge with question banks like UWorld and UWise. Remember, consistent studying spread throughout the duration of your rotation will lead to better long term retention than cramming the night before the exam!
- What it is: Online question bank. The questions are separated by topics, and four practice tests are also included. Detailed answer explanations are also provided after each question. Access to uWISE is often provided by medical schools to students.
- Pros: very detailed answer explanations; comprehensive question bank that covers nearly all the topics seen on the shelf exam; opportunity for active recall and testing of concepts
- Cons: must be purchased; requires dedication and planning to finish all questions
- Find it here: https://apgo.org/page/uwisev3-2
- Case Files
- What it is: Educational book presenting approximately 60 cases that highlight key clinical topics. Case Files is perfect for applying what you’ve learned in a clinical context. Comprehension questions also provided after each section for self test purposes.
- Pros: Engaging; focuses on clinically relevant material
- Cons: must be purchased; does not have as many practice questions as a question bank
- Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Case-Files-Obstetrics-Gynecology-Fifth/dp/007184872X
- What it is: educational book with 500 questions structured similarly to shelf exam. Provides additional questions that can supplement other question banks. Contains detailed explanations of correct and incorrect answer choices.
- Pros: detailed explanations; provides further self-test material
- Cons: must be purchased; may be redundant if you’ve already finished UWorld and uWISE question banks
- Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Obstetrics-Gynecology-PreTest-Self-Assessment-Thirteenth/dp/0071761268
I would recommend reading Case Files and Pre Test as needed to build a good clinical knowledge foundation and then using UWorld and UWise to test yourself and identify areas of weakness.
If you notice that you are consistently weak in certain topics, it may be worthwhile to review those subjects in the appropriate textbook. NBMEs are usually considered the most representative to the actual exam and ideally should be taken closer to the exam date once you have gone through the aforementioned question banks. However, some students do prefer taking an NBME at the start of the rotation to establish their baseline.
Finally, it may be easier to study during certain parts of the OB/GYN rotation (such as outpatient clinic) as opposed to others (such as labor and delivery), so don’t worry or stress if you are unable to study every single day!