As part of our mission to provide the most efficient and engaging platform for continuous learning and board review, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to help you prepare for your board exams, board certification, and recertification. We recently surveyed readers of Physician’s First Watch to learn more about the tools they use and how they prepare for their board exams. More than 900 readers responded, and the results were both surprising and reassuring.

To Prepare for Your Board Exam — Most Prefer Combined Approaches

When it comes to board preparation, most physicians aren’t putting all their eggs in one basket. A full 75% reported using more than one tool to study. Textbooks were cited as the most frequently-used tool, followed closely by online question banks and then print question banks and live board review courses. A few hearty souls (5% of all respondents) reported using all four of these study methods. On the other end of the spectrum, 10% of respondents said they didn’t specifically prepare for their board exams.

prepare for your board exam

Board Review Question Banks Rated “Highly Effective”

Textbooks might have been the most frequently used tools, but they weren’t considered the most effective — that title belongs to print and online question banks, which were rated as “highly effective” by 70% of respondents.

Live board review courses ranked second, with textbooks, study groups, and tutors tying for a distant third.

board review question banks highly effective

When asked which specific products they were using to prepare for board exams, respondents most frequently listed MKSAP, MedStudy, NEJM Knowledge+, and ABIM Modules.

Convenience is a Major Driver in Decisions around Board Review Tools

Physicians are often choosing the board preparation tools that they think are most effective, but what else goes into that choice? Our respondents pointed to two major factors: convenience and the quality of the content/reputation of the provider.

prepare for your board exam choosing study methods

Of course, cost was also a factor. Respondents reported spending an average of $1,300 on board review materials.

Cramming Isn’t Your Style

Most of our respondents (74%) said they started preparing for their board exams more than 3 months in advance; of those, 37% reported that they began studying 3-6 months before their exam. It was the rare individual who prepared in less than a month, although 10% reported that they didn’t do any formal preparation and relied purely on daily learning and practice.

prepare for your board exam study in advance

Hours per Month Spent Studying

There was wide range of responses to this question, from 2 to more than 150 hours. The average was 39.4 hours, with the median at 25 hours.

prepare for your board exam study hours per month

Who Are These People Anyway?

Our survey respondents were all physicians, most of whom have taken board exams in the past 5 years. Some hadn’t taken an exam in more than 10 years, and some are just now preparing for their first exam. Wherever they were on the spectrum, we appreciate their input – and we would love to hear from you as well. Let us know how you prepare for your board exams and what advice you would pass on to others.

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