Pediatric Board Exam (General Pediatrics Certifying Exam): my opinion on what and how to study.

Mar 30, 2015
  1. Fellow [Any Field]
Hello all,

I just passed my Pediatric Board Certifying exam (initial certification), and just wanted to stop by and offer my perspective to those who will be taking the Pediatric Board exam in the coming year. My background is that I am in my first year out of pediatrics residency. My study style is that I am not a gunner or closet-studier. My ITEs were nothing to brag about. I did go to a large busy program and saw a lot of sick kids during my three years of residency. I am now in fellowship, so my board prep time was under time constraints. I do not yet have the time constraints of parenthood, which I know is an additional factor many of my colleagues had to contend with.

When did I start studying? The second week of July. (So studied about 3.5 months).
What did I do to study?
1) I first did all of the MedStudy Question bank, which I do recommend. Yes, the questions are complex and at times fourth order, but if I had to choose only one resource of all those available to me, I feel this one resource prepared me best. I took my time on each question and really broke it down to understand why the answer was right, and why the other answers were wrong. If I didn't understand, I then looked up the topic in UpToDate or the MedStudy books (usually UpToDate).
2) I made a flashcard set on Quizlet for vaccine facts, and I am SO glad I did. I created my flashcard set from information from MedStudy and the CDC website. I made flashcards for every question I had on vaccines until I had covered every vaccine point in MedStudy. (I.e. neonate born to Hepatitis B positive mother, what is the vaccine schedule, when do you draw titers, what to do if titers are low? etc).
I felt this was a good use of my time because I was weak on vaccine schedule, intervals, special schedules, exceptions and contraindications. MedStudy does a GREAT job of covering the vaccines.
3) I made a flashcard set on milestones, I do not feel this was a good use of my time because I ended up not having time to use it. Warning: In my opinion, MedStudy doesn't cover the milestones adequately. I'd suggest you study a table from the AAP on milestones to supplement your knowledge.
4) Once I finished MedStudy, I foolishly decided not to do PREP simply because I didn't like their explanation format, so I instead then bought a question bank called Rosh Review**. I DO NOT RECOMMEND Rosh Review.
** I abandoned Rosh Review after doing a little more than 1,000 questions, because A) after doing MedStudy I could tell the questions and answers were not specific enough, B) After having a strong foundation from MedStudy, I noticed too many subtle errors in the answer explanations which made me very uncomfortable. The errata is ultimately what made me abandon ship. I was spending so much time fact-checking the answers that it wasn't an efficient use of my time. Additionally, from the questions I did do, I can say that the content in Rosh wasn't completely reflecting the content of the exam. After taking my actual exam, I am very happy that MedStudy was my primary resource. Overall, is Rosh the worst resource ever? No, but there are MUCH better resources for pediatrics that I think you should consider using first.
5) After stopping Rosh, and with very little time left before the exam, I did about 120 PREP questions. If I could go back in time, I would have done PREP instead of Rosh.
**Side note: When you do PREP, there are "PREP Pearls" on a side tab. Pearls are the big facts they want you to know. Review those in the days leading up to your exam. I only read about 2 pages of the Pearls and got a few questions right just from that.
6) I kept flashcards with me on my off-service rotation (about 3 weeks before my exam) and flipped through them every downtime moment I had. Waiting in line for coffee? Flashcards. Waiting for a patient to arrive? Flashcards.
**Then in the final week before the examination, I stopped doing any QBank questions at all, and instead only went through my MedStudy flashcards.** The MedStudy flashcards were definitely helpful and did cover some content not covered in the MedStudy questions.
7) On my final day of studying, I watched YouTube videos on a channel called "PEDIATRIC BOARD, A LAST MINUTE REVIEW". On this channel, a physician posted videos he created which concisely go over important topics. If I could go back in time, I would dedicate the last 2-3 days of studying to his videos. Also, I probably would have bought his review book, instead of Laughing Your Way. Unfortunately, I didn't discover his videos until my final day of studying. There were MULTIPLE QUESTIONS that I got right from his excellent review videos. The content is superb. Here is the link: PEDIATRIC BOARD A LAST MINUTE REVIEW
8) The day before the exam, I went over the routine statistics equations, memorized them, and then I took the rest of day off from studying the day before the examination.

I did use Laughing Your Way, but I didn't find it an absolutely *essential* resource. It is helpful for mnemonics and organizing some of your similar diseases. but do not hang your hat on it. LYW does not replace a formal textbook or UpToDate.

Scaled score of 237, well ahead of the bell-curve.

How much time did it take for me to get through this study plan? Well, I had to start in July because as I said, I'm in fellowship. I studied every day that I had off, and on easier off-service rotations, I studied every moment I had even while at the hospital (I kept flashcards in my scrub pockets). I did not travel or go to social outings during my studying. Was it worth it? YES, it was worth it to me, to be sure I had put my best foot forward to give myself the best chance possible to pass on my first try.

I don't regret skipping out on reading the MedStudy books which were extremely dense. In my opinion doing questions is a better use of your time, however the MedStudy books are a great reference resource, as is UpToDate.
I'm glad I didn't waste time reading Laughing Your Way cover to cover. I'd use it for mnemonics, not as a primary resource.
I regret not doing more PREP.
I wish I had watched more of the youtube videos (link above) just as a quick last minute review.
All that being said, we all look back and would tweak our study plans at least a little, so I wanted to share what I had learned from my study experiences to hopefully help at least one person in the future to succeed.
Even with the things I felt weren't a use of time, and how I'd change my study plan, I still thankfully had a great result and passed with a 57 point buffer. I believe if you study in a dedicated fashion, efficiently, and maybe use some of these tips you too can be successful.

If I could do things over again I'd study like this:
1) Do all of the MedStudy questions. Annotate the MedStudy flashcards as you go along.
2) Once done with MedStudy and you have a strong foundation, then do the most recent years of PREP.
3) In the final days, quickly review the PREP pearls, and watch this guy's videos, they are fantastic: PEDIATRIC BOARD A LAST MINUTE REVIEW
4) If you can, take the day off before the exam.

Best of luck to all you future Board Certified Pediatricians! Also, if anyone is reading after getting a disappointing exam result, or if anyone is in preparation mode and is struggling/needs a morale boost, please feel free to private message me.
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5+ Year Member
Oct 17, 2015
  1. Post Doc
Done nil studying in residency, just normal patient care stuff. Started a very busy cardiology fellowship in July, had zero time to study during the first 2 months. Started studying seriously beginning of September, did all Medstudy questions and 2 years of PREP. Medstudy questions are GOLD. I did not read any textbooks, did not do any videos or any courses. The exam is easy to pass but you have to do questions and more importantly Medstudy questions, they are the most similar to the actual exam, and when supplemented with PREP, you are good to go.


2+ Year Member
May 17, 2018
Cardiology fellow here too. I did not have much time to study after starting fellowship, barely 2 hours per day. I did all the available PREP questions (3 years) during residency and started the 2019 PREP questions 1 month before the test. Medstudy questions were most similar to the actual test. I recommend doing all of them and if you have time repeating the entire question bank before the test. That's what I did and it was immensely helpful....more than reading books.

The only book I used was PBR which is way easier to read than Medstudy, but less comprehensive. I had all the medstudy books but did not like them.

Pick 1-2 resources and stick to it!
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