Medicus2013

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Jan 21, 2009
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I'm a 4th year student who will hopefully be matching into general surgery here in about a month. My ROL is made and tentatively certified. One piece of data I have looked at from time to time in this long process is the program-specific ABS board pass rate data. I know I have read here and other places that this data needs to be taken with a grain of salt and that it is certainly not the be-all and end-all of evaluating surgical training programs. I suppose I am having a bit of a last minute freak-out that one or two of my most highly ranked programs have an overall first-time pass rate that is about 10-15% lower than the rest of the programs I have on my list. Granted all the programs I have ranked are above the national average, but still, as a fairly ignorant medical student I can't help but worry about the difference in 70% vs 80% or 80% vs 90%. I'm sure I'm just splitting hairs and being ridiculous but I would appreciate the thoughts of any current residents or attendings on how to put these numbers into proper perspective. :confused:

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this and best of luck to everyone else in the upcoming match:
 

balaguru

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Aug 15, 2007
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Not a ridiculus question at all--but maybe I'm a bit biased ;)

http://www.absurgery.org/xfer/fyp2012summary.pdf

I'm a 4th year student who will hopefully be matching into general surgery here in about a month. My ROL is made and tentatively certified. One piece of data I have looked at from time to time in this long process is the program-specific ABS board pass rate data. I know I have read here and other places that this data needs to be taken with a grain of salt and that it is certainly not the be-all and end-all of evaluating surgical training programs. I suppose I am having a bit of a last minute freak-out that one or two of my most highly ranked programs have an overall first-time pass rate that is about 10-15% lower than the rest of the programs I have on my list. Granted all the programs I have ranked are above the national average, but still, as a fairly ignorant medical student I can't help but worry about the difference in 70% vs 80% or 80% vs 90%. I'm sure I'm just splitting hairs and being ridiculous but I would appreciate the thoughts of any current residents or attendings on how to put these numbers into proper perspective. :confused:

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this and best of luck to everyone else in the upcoming match:
 
Sep 19, 2012
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This is a good question, and something that I've thought about a little bit.

Here's how I look at it: If a program has >80% or even 70% combined first attempt pass rate on boards, I think it's safe to say that that given program is providing residents with that required to perform well on both the written and oral boards. Depending on the 'n-value' for each program, the difference between an 80 or 90% may be 2 residents failing over the course of 2-3 years, so I wouldn't split hairs over those sort of pass percentages. That being said, if less than 50% of a program's residents are passing on their first attempt, that would make me think a little harder about ranking them highly.
 

SLUser11

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Feb 22, 2005
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That being said, if less than 50% of a program's residents are passing on their first attempt, that would make me think a little harder about ranking them highly.
Board pass rates are extremely important. I would not even rank a place that can't get 50% of their residents to board certification on first attempt.

Another thing that has been discussed previously: Don't allow programs with crappy pass rates to convince you that residents who don't take the test, then go into a subspecialty, are counted in the denominator, thus causing a false decrease in pass rates. Only people who sit for the test are counted, so a 75% pass rate means 25% of their residents who took the test failed.
 
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Medicus2013

Medicus2013

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Jan 21, 2009
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Thanks everyone for your replies. This was the sort of information I was hoping to get. The program I am currently ranking #2 has a combined QE*CE pass rate of right at 70%. The rest of the programs in my top 10 are all 84% or higher. That being said, I had a candid conversation about this with their program director (who is fairly new at the program) and he was very open about their past pass rates and laid out concrete measure they were implementing since his arrival to improve their scores. I felt he was taking this very seriously and that led me to feel comfortable including them toward the top of my rank list as I liked everything else about the program. If their pass rate was 50% nothing would reassure me enough to rank them highly...