Shelf exams?

Discussion in 'Clinical Rotations' started by Fanconi, Aug 11, 2001.

  1. Fanconi

    Fanconi Senior Member
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    I'm a new M3. Haven't taken any shelf exams yet. What should I expect? What's the best way to prepare for these beasts?

    Specifically, I'm on family medicine right now. How did you all prepare for this test? (I wanna ace it...) :rolleyes:
     
  2. Snoopy

    Snoopy Senior Member
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    Great question! I'll be taking Surgery in two weeks and would love any tips/advice from people who've taken it. I'd also like to know how much basic science is involved on these exams.

    Thanks!
     
  3. Fanconi

    Fanconi Senior Member
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    So.....throw us a bone people! :p
     
  4. hyue

    hyue New Member

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    Thought the shelf exams were actually kinda difficult. Many of the questions relate to patient management--a favorite tactic is to ask "What's the best FIRST step?" Correct answer is in a list of appropriate labs/meds/etc., but only one is the right "first" thing to do. Very little basic science if any (and no anatomy). Occasional films and path slides.
    For the Surgery shelf, I used Recall (key) and Mont Reid to brush up on management. But our med school has a full 3 months of surgery and I got tons of quality teaching, so your mileage may vary.
     
  5. AJM

    AJM SDN Moderator
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    I don't know about Family Medicine, because I don't take that until February. In general, the shelf exams have very little basic science -- they're almost nothing like Step 1. The most science that they have is usually relating to physiology or pharm, but even that is in more of a clinical context. My general advice is to pick up a good step 2 review book, read throughout the clerkship, and pay attention on the wards, particularly regarding patient management.

    The surgery shelf exam puts a lot of emphasis on trauma, burns, and fluid and electrolyte management. Besides the expected general surgery questions, they also expect you to have some basic knowledge of the subspecialties -- in particular neurosurgery, ortho, and peds surgery. Let me emphasise the word basic in the previous sentence -- don't go crazy learning the subspecialties inside and out -- they just want you to know a few of the most common things seen in those areas.

    For my surgery rotation, I also used Surgical Recall (essential for that rotation). But the main reading source that I used was called "Essentials of General Surgery", and I can't remember the author right now -- I'll take a look when I get home and repost. The book has a black background, and has a picture of one of those old famous paintings of surgeons operating in front of a sort of lecture hall. It has a great review of trauma management, fluids/electrolytes, burns, and many of the general surgery topics. The main areas that it's lacking that you do need to know are neurosurgery, ortho, peds surgery (but surgical recall contains those topics anyway). But overall the book is really helpful.
     
  6. Fanconi

    Fanconi Senior Member
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    Thank you so much! Any other thoughts/tips?
     
  7. AJM

    AJM SDN Moderator
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    Okay, the book "Essentials of General Surgery" is written by Peter Lawrence. I was just flipping through it (ah, what memories!), and realized that it also has good discussions of nutrition, shock, surgical infections, etc.
     
  8. Cassidy61

    Cassidy61 Senior Member
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    alright, here is the scoop on kicking [email protected]@ on these bad boys. first you have to figure out how well you want to do. if you really want to crush a shelf, then proceed to buy appleton and lange for that subject and pretest for that subject. specifically, if you do both question books for surgery, you will see very few (if any) suprises. as far as material covered on shelf exams, blueprints has really started to steal the thunder from NMS on every subject. if you want to do pretty well, make sure to do A&L questions. pretest on every core rotation gives you those extra couple of picky questions. when using the A&L and pretest method, i was able to consistently score >97th percentile. A&L alone would usually give me about high eighties for percentile. so, now you have the info necessary to really kick these things!! one more thing. i am not a superstar student by any means. these shelf scores have a lot to do with effort put into studying.
     
  9. Fanconi

    Fanconi Senior Member
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    I actually ended up using the NMS review book for the Family Medicine shelf. I think it went okay, but we'll see.... :)

    I'm on surgery right now, so I'll definitely check out the books you all mentioned.

    What are your thoughts on Peds books? That's my next rotation.
     
  10. badass

    badass New Member

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    Just read the other people's responses, and I agree. The key to shelf exams is to do practice questions. Tons of them. The more the better.

    My strategy was to do practice questions and keep a notebook of "nuggets" --basically just lists of high yield factoids. So I would do a question, read the explanation and then write down, for example
    "best test to Dx Aortic Dissection is angiography"

    The day before the test I would read through my nuggets. I am a fourth year now and this was a very successful strategy for me.
    Don't forget, however, that while these exams are important to your grade, SO IS WARD PERFORMANCE! The key to ward performance is being likable and not being lazy. Pretend you are interested in what is going on even if you are not. You can tell you are doing a good job if you convince yourself that it really is interesting. If you are bored, it will show. The truth is that there is an interesting aspect to every rotation, if you look on the bright side. For you cynics out there, just remember that "looking on the bright side" of a rotation is actually an efficient strategy to getting the grades you want to get you where you really want to be ultimately.

    sincerely,
    -A successful ex third year who is now terrified of the match :D
     
  11. Clip

    Clip Junior Member
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    Okay, so this is kinda of an old thread, but I hate starting new ones!
    I'm about 3/8 (yea!) of the way through third year and am beginning to think ahead to the shelf exams. I'm on surgery last block so studying time will be at a premium. I was wondering what everyone had had success with in terms of review books in the various areas and in general for step 2. I'm particularly interested in good sources for questions as working questions is my main way of studying -- are the pretest books any good for clinical blocks?
    I have access to blueprints and recall although I've been rather disappointed with blueprints so far as it seems very cursory and not "in-depth" enough for a standardized test.
    Any input is greatly appreciated!
     
  12. Fanconi

    Fanconi Senior Member
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    Wow! This is a blast from the past!

    I totally blew the surgery shelf, so I'm definitely not the person to as about how to study for it. My recommendation is to at least study for it. :rolleyes:

    I did really well on all the other shelf exams, and the magic ingredient for me seemed to be the Appleton and Lange Q & A books. Everyone says they're useless and the questions are irrelevant, but then they seemed to do the trick for me.

    Good luck with the rest of your third year! Seems like a lifetime ago... :laugh:
     
  13. beezar

    beezar Senior Member
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    I'm not sure if this applies to others, but for me, I never had enough time to finish shelf exams. My first shelf was medicine and I didn't do around 20 questions (thank god I passed...) because of time. so zip through the questions, realizing they have lots of extraneous info that is useless. And something that helped me was to quickly scan the question and read the answers first before reading the passage--helps you weed out the useless parts quickly.

    I think they might of added ten minutes to shelf exams though, so that should help. (i think it's now 2hrs 10 mins)
     
  14. Acro Yali

    Acro Yali Senior Member
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    Any advice on medicine? which one is better to study from NMS medicine/blueprints/pocket Harrison...or anything else? Thanks!
     
  15. jackjinju

    jackjinju Senior Member
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    Having relatively recently done well on that exam, I would say Blueprints, PreTest, and First Aid for Step II were GREAT for that exam. Reading big tests like NMS may work for some, but I am personally VERY against the NMS series (maybe good for family medicine, but that's it). NMS medicine is extremely boring, with way too much superfluous/low-yield information. God help those who enjoy that book. I have baby Harrison's and used it for a little bit, but to study from that is a mediocre idea, because it doesn't prioritize anything for you, or tell you what's more important. There's my 2 cents.

    :)
     
  16. Acro Yali

    Acro Yali Senior Member
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    surgical recall versus pretest surgery?
     
  17. jason952

    jason952 Member
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    Pretest and blueprints are fine for the med test, do lots of questions. Some kids I know did the Harrison's online ?'s but they are very difficult and I found them discouraging, but they may be of value early in the rotation.

    jason
     
  18. Clip

    Clip Junior Member
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    Out of curiousity, do most of you take the shelf boards at the end of the rotation in a particular area or do you take all of them at the end of the year? We do the latter at my school and I'm afraid that I will have forgotten much of the material I learned in the earlier rotations by then.
    Thanks to everyone who suggested books. I'm going to look into getting the pretest books and possibly the A&L questions. Doing pretest really helped me to prepare for Step 1 so I do really like that series. I also had one of my interns who seems to really know her stuff mention a book that was good for shelf boards and step 2 but unfortunately I forget the name of it (it wasn't first aid) so I'm hoping that browsing through amazon will help trigger my memory.
     
  19. Ludy

    Ludy Senior Member
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    I think most people take shelf exams at the end of each rotation -- that's how it is here. On the plus side, you'll be more prepared for Step 2 than the rest of us! I'm worried that I'll have forgotten everything I learned in the beginning of third year by the time I take Step 2 more than a year later. On the other hand, I have no intention of taking Step 2 until after the match so it doesn't matter much as long as I pass :) Isn't it nice to be done with Step 1? :D

    As for Step 2 books, I've heard Rx for the Boards, Boards and Wards, Crush the Boards and Step 2 Secrets are all good, as well as NMS for questions. Of course, the first four (and First Aid) are all essentially the same so you'll only need one (in my opinion). Any of those ring a bell?
     

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