What was the biggest reason for not passing your OB/Gyn Boards on the first attempt?
This is an oral exam!! I have taken written examinations for most of my life (as we all have). I have learned and know how to take a written test, but I was not prepared for an oral exam which requires talking, discussing and defending your management. I did not pass on my first attempt and it was devastating. First you must know the material, guidelines and standard of care. Then you must be able to speak CONFIDENTLY about it. Practicing with mock oral exams is the key to success. This allows you to become comfortable taking and ease your anxiety and nervousness.
How did you tackle your second attempt?
2. First you must construct your caselist. It must be concise, neat and in order. I worked carefully with Dr. Evans to prepare my list. I worked in a very small community hospital and had exactly 20 OB, 20 GYN and 40 office cases so proper preparation of my caselist was critical. There were many revisions with Dr. Evans, but she reviewed each case thoroughly; how to word it, list it so that it was not lengthy or confusing. I thought my first draft was good, but after my revisions with Dr. Evans, I was amazed! I remember the day I took my orals and being asked questions. I felt so comfortable and relaxed having practiced mock exams during my exam. I will never forget that feeling of calmness.
On your second attempt what was most crucial?
3. Practicing speaking and defending cases in a concise manner
For those in a dire situation i.e. risks losing credentialing or jobs how do you feel they should pursue their task of PASSING the exam
4. It is important to have your caselist reviewed professionally. It is worth every penny!! Think about it:examination fees, travel expenses, time off from work; not to mention the emotional stress and the pressure from your job/friends to pass. It is not worth the embarrassment and financial strain to not be prepared and fail the exam. There is a timeline in which you must pass this exam and ABOG is NOT going to make any exceptions. Also, hospitals and some insurance companies require board certification within five years of completion of residency.
Do you think mock orals are helpful?
5. Mock orals are key!!! Initially, I used to be so anxious and nervous the day I knew I had my mock oral session scheduled with Dr. Evans. I would wake up that morning frantic. I would review the material all day and once we started my mock orals, she would ask me a question that I had no idea how to answer. She was NEVER INTIMIDATING. She would make you think through the answer. After the mock orals she would then forward study and reading material via email on the specific topics reviewed. She also put together a daily study schedule as to what I needed to study each day. My exam was in November and my study schedule was made out from August-October. She tailored it to my work schedule and it was realistic; not overwhelming. The day of my exam was seamless. Why?? I practiced, practiced and practiced mock orals!!!!
How did you stay cool and calm and collected on your exam the next attempt?
6. I tend to get very anxious prior to examinations. There have been times that I have failed a test because of my anxiety. This is a big exam and the last step to certification. Your job and colleagues know when you are taking it so there is much pressure. Practicing mock oral was the primary key to my success. I also worked on a breathing technique that I utilized during my exam. I would take a deep breathe in and out which would signify breathing out my nervousness and bad thoughts and renew my mind with positive thoughts of self encouragement. I also read the book the Secret. It’s all about Minding the Mind!!!
Is a board review course really necessary?
7. Board review courses are great. They help you to focus on what you need to know for the exam. Also, they provide notes that are most helpful when studying and preparing. Dr. Evans had me use notes from a board review course, along with the practice bulletins and committee opinions, to study for the exam. I had no idea how to study for this test, but Dr. Evans guided me along the way.
Are mock orals really necessary who did you do them with and how many?
8. Mock orals are really necessary!!! Truthfully, I can’t remember exactly how many I did, but it was well over 10. Each person is different and I know I needed much practice. I will never forget the day when Dr. Evans told me I was ready for my exam. I felt elated and at peace. She will guide you along the way, providing you with positive reinforcement and encouragement, however she questions you like the examiner (I had no feedback until it was over) so rest assured that she will prepare you for that day!!!
How did you study for the case of the day part of your test?
9. Dr. Evans would give me what she call, HOT TOPICS, to study. These included recent practice bulletins and committee opinions. I also did case of the day workshop with the ABC Board review course which was also most helpful. I found the case of the day part of the test more challenging as you did not know what will be asked. The best advice Dr. Evans gave me was to give as much information as possible. For instance, if you are asked about cystic breast masses in women, list as many differential diagnoses as possible. The ABOG website has as section call pearls of excellence/difficult board exam topics; another great resource.
How did you study for the case list part of your test?
10. Dr. Evans directed me to literature, practice bulletins, self help notes etc for each topic on my caselist to study. She informed me that I must be knowledgeable in each topic even those not on my case list. During our mock orals, she tested me on every possible question even leading into other possible topics that she felt pertinent. There was nothing surprising on the day of my exam and this is the honest truth. I remember Dr. Evans reviewed with me the new task force guidelines for diagnosis of preeclampsia as that was just released a few months prior to my exam. She drilled me on this. During my exam, I was asked about how to diagnose preeclampsia. I asked the examiner if I should answer based on the new guidelines or the old. He gave me a funny smirk, “What a smarty pants!!!” His response was, “when you prepared your case list, it was based on the old guideline so please tell me those, then I want to hear the new guidelines.” After I told him both, it set the tone for the exam and it was smooth sailing from there. I will NEVER forget that feeling!!!
*BONUS* Do you think appearance and voice projection make a difference?
11. It’s important to look presentable. As the saying goes, “when you look good, you feel good and vice versa.” I wore on of my favorites suits that was most comfortable and appropriate. I wanted to wear something new that day, so I purchased new underwear!!! Go figure!! Your posture is also important. Sit upright and be confident. If the examiners sense weakness, nervousness, then you can only hope for the best. Speak with confidence and authority. The examiners are only human and they are not supernatural beings with superpowers to destroy you.
Finally what are you last bits of advice?
12. Dr. Evans is awesome. She came into my life at a time when I was ready to walk away from this field as I was very discouraged about not passing my exam and running out of time to achieve certification. I have endured many hardships in this field and was at the end of my rope prior to meeting her. I never doubted my clinical skills and competency. I provided excellent care for all of my patients; I needed to get past this roadblock. She instilled a sense of hope and helped equip me with the tools and knowledge that I needed to pass my exam. I did exactly EVERYTHING that she told me to do and I did NOT question anything she recommended. She worked around my schedule, despite both of us living in two different time zones!! She was always prompt in responding to my emails. She made herself available. A true definition of personalized, tailored service!!!! Dr. Evans was my guardian angel and she helped me get through one of the most difficult times in my life. I can now proudly sport “FACOG” with pride!!! Lastly, I want to say that this exam does not change who you are. It is needed in this field, but once obtained it is the biggest weight lifted off your shoulder and you can go on to enjoy life and all that it has to offer. All the best future FACOG colleagues!!