CHESTBlog3 Common Mistakes in Board Exam Preparation

3 Common Mistakes in Board Exam Preparation

3 Common Mistakes in Board Exam Preparation

By: Kendra Benner
May 5, 2023

If it’s time for your certification or recertification, there’s no doubt preparation is on your mind.

To help develop your study strategy, CHEST Board Review faculty have shared the most frequent mistakes clinicians make before the exam—plus how to set yourself up for success.

Mistake #1: Starting only a few weeks before the exam.

The early bird catches the worm when it comes to studying for boards. Laying the groundwork several months in advance is key to being ready on exam day.

CHEST Pulmonary Medicine Board Review 2023 Vice-Chair, Sandhya Khurana, MD, FCCP, recommends giving yourself a runway of at least 6 months.

“This is not something to leave for the last 2 weeks before the exam,” she said.

CHEST Sleep Medicine Board Review 2023 Vice-Chair, Bernardo Selim, MD, FCCP, also emphasized the importance of getting organized as early as possible.

“Plan to consistently and continuously set aside time to prepare for the exam. Typically, it requires more time and effort than anticipated,” he said.

Mistake #2: Studying passively without using practice questions.

Reviewing exam content is an essential part of getting ready for boards, but it’s important to not stop there. Integrate active learning strategies into your study sessions at the start of the process.

Dr. Selim encourages you to utilize self-testing tools like practice questions to narrow down your focus areas.

“I would suggest beginning practice questions as soon as possible, so it becomes more apparent which areas you should concentrate on,” he said.

Take advantage of the practice questions offered through CHEST Board Review and the CHEST SEEK™ Library, a collection of case-based questions on pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine trusted by clinicians for more than three decades.

Mistake #3: Spending too much time on the details of one topic.

It can be tempting to spend a lot of time on a single concept, especially if it’s an area of interest or one that’s been challenging in the past.

What’s most effective, though, is spreading your attention across all key exam topics, said CHEST Critical Care Medicine Board Review 2023 faculty member, Amy E. Morris, MD, FCCP.

She advises you to keep in mind what makes a good test question—content that’s widely understood and agreed upon as opposed to knowledge that’s controversial and requires a disproportionate amount of study time.

“One mistake I see is learners getting caught up in the small details of a particular topic. There's a whole world of critical care medicine that you may see on the exam, so don’t focus on nitty-gritty details that are not as likely to be on the exam,” Dr. Morris said.

“Your time is better spent reviewing topics across the breadth of critical care medicine as opposed to just a few areas.”

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