CHESTLearning & Events2024 CHEST Board Review Event3 Expert Study Tips for the PCCM Board Exams

3 Expert Study Tips for the PCCM Board Exams

By: Kendra Benner
March 15, 2022

Staff in medical setting

Whether you’re a graduating fellow or you’ve been in practice for decades, preparing for the pulmonary, critical care, or sleep board exams can be an intimidating process. But there’s no need to worry—CHEST Board Review faculty has specific steps you can take to design a strategic study plan. Discover faculty members’ top study tips for succeeding on the exam:

1. Start preparing early.

Since studying for boards means going through such a large volume of content, preparing as early as possible can help ease your stress levels.

“I think starting as early as you can is one way to make it less daunting,” said Meredith Pugh, MD, MSCI, Critical Care Board Review 2023 Vice-Chair.

Instead of focusing on the entire list of learning objectives, take it one topic or chapter at a time. Reviewing the material in bite-sized pieces can make it feel less intimidating. You’ll also get a boost from celebrating small wins throughout the process.

2. Ramp up your study schedule over time.

When you begin preparing for the exam, starting off slow is essential. It’s less effective to begin studying with full-throttle intensity. Instead, ramp up your time investment over the course of several months.

Ajanta Patel, MD, MPH, Pediatric Pulmonary Board Review 2022 Chair, recommends giving yourself a 6-month timetable and starting with short study sessions. Organize your materials, write out a couple notecards, or watch an exam preparation video for 15 minutes.

“Set achievable, low-hanging goals at the beginning,” Dr. Patel said. “If you try to jump in head-first from your day-to-day life, it can feel really overwhelming.”

Each month, increase the number of hours per day or week that you dedicate to the exam. This will help your brain warm up to the intensity of studying for boards.

3. Use the power of repetition.

No matter what your learning style is, reviewing the concepts again and again will help you synthesize and master them.

Repetition is vital because there’s too much information to only review it a few times before the exam. You can use this approach whether you prefer to learn by reading, writing, speaking aloud, or watching videos of the material.

Dr. Patel’s method is to take lots of handwritten notes on the material and rewrite them four or five times. She said your notes will become more succinct each time as the concepts become clearer.

“The way I passed the boards was I took copious notes and rewrote them again and again,” Dr. Patel said. “By the time it was 1 to 2 weeks before the exam, I would take what had been a binder of notes and synthesize it into 10 or 20 pages.”

Putting together the pieces for success

Early preparation, pacing, and repetition are key to learning this large amount of information. These steps can empower you to design an effective study process and walk into the exam with confidence.

If you’re looking for more exam study tips and personalized feedback from faculty, CHEST Board Review can equip you with more research-based tools. CHEST Board Review courses provide live instruction and expert support as you prepare for the exam.

Explore what CHEST Board Review has to offer »


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