|"How I Passed"|
I took the Written exam yesterday. My brain says, "I think I did fine but I have to wait and get the results before I can say for sure." I want to THANK YOU...your system of preparation could not possibly be more on target!!!" I knew that Big Blue was an outstanding set of notes from the start, and I did focus most of my studying effort on it, but I did not fully appreciate just how appropriately "focused" it really was until I was in the exam room and...BAM!...topic after topic, and detail after detail, appeared just like in Big Blue. While I know it's not the case, it was almost as if they developed the test straight out of your notes. At least a dozen or so times during the test I kept thinking to myself "Niels, you are the man!" I couldn't imagine (or wouldn't want to) taking the test without Big Blue's (i.e.., your) guidance...it has to be the best available source for preparing for the Written exam...of this I have no doubt!
I know I must listen to my brain (not my heart, in this case) before assuming I did not pass, because beyond the preparation, obviously there must be the proper "performance" during the test with all of the usual pitfalls (reading the question properly, filling in the dots properly, being careful and clear in thought, etc.). But this is solely my responsibility and the only area of any uncertainty...your notes were clearly the best preparation I could have imagined, when combined with incredibly hard studying on my end. I do wish I could have attended your tutorial in person because I am sure that it would have addressed this area of "uncertainty and performance"....I am sure this would have been the best preparation for actually "taking the test." When I recommend you, I will be sure to recommend both components (Big Blue and the intense personal tutorial). And when I elicit your guidance in preparing for the Oral (which I definitely plan to do) I plan to use both Big Red and, more importantly for that test, coming and making you grill me at the tutorial. (I am still at the "mush-mouth" stage of verbally expressing what I feel is a pretty solid knowledge base.)
I am well aware of a range of options for preparing for the Boards. Although I am sure you are more knowledgeable about these issues than I am, I wish to share my perspectives on why I think your system is the best for Written Boards. I re-read Baby Miller about two weeks before the exam (I had taken notes on it myself long ago, which made going through it again so much more efficient...the entire thing, carefully, in 4 and a half days). For years I have heard that it is really all you need to pass the test. I now believe this is a myth, in spite of how highly I regard it. The real exam requires more specific knowledge in may areas, and the exam questions are often "picky" and even strange applications of the areas which are, in fact, well-covered in that book. Taking the inservice exam during residency does not dispel the myths or even give very good guidance about how to prepare...the last one was too remote to be of use for the next one. Also, since most people do not have a systematic approach to the key topics (like Big Blue so successfully achieves), they do not recognize these key topics while they are taking the exam, and subsequently will not prepare for them again the next time they take the In-Service or "real" exam. If they could really study your notes and then take the exam, like I just did, they would realize just what they were missing. Reviews like Faust are excellent as far as they go, but they are "spotty" in some places and very needlessly "deep" or too-detailed in others...and more significantly, they are just not "systematic" enough. Other Keywords (e.g., compiled by residents, etc.) have multiple shortcomings, most of which boil down to that they are often prepared by people who themselves do not know what the Board is going to ask. Other textbooks are obviously too broad...you may learn from reading them, but there is too much to wade through, there is no focus. One of my classmates told me at the exam that he tried to sit down with one of the regional atlases several days before the exam, and that he still "got killed" on the regional questions. The shortcomings with this approach are numerous and obvious. I also tried to go through some of the question/answer review books but found most of them to be a compilation of trivia questions, often poorly constructed and often addressing details which may only infrequently appear on the exam while failing to adequately cover the details which are truly recurrent. Can you pass without Big Blue? Obviously you can, but it would be a less decisive victory. Preparing without Big Blue would have been much more random, much less focused, and even less fun.
M.W., MD Foster City, CA
|Niels F. Jensen, M.D.|
|Anesthesiology Board PREP|
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