Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boarded Up

Reading back on my last post, it sounds pretty depressing.  In general, I stand by what I said, but I neglected to mention that I was also studying for the boards at the same time.  So it is VERY SLIGHTLY POSSIBLE that I may have been under a teeny amount of stress and reacted with more force than necessary to the events of the previous week.
I took the boards on Thursday, which represent the third and last component of the board exams taken by all medical students.  This exam is typically regarded as the easiest of the three, but as a result gets taken for granted the most.  It's an exam that most interns aim to sit for during the intern year, although you typically have up to the end of the 2nd year to pass it.  It probably wouldn't be so bad to study for if intern year wasn't so hectic and irregular, but I definitely struggled to fit in time for it.  Between my various busy rotations, studying for surgery, seeing family and friends, and working on a case presentation poster, it occasionally got pushed to the wayside.
I also made the cardinal mistake of taking a practice test 2 days before the exam.  Most people studying for the boards buy a subscription to an online question bank, as well as studying from the book.  However, these question banks are privately owned and written, and don't technically represent the true questions on the test.  Therefore, some people choose to supplement with a real practice test, which is old and discarded questions from the real exam, organized into a half-test format for one time use by the real board exam administrators.  I used the same tool last year for the Step 2 with some success, and forgot about it until a few days before Step 3.  Unfortunately, I put too much faith in the test being an accurate representation of the real one - it was filled with spelling errors, non-sensical questions, poor radiology pictures, and no ability to review the questions I got wrong.  So I took the test, and started panicking that the questions were nothing like my question bank subscription, and really freaked out when I got a score which showed I did not pass.  I called my mom and boyfriend in a tizzy, and they both talked me down from the ledge.  But I was still trembling the next morning when I walked into work, and set right to using my spare time to squeeze in a few more practice questions.  Luckily, I mentioned the whole disaster to my co-surgical intern Y, who started to laugh at me.  She told me that the scoring system is different for Step 3 compared with the previous 2 exams, and the score I had received which I thought was failing was actually a passing score by a reasonable margin.  Additionally, she told me that a lot of people had been reviewing the official practice exam badly, saying the real test was much closer to the question bank anyways.  I confirmed what she said, and I started laughing at myself for getting worked up for nothing.
I felt so much better that I was able to do some real review in a relaxed way, and went into the exam early.  I took my time and checked my questions, and felt good knowing that a lot of the things I had studied were on the test.  But the icing on the cake was when a question with a video component popped up, and it included the very recognizable voice and face of one of my old medical school professors.  I was so relaxed, I burst out laughing in the middle of the test site (with many dirty looks from the GRE exam kids), and then had to watch it two more times just to get myself together.
All in all, it wasn't a bad test.  Fingers crossed, I passed and it will be one more thing to joyfully cross off my list.

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