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    3 Study Tips For Your ABIM Recertification Exam

    If you’re taking the ABIM’s spring recertification exam, your study time is getting down to the wire! It’s just a few months away (April 27, 29 or May 1).

    But don’t stress! Whether you’ve been preparing for months or if you’re just getting started, these tips will help you feel confident walking into exam day. 

    Study the ABIM’s Exam Blueprint

    This one might feel like a no-brainer, but it’s also something easily-missed by busy physicians: you can (and should!) scale which topics you study based on the ABIM’s exam blueprint. For example, you should put in a lot more study time for Cardiology (a whopping 14% of the exam content), and can scale back the time you spend studying Otolaryngology and Dental Medicine (1% of the exam) to accommodate. 

    This strategy is especially helpful when you’re getting closer and closer to your exam date because knowing the blueprint will help you tailor your effort towards the bigger sections of the exam. You should still study each of the smaller-represented areas to make sure you have a general understanding of the content. Make sure you at the very least know the top 3 diseases of topic areas with less blueprint-representation, like Otolaryngology (1%), Ophthalmology (1%), and Allergy & Immunology (2%). 

    Use Preview | Review Questions to Highlight Specific Areas to Study 

    18th_IM_Core_FTR_Highlight_Hospitalist_600pxWe format our Core to help you study stronger.

    We create study tools for physicians taking their recertification exams, and our mission is to cut through the clutter. So, if you’ve only got a few months to quickly prepare for your ABIM recertification exam, we can definitely help! Our 19th Edition Core is designed to feel like lectures from experts that are concise, yet casual. We include formatting to help you study more efficiently, and a couple features of the Core that will be especially helpful if you’re preparing for an exam in a few months are the Preview | Review questions and highlighted text. 

    The Preview | Review questions are short questions that appear under many of the primary and secondary headings. They help you self-test before and after reading each topic. The highlighted text includes must-know concepts and the answers to the Preview | Review questions—it’s exam prep at-a-glance.

    Use the Preview | Review questions like Q&As. Then, go through the highlighted text to find the answers, plus any other nuggets of information you should know before the exam. 

    Hack the Exam Questions 

    Another useful test-taking tip that’s actually really simple: hack the questions. You already know the types of questions you’ll be asked during the exam, and the format (hint: they look super similar to the questions in our Board-Style Q&A Premium!).

    Read the last sentence first

    Throw it back to high school and practice the question hacks you employed while taking standardized tests, like skipping to the end of the question and reading the final sentence, then going back to the start to read the question. This helps you understand what the question is asking so that you know exactly what you’re trying to comprehend while you’re reading through.  

    When in doubt, rely on your common sense and process of elimination. You’ve got this! 

    During the exam, you’ll rely a lot on common sense. That in and of itself is a way to hack the questions! You should know basic steps to take for each disease process: the best initial text, the most accurate test, the best initial therapy/treatment, and the best next step in management (the Fischer Method!). Eliminate the answers that are totally wrong, and reason through whatever is left. Don’t get too bogged down in the details. 

    Use ‘Spaced Retrieval’ While Studying With Questions

    Studies show again and again, that spaced retrieval is the most effective way to learn, regardless of anyone’s favored learning style. This is how you move all this new information into long-term memory. Spaced retrieval is the really big secret to learning medicine. 

    Here’s how to do spaced retrieval: Repeat the same Q&As (while constantly practicing recall) at least 3 times, with progressively longer intervals of time between sessions. Each time, the information you’re trying to learn becomes more durable and more easily retrieved. 

    Focus on Your Mental and Physical Health 

    The months before a big exam can take a toll on your body. On the physical side, watch what you eat, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly. On the mental health side, preparing for an exam is so strenuous that it requires you to take extra steps to stay focused and committed. In learning, motivation powers your commitment and provides you with the enthusiasm, focus, determination, and persistence to reach your goal. Try to keep up with your normal routine as much as possible, and adjust where you can outside of things that help your physical and mental health to make time for studying.


    There’s our 5 tips for preparing for your spring recertification exam! Can you think of anything we missed? Tweet us. 

    And if you’re looking for even more brain-hacking techniques to help you study strong, check out our StudyWise Guide. 


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