Stream of Consciousness: A Med Student Preps for the Boards

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

20 minutes, one theme, no edits, backspace is OK

Today’s theme:  Board exam preparation

Welcome to the first installment of what will hopefully be a fun column I can keep throughout the next several years of my training. The goal is to give the reader insight into the thoughts of a trainee at various important points on the professional path.

Studying for board exams is an age-old tradition of stuffing random facts into your brain for the purpose of quantifying your worth at … well, this stage of life.

For those attending schools with a pass/fail curriculum, this exam is the single quantitative measure of their first two years, and the pressure that comes along with this is enough to make most people a little crazy.

I know I’ve been going nuts, and this test doesn’t really even matter that much for me. I could elaborate on that more, but I probably won’t. We’ll see. My test is exactly 10 days from now — everyone knows his/her own countdown.

Early in the process of studying, it’s obvious what to do — read the review book, take note of things you need to spend more time on. As the date itself approaches, it becomes harder to know what exactly to do.

Do I make sure I understand all the practice questions I got wrong on the first pass (no matter how esoteric)? Do I try to power through practice exams put together by the organization actually administering the real exam? Do I read the review book again — paying close attention to my notes? Or do I kick back and relax, to clear my head?

The short answer is yes. There’s probably no real right and wrong combination of all of these things, and apparently, I still have 11 minutes of writing time.

Time to let the mind wander — studying today is a lot different from what it was the last time I was preparing for a large exam, simply because the vast majority of my resources are now electronic. That means I’m constantly trying my best to avoid wasting time on the Internet.

There are so many hilarious videos — have you seen the 6-year-old break-dancing girl? And what do you think of DeAndre Jordan’s slam dunk? For the record, I think you always look stupid when you show off by picking on a smaller guy.

And apparently, if you put frozen bananas in a food processor with peanut-butter and cocoa powder, you end up with a substance that closely resembles ice cream. Very good for studying.

The last question I will rhetorically ask is how to tailor your caffeine habits as the big test day approaches — you want to get the most out of the study time, but you also don’t want to be dependent on it during the actual exam, or to be overly aware of your renal function.

And there we are, 20 minutes of mine, probably two minutes of yours, that we’ll never have again.