Importance of subject boards? Internal grades?

I have been told by several of our second year students that our anatomy class does not prepare us for the subject boards and that I will need to study for the class and boards seperately. How do residency programs use the subject board scores? Do they just look if you passed the class and then look at how well you did on the boards to evaluate the basic science portion of your application?
Also, I just found out today that all though we are graded (A-C) for each class, what residency directors see is just 'Pass or Fail'. I was very suprised by this. Is this the way most schools do it? If so, why not just do 'P/F' to begin with?

Are “subject boards” the same as shelf exams? You are describing a setup that is really unfamiliar to me.
I didn’t take many shelf exams (standardized subject tests provided by the NBME) during my pre-clinical years, but those i did take were part of my overall grade in those classes - not reported separately on my transcript.
If your school actually gives you separate credits for the standardized exams, then maybe those grades are reported separately on the transcript? That sounds weird to me but i’ve learned that every school does it a little differently.
As for the A-C being converted to P/F, I’ve definitely heard so many different versions of grading systems that this is believable. You really need to get some good factual information from your dean’s office - it’s helpful to get the folks ahead of you to give you the low-down but right now it sounds like their information is only muddying the waters.

Hi there,
Subject boards (Standardized board exams for each of the Pre-Clinical Subjects) were totally optional at Howard and were basically a waste of time. They have no relation or similarity to USMLE Step I. At Howard, if you failed one subject during the regular session but passed every subject test, you would be given an automatic low pass for the one subject that you failed. If you failed the subject test, you would have to go to summer school.
Since Howard’s curriculum is now PBL and integrated (just like USMLE Steps), the subject tests have little relavance other than being a money-generator for the testing companies. I also believe that the school gets some nominal cash for administering these tests. Kaplan puts out a Pre-USMLE Step I exam that is extrememly difficult. If you don’t get a good score on this exam, don’t worry. They want you to purchase their most expensive review course so use that test for trends and buy only what you think you need.
Residency directors look at your USMLE Step I scores as the first weed-out. They look at your overall course performances (Clerkship grades) and class rankings as the second weed-out. Some residency programs (like UVa Surgery) have a minimum USMLE Step I score. If you don’t hit that score, you will not be offered an interview. sad.gif Since most schools have totally given up teaching or testing by individual subject, most residency directors could care less about your subject exam scores.
Your best bet for nailing USMLE is to STUDY and LEARN for your classes and REVIEW for USMLE. You cannot review what you have not learned in the first place. A good curriculum gives you plenty of clinical scenarios to help you integrate the materials that you are learning. (Just like in “real life” with living patients smile.gif )
You do need to be familiar with the USMLE testing format so Q-Bank by Kaplan is a good investment. You don’t need more than a month and you won’t be able to stand more than a month. You get lots of practice doing questions and thinking in multi-steps. I didn’t find that I needed much memorization other than four or five formulas for pharm and two formulas for biostats. I put them on an index card and memorized them as I waited for the computers to come up at the testing center.
If you are attending an accredited medical school in the United States, you are going to have everything that you need in your coursework. During second year, concentrate on studying and learning your courses. When courses are done, you can get your “USMLE Step I thing” on. Take the test by the second week in July (early June is optimal) and get some relaxation for the summer. When your third-year clerkships start, you won’t have much time for “R & R”.
Do remember that you can’t memorize it all and know it all. There are going to be things that you just won’t know. Don’t forget that there are 50 questions that are experimental. You don’t know which ones are the experiements so do your best on them all.
Finally, don’t let others “psych” you into thinking that you can’t pass these exams. Resist the urge to talk yourself into thinking that you are not a “good standardized” test taker and tank your chances to do well. Good standardized test taking skills are acquired just like any other skill. Trust me on this one, you will have your skills honed by fourth year!
Good luck
Natalie smile.gif