Specialty Board Certification question

I’m hoping some of those great physicians that have proceeded me can help me with a decision I am making. I have already decided that I am taking a board review course. I am VERY nervous about my boards and at $3000 I do not wish to retake if I don’t need to.

My question is about timing. The Osler course is offered in late May and mid-August 2010. Each time has an advantage.

May-- I can ask for education leave since I am on elective so I can go. However, the course will be 4 1/2 months before my boards. Is that too soon? I will have up to four weeks in late-June to July where my plan is to study for boards and train for RAGBRAI (bike ride across Iowa) before I report for my first duty station with the Air Force. Taking it early would allow me to study that material during this time, though I am more likely to go into the course less prepared than if I took it after this study period.

August-- only 2 months before my boards, which would mean the material would be fresher in my mind at boards time. I will have just reported to my first duty station with the Air Force. I was told by a West Point classmate of mine who ironically is an Army neurologist that if I ask for permission to take time to go to a board review course that I should be given it (though no guarantees obviously). I don’t know where I am going yet. I should find out in December, which would be before the Feb 1st registration deadline, but I don’t know if one of the courses fills up before the other. By taking it later, I would have the advantage of having had the time earlier in the summer to study. However, I am not sure once I start work how much time I will have to study.

That said, there are other review courses out there (i.e. U Penn) but the decision about timing would still be the same. Once I find out where I am going, I plan on contacting the neurologist I am replacing, which will help me with some of the Air Force questions, but in general, what does everyone think about the timing?

Any thought that anyone has would be appreciated!!

Thanks, Tara

Boy, Tara, I don’t know. Sorry I can’t help. I have to admit that I studied very little but ABFM is not considered a tough board to pass. How have you done on your in-services? If you’ve done OK on them, then I think you can choose the course that fits into your life the best.

The boards are a review of what you already know so I am not sure the timing (4 mos. vs. 2) is that key. You’ll still have it in your head.



Wow! Tough call. I would couch my decision chiefly on two parameters: 1) your study style & level of discipline and 2) how certain are you of the AF giving you that time for the course.

  1. I know me & I know & accept that I one of the least disciplined people on the planet! So, for me, the timing choice was obvious - as close to the terst date as was feasible. I knew that had I taken it earlier, I would squander the advantage and not study hard in the interim. I work best with deadlines & last-minute shit piled high on my shoulders…to a point. If I begin to feel “overwhelmed” (a HARD word for me to choke up & accept as reality), I must concede that I maybegin to flounder. If you are disciplined studier & can capitolize on the intervening 4mos, take the earlier date.

  2. Man, it is Uncle Sam AND we are fighting 2 wars…I would hate to bet the farm in his generosity.

Thanks so much for the info.

I am not a master of neurology trivia and standardized tests have never been a comfort for me. I do great in the day-to-day info, but neurology exams are all about knowing which genes mutations, tiny names vessels and nuclei, etc to memorize.

I think I will go with the one in May. I have three weeks after residency to study and master the material, plus I have several elective this spring where I plan on studying, so I think I will have some semblance of the material when I go to the course.

Thanks again!!


I only know from my sister’s experience with ey the military. She was given the time off, paid for her review course…their explanation was that they wanted her to pass, so she would be board certified. However, she is an Emergency Physician, so there were partners that could cover for her (which she made up). It will depend if you are the only neurologist versus a group.

I also can not say anything about your board…I agree with Mary if you did well on your in-training you will do well/pass your boards. Your program director can give you the stats. I think for our test (EM) and I may be a little off on the #s. If you had >85% on your tests you will pass your boards. It doesn’t mean don’t review for your test…

You know this stuff, you have done your residency, you will do fine


My two cents: When I was acting director of training for chase credit card, one of my course designers was PhD in cognitive psychology. She would often point out the data on drop off in retention between training and application of the material, was something like 55% after two weeks.

From a “risk” perspective, while the probability of the risk is low (ie AF not giving you educational, the impact of the risk is very high (losing out on review course and strong potential of not passing your boards) be great. Therefore taking the course in May would seem the path with less risk.

Assuming that, mitigating the material retention factor would be the next step. Could you keep up with discipline on self study.

Lets face it Tara, we all know next to Dave you’re the biggest slacker out there. I mean, west point, post-bacc, med school, residency, keeping fit, having a good marriage, bicycling to work (11 miles each way). Lets face it, goldbricker material. I mean could a woman who does all that and manages to keep a annoyingly sunny disposition all the time manage to keep a 45 min or 1 hour review going almost every day for a few months? She might have it in her

So the AF did give me time off to take a board review course. I wrote my assignment officer about this after reading Rachel and Rich’s responses (thanks!!). I have now completed day 5 of 6. There are about 50 people here at the Osler course-- a mixture of people out of residency to people preparing for the recertification exam. The group that surprised me is the physicians that are here for CME who are not taking the boards. One example is a DO who when she goes to the AAN annual conference can only get 25% of those CME credits from the AOA. However, if it is a board review course, then she gets 100%.

As for the course, I’m glad I came, though it is a lot of info in 6 days and I can only hope that I can go back and continue to absorb the info over the next 3 weeks. One option I didn’t consider is that they sell a CD with all of the lectures in MP3 format with the PPT slides that you can go through at your own pace. It is half the cost of the course ($495 vs $920), not counting the hotel room ( and additional $900) and I was able to drive here versus fly.

I’ve been out of the net for the past month moving and studying. I’ll be out another 3 weeks prepping for boards. See ya’ll then