Board Certification

Home Forums General Discussion Board Certification

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Author
  • #17812

    I posted this on the physicians’ page and didn’t get any responses. Maybe more will see it on this area:

    I am a practicing MD who discovered that I have AD/HD and reading disabled during residency. Am now experiencing great difficulty in passing specialty board examination. Anyone else out there have similar experiences that could offer helpful advice?


    Just curious…

    …which specialty board? Some are more difficult than others, and some are notorious for a low pass rate (even among people who’ve never had a problem with tests), such as anesthesia and radiology.

    Also, you are a MD, no? You took/pass all your college courses…the MCAT…all of the USMLEs…completed residency….and *now* you’re stuck? I’d say, keep doing what you’ve been doing…it’s been working. Perhaps the issue isn’t you, or the ADHD, or the learning disability…maybe you’re just studying the wrong stuff (or too much stuff). Maybe you just need to focus on the high yield stuff…

    …it just doesn’t seem to me that your issue is the learning disablity and ADHD…you’ve gotten too far already for it to be that.


    I totally agree w/ Mya- you passed all those other tests! But wch board is a big Q? I heard derm is really hard and ER has 2 parts 2nd being oral- I’m peds- it was multi choice just like what we’ve been used to all along- Are you maybe depressed? It does often exist co-morbidly w/ ADHD and would impact on concentration and even IQ as new studies show- I (believe) I have ADHD and dyslexia also but I must have *figured out* ways of dealing w/ it to get this far too! I find that I need long stretches of time to study since it takes time to “settle in” but with in those stretches I need to take frequent short breaks- for instance in med school and college I couldn’t study well by just having a regular day of classes, eating dinner, and going to the library for a few hours- definitely couldn’t concetrate when surrounded by all my peers (especially in med school when we’re all studying for the same tests) and being completely alone was also no good b/c I get internally distracted w/ my thoughts- bedroom forget about it- too many distractions or wind up going to sleep- what worked best for me was bringing (sneaking in ) lots of food and candy to the library starting at x time and going like x plus 6-12 hours I also like to jump between subjects- don’t try reading a book from cover to cover rather begining, end and then middle- do lots and lots of pratice questions- very often you’ll get the exact questions on the test- the USMLES now on computer- absolutely MUST study on computer as well! When I took the tests- I found that it worked better for me the second day when I took a very short break almost every other section since looking at a computer for a long time gets difficult- If you really have those diagnosis- you can get special dispensation for an untimed test – that always takes the pressure off- My sister got straight A’s in highschool and went to an Ivy league college- she took a physics course and didn’t like her grade- got tested for dyslexia- came up positive (this is why I think I have it- she said that whatever they said she did that was dyslexic she notices that I do much more!) anyway- so then she took the GRE’s untimed and scored 800 in math! 790 in analytical (and BTW her SAT’s she took regular and did perfectly fine ?740 math) but I always finish tests early -so I don’t think untimed would solve any of my problems- just think- specialty boards are the last standardized tests you’ll have to take! after SAT, MCAT, USMLE 1, 2, 3! thats 7 unless you are also masochistic and want to double board or subspecialize– I hope to maybe become an international board certified laction consultant (thats what IBCLC stands for) its a pretty hard multi exam too- to sit for it requires a lot of prereqs also- well GOOD LUCK


    Thank you MYA and MD97IBCL2B2010(that was a mouthful!)for your responses. I did take the examination the last two times with extra time…in General Surgery, BTW. Both times I missed passing by one scaled percentage point and now I have to jump thru hoops to requalify to have the opportunity to take the test again. 😡

    Looking back, I can pinpoint almost exactly when I started to have more difficulty in school. I can even remember telling one of my professors my first semester of undergraduate school that I was having difficulty reading all of the material for my biology classes! Because I went to a small liberal arts college back in the dark ages, almost everthing was tested with essay questions. I had never seen a multiple choice test until I started med school (do they still give those awful “multiple multiple” or “K type” questions? 😀 )

    The first two years of med school were misery and my grades reflected it! I had the good fortune to make honors in my clerkships and since they count for so much more, my problems with standardized tests never became apparent to anyone, but me.

    During my residency, the program director never could figure out why my in service exam scores were so low, but I seemed to have decent clinical skills. Finally a friend who had become the educational coordinator in our department sent me for neuropsych testing.

    I honestly wouldn’t be so concerned about passing the examination except for the extreme limitations that NOT being board certified places on you in this day and age. Maintaining hospital privileges, obtaining insurance provider numbers, or even finding non-clinical employment seems to be severely limited if you’re not board certified. Because of that, I’ve even considered retraining in a more general specialty (my rationale being that if I know the problem on the front end I could make the necessary changes in my study regimen that I didn’t do during my surgical residency), but most training programs won’t take a resident that doesn’t qualify for matching federal dollars from Medicare (which I no longer qualify for because of the long residency that I did).

    MYA, I’m curious about the specialties with low pass rates. Is that the overall pass rate or just for the first time. And what happens in those specialties if they don’t pass the examination…does it place any limitations on their ability to practice?

    I appreciate the helpful and supportive responses and the opportunity to vent!



    Your last post just described me to a T! I also did well in school until med school, first 2 years were terrible. The school kept giving me tutors who didn’t know what to do with me bec. I knew the material, but could barely pass the exams. I was doing so poorly the school even paid for me to take a board review course so as not to lower their pass rate! 3rd & 4th years I got “B”s–A on the clinical part, C on the exam. I got into a good residency and was considered one of the better residents, but my board scores were always so low–that that’s why I took it so personally when my first boss told me I was a terrible doctor. I got my peds board results yesterday and passed, but just barely. Now I’m thinking of getting myself some neuropsych testing and finally learning how to learn. I’m finding it much harder to keep up now that I’m out of an academic setting and am considering taking a job back at my old hospital just to help me keep up!

    Keep on trying and don’t give up–Do you have limitations on how many times you can take the boards? One of the department directors at a hospital near me was sitting next to me for his 9th or 10th try at the peds boards! He seems to be doing fine without board certification. Good Luck!


    Rydys…thanks so much for your post. It helps to know that I’m not alone out here in this struggle.

    The general surgery board allows you to take the written examination for five consecutive years and then requires that you requalify for the written examination by taking two 200 question examinations based on the last two American College of Surgeons self assessment exams and then a 200 question examination based on the residency intraining examinations. After successfully passing those three exams, you are then eligible for another five tries on the standard exam. Otherwise, it requires another year of residency training at an accredited training program to qualify to sit for the written exam. After passing the written, there is an oral component to the examination before you can be board certified.

    It’s good to know that there are physicians that still manage even without their board certification (who also happen to be good docs), but I must admit that I think the insurance companies, et al are making that harder and harder to achieve. The implication is that if you can’t pass your boards, that you must not be a good physician. Also, because the surgical board limits the number of time that you can take the written examination before requiring another year of clinical training, there is a lot of pressure to pass.

    The neuropsych testing is expensive, but I am so thankful to the friend who realized what the problem is and sent me for it. While I haven’t passed my boards yet, it made me understand where some of the difficulty arises from and not to feel like I simply haven’t worked hard enough (which is a fairly pervasive surgical attitude). You will probably experience some of the same retrospective understanding of your experiences as I have.

    Again, thanks for your post and congratulations on passing your board exam!

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.