“Before anything else, PREPARATION is the key to success.”
Alexander Graham Bell
(1847 – 1922)
Since 1937, the mission of the American Board of Anesthesiology has been “to maintain the highest standards of the practice of anesthesiology.” After completing an accredited anesthesiology residency, The ABA (Part I) Written Examination has become the first major hurdle that must be passed before we can consider ourselves successful anesthesiologists. Historically, the ABA has set the standard very high for passing the written examination, with a successful pass rate of only 71-88% for first time takers in the past 5 years. The overall pass rate (including repeat takers) has averaged close to only 60% over the past decade! With statistics like these, we feel confident in saying that the ABA exam is one of the most difficult specialty exams in America. Underestimating this exam is a misguided pretense. There is no substitute for hard work and the success it brings.
Preparation for the ABA Part I examination does not mean simply spending countless hours reading about every anesthesia topic imaginable. Preparation does not mean simply committing to memory key facts or memorizing equations or esoteric details about every topic in the 40-page ABA outline. Preparing for this exam is about developing a comprehensive understanding on key topics in the fields of anesthesiology, critical care, and pain medicine, AND being able to utilize this knowledge to correctly answer ‘ABA-style’ exam questions. There is a key distinction between “knowing your anesthesia” and actually answering questions correctly to pass the exam.
ANESTHESIAPREP is set up specifically to prepare you for the ABA (Part I) Written Examination. Our questions are written and edited by Board Certified Anesthesiologists and are composed to resemble the material and question-types you will see on the real test. We’ve sifted through generations of anesthesia material to provide you with the most highly-tested information available. ANESTHESIAPREP will equip you with the types of questions you can expect to encounter without any surprises on test day. As Shakespeare so eloquently asserted, “All things are ready, if our minds be so.”
2008 is the inaugural year for switching from paper to a computerized examination. This contemporary exam will only be administered to candidates applying for board certification (graduating CA-3s and repeat takers). The 2008 In-Training exam will still be a paper & pencil exam as in years past, and will only be offered to residents still in-training. The ABA plans to also convert the In-Training exam into a computerized exam by 2009. Since the examination is moving to a computerized format, wouldn’t it be smart to prepare by taking computerized practice exams instead of the obsolete pencil & paper ones?
2008 is the inaugural year for a change in question type and style as well. Although there is very little changing in regards to actual anesthesia content being tested in the new computerized exam (besides the removal of “copper kettle” questions and a major addition of statistics and physics), it is critical for you to become accustomed to the new question classes so you are not surprised at exam time. Also, the new exam questions will seem much more “wordy” than in the past and many more cases will seem clinically oriented. But not to worry, let us reiterate that the actual content on the exam will barely change.
First and foremost, (-drum roll please-) the ABA has decided to rid us all of the formidable K-type question style! (Applause) This means that for each question on the 2008 ABA Part I written examination there will be no more than one correct answer choice for each question. But to replace the K-type, the ABA has substituted it with 2 new styles: ‘R-type’ Matching and ‘G-set’ Case Series questions. Let’s take a look at all three question types individually. (Please note that all 3 question formats will be practice during the AnesthesiaPREP exam.)
Approaches to different questions types:
1) ‘A-type’ Multiple Choice: The “single best answer” question style is the predominant question type making up more than 50% of the exam. This is the standard question type that has been used for decades. The question may be set into a clinical scenario or vignette requiring one or two leaps to come up with the answer. The question may be a straightforward stem presenting a problem that must be solved. The question may be an incomplete statement that needs to be completed. And best yet, the question may be worded as a “negative” question like “EXCEPT” or “NOT” requiring you to find the one false answer out of a set of true statements. The good thing about questions of this type is that they stand alone. If you get it right, you move on. If you get it wrong, you move on also. Each question is independent of the next. Please don’t forget to read the question fully and understand exactly what the ABA is asking of you. Try to predict the answer first before reading the answer choices if you can. If you can’t, then read each answer choice carefully making sure you don’t get fooled by choices that are almost the right answer but not totally correct; in other words, watch out for the purposefully placed distractors. And be wary of options that include extreme words, such as “always” or “never.”
2) ‘R-type’ Matching Question: There are usually between two and six questions in each matching section and there can be anywhere from 5 to 20 answer choices. There will always be more answer choices then there are questions being posed. The questions will usually revolve around a particular theme such as hypermetabolic states, or cardiovascular drugs. This is a good opportunity to use your test-taking skills to eliminate answer choices and gain some extra points. Personally, this is our favorite question type, because once you learn to piece the information together, you can dismantle the entire section. Remember that in many R-type questions the correct answer may be used more than once. Work down one column at a time (usually the question column first), matching each item of that column to the correct option in the second column. If you can’t match each question to its correct answer then start eliminating answer choices and work backwards from the answer column back to the question column.
3) ‘G-Set’ Case Series Questions: During your exam you will encounter question sets that revolve around a single case scenario. Sometimes these vignettes are lengthy and sometimes they can be oddly short. There will likely be an average of two to four questions to each case. For example, you may be presented with a case and asked to give the diagnosis (first question), an associated anesthetic complication (second question), the most appropriate treatment (third question), and possibly a question related to the pathophysiology being described (fourth question). The tricky part about these questions is that each subsequent correct answer choice may correspond to the correct answer choice from the prior question. So it’s easy to miss two or three questions if you don’t get the initial diagnosis or anesthetic issue right. Falling into this trap will lead to a number of missed questions.