The family medicine ITE is just around the corner. It’s a lengthy exam, but at least you get a day off from wards. The exam is an invaluable resource for your boards and the best representation of how prepared you are. Here are some do’s and don’ts to practice for the in-training exam.
How to Study for the ITE
These do's and don'ts will have you well on your way to ITE success!
DO create an ITE study plan and stick to it
Don’t cram for your ITE! Studying last minute for exams may have worked for tests in college and perhaps even med school. However, the sheer scope of medicine makes this exam difficult to cram for.
You cannot learn or memorize enough in a few days or weeks to properly answer the broad range of questions on the ITE, or boards for that matter.
Do not underestimate the amount of time it will take to review all the material, because there’s a ton of it. Questions from a qbank alone total in the thousands. Furthermore, multiple studies across the years have shown how repetition spaced over months is highly effective for long term retention, meaning the knowledge you gather now for your exam will help you in practice well beyond your residency years.
Check out this ABFM roadmap or contact us for help drafting your own study plan.
DON'T be overwhelmed by the amount of ITE study material
There are ample ITE study resources online, all advertising for your business. Browsing through them to select the “best” is exhausting and time consuming.
The simple advice here is to just choose a resource and get started. Pick one book or video review and an accompanying qbank. Finish reviewing those resources and then move on to another if you’re not quite ready for your exam. However, in my experience, completing and reviewing one qbank is enough for success on the boards.
Save yourself some time and check out this post, which clarifies the review options, the qbank that’s right for you, and other resources for ITE prep.
DO spend the time and money to purchase a qbank to study for your ITE
I’m not sponsored by UWorld or Kaplan; however, I believe that question banks are excellent study materials to practice and understand the exam.
Many of the well-known qbanks such as UWorld, AAFP, and Kaplan are tailored specifically for this exam, meaning that professionals spend hundreds of hours carefully curating each question to reflect the exam just for you. UWorld is a favorite, as it’s familiar and has a friendly user interface and detailed answer explanations. But choose the one that fits you, buy it, and get started.
A few questions a day translate into succeeding on the ITE without the added stress of last-minute cramming.
DON'T rely solely on residency to prepare you for the ITE
Competency in residency does not guarantee a passing score on the ITE or board exams. In fact, you need success in both residency and on your exams to become board certified.
The majority of residents have similar rotations and a mix of inpatient and outpatient services. You will learn a good deal on rotations but not everything in clinical practice is tested and vice versa.
Your residency may offer resources for the exam such as textbooks, study guides, question banks. Use them.
DO treat the ITE like the real deal
The ITE tests your foundational knowledge in family medicine and will be a great indicator of your performance on boards, so take it seriously. Failing to do so will penalize you once again when the detailed score report comes out and it's of no use to you because you didn’t make a real attempt.
Treat this like the boards, and you’ll be rewarded with an accurate prediction of future performance via the Bayesian predictor for board pass rate.
Moreover, the score report will show your true strengths and weaknesses, which you can improve upon until your all-important board exam.
Of note: the ITE is scaled based on your progress in residency. So if you’re an intern scoring within the national average for PGY1s, then you have nothing to worry about.
DON'T waste time reinforcing your strengths when studying for the ITE
Instead of studying what you know, focus on gaps in your knowledge when preparing for the ITE. It’s natural that people like doing what they’re good at. I play basketball and not tennis, because I suck at tennis, and that’s fine.
However, for the sake of expanding your knowledge to pass the boards, placing an emphasis on your weaknesses is more important. Many students spend excess time reviewing topics they are already familiar with and waste valuable brain power to test themselves on subjects they’ve mastered. Don’t fall into this trap; instead delve into a topic you know little about.
Start with that chapter in a textbook or jump into questions in your qbank, many of which allow you to filter and switch between different systems (cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal etc.). This way you can tackle the difficult and unfamiliar subjects in the beginning and have ample time to review and master them. Review your previous ITEs to find areas to improve in. Furthermore, ABFM publishes the various exam topics and their weighted percentages on the exam.
Do take breaks
A huge benefit of creating a study plan and sticking to it is that you can afford breaks. I certainly don’t expect you to study every day. And with the busy schedule of residency, you likely won’t be able to. Take some time off to refresh yourself and avoid burnout. Be cognizant of the importance of this ITE but don’t stress too much. after all, it’s just practice.
If you've already taken your ITE and didn’t score as well as you would’ve liked, check out this post for some ideas regarding what to do with a low ITE score.