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In this post, we cover the importance of the ABFM In-Training Exam and what to do if you score low on your PGY3 ITE.

Please humor my analogy as I await the start of basketball season. I realize that we're medical professionals, not NBA athletes, but if taking the ITE were anything like playing in the NBA...

How to Use QBanks and ITEs to Prepare for Your ABFM Board Exam

Following the NBA analogy, Question banks would be regular season games; use these to hone your knowledge, work on timing, and familiarize yourself with the exam. Though at this stage, you should feel quite comfortable taking standardized tests. No worries if you’re not; check out this blog post on test anxiety

If qbanks make up the regular season, then the ITE is the playoffs. Take the ITE seriously and study beforehand, as it's the best indicator of how you’ll perform on boards.

Reviewing the ITE score report is like rewatching the game tapes. Learn from past mistakes and let the report breakdown coach you into making the necessary adjustments to your study plan. 

In the NBA, a lackluster season precludes a team from the playoffs and poor playoff performance eliminates a team from the championship run. The good news is that this analogy only goes so far. Everyone will have a chance to take the board exam, even if you answered every practice question incorrectly or had a disappointing score on the ITE. 

What to Do If You Score Low on the ITE

If you find yourself scoring consistently below the 25th percentile on your PGY3 ITE, you may want to reach out to your program leadership for additional resources. You likely need a more in-depth review of the material.

Many programs have peer-mentoring programs or dedicated tutoring services. You can also reach out to our Advanced Boards Tutoring Team, who can develop a personalized learning schedule for your busy rotations. This may involve dedicated tutoring sessions, more in depth reading of other review books, and/or other question banks to practice content. 

An updated test prep plan and study method may also yield notable ITE results. You should speak with your program and/or MST about additional ways to start studying for the boards. In the meantime, check out family medicine board review blog post.  


Regardless of how you performed on the ITE, you should familiarize yourself with the educational objectives on the ITE score report prior to the board exam. Your PGY3 ITE lends an accurate indication of your board exam performance. If that score isn’t where you want it, act fast!  

If you feel like you need more guidance or individualized tutoring/mentoring, please reach out to us. We have multiple advanced boards tutors available to help guide you through the process of learning in residency, planning your fellowship and career path, and succeeding on the family medicine boards.

Boards is the last exam you’ll have to pass in order to receive full licensure; it’s your championship. Get pumped! You've made it so far in your career and have definitely earned a wave of celebration.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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Dr. Mike Ren

Dr. Mike Ren

Mike is a driven tutor and supportive advisor. He is fresh out of residency from Baylor College of Medicine and will join as faculty this fall. His goal in mentorship is to help you achieve your full potential not only in terms of excellent exam scores, but also with respect to acing interviews at top-tier programs. He holds the belief that you learn best from those close to you in training. Dr. Ren is passionate about tutoring and has taught for much of his life – as an SAT tutor in high school, then he taught MCAT for the Princeton Review during his time at SMU and transitioned to an instructor for the family medicine shelf exam at Baylor College of Medicine and the Family medicine in-training and board exams as Chief Resident at Baylor. For years, he has worked closely with the office of student affairs and has experience as an admissions advisor. Dr. Ren has worked with numerous students entering medical and residency and keeps in touch with many of them today as they embark on their road to aspiring physicians. His supportiveness and approachability put his students at ease and provide a safe learning environment where questions and conversation flow. In terms of exam prep, Mike will help you develop critical reasoning skills and as an advisor he will hone your interview skills with insider knowledge to commonly asked admissions questions.
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