So your Internal Medicine Boards are fast approaching and you're wondering how should I prepare? Do I just do a question bank, MKSAP, or UWorld? Do I read a book? Where do I begin?
Having taken the ABIM exam, I am here to provide some insight. If you're like me, then you learn by doing questions. And you probably fall asleep trying to read a book — don't be ashamed, we're all very tired and staring at a textbook is usually the perfect cure for the worst case of insomnia.
Utilize the MKSAP Question Bank for ABIM Prep
With that being said, I think the initial foundation of studying for the ABIM exam is doing the MKSAP question bank. This question bank provides an excellent baseline of information and guidelines about diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of most internal medicine diseases.
MKSAP is an excellent source for age-appropriate cancer screening guidelines and this is definitely high-yield for test day.
The short-comings of MKSAP, in general, is that many questions are fairly straightforward and ABIM is not. With MKSAP you either know the answer or you don't.
Moreover, the Hematology-Oncology section is way above the level of ABIM, and I truly don't believe ABIM expects you to know specific chemotherapy regimens for treating various cancers.
However, I would be familiar with situations when surgery versus chemotherapy versus radiation versus some combination of each is appropriate.
MKSAP also has a picture question bank that is excellent for the Dermatology section or interpreting PFTs or Acid-Base disturbances. Check these out — easy points and high-yield!
If time allows, one complete run-through of the MKSAP question bank creates an excellent foundation; however, as I mentioned above, these questions do not allow for the critical thinking and diagnostic creativity required of passing ABIM.
UWorld for ABIM Prep: A Secondary Resource
The good news is, UWorld provides you with questions that allow you to really test how you would approach a diagnostic puzzle. You may have no idea what the diagnosis is, but based on the symptoms presented and incorporating resource-sensitive thinking, you can figure out what the most likely next best step is in the question.
UWorld obviously includes very specific diagnostic tests and treatment questions but overall, the benefit of using the UWorld question bank is to provide you with critical thinking skills that allow you to approach any ABIM question regardless of whether you truly know what is going on in the question.
Remember to be mindful of resources and invasiveness. ABIM does not like wasting resources or sticking needles in people when avoidable.
UWorld also does a good job of testing the biostatistics topics (i.e. sensitivity, specificity, PPV, NPV...). Yes, I know you thought you were done with these silly equations after Step 3, but unfortunately ABIM also likes to ask these questions and they are easy points. So, don't forget to study these topics.
Ethical dilemmas are also big on ABIM, and UWorld provides you with numerous examples of how to be an ethical doctor: you may be surprised to know the truly ethical response for the test.
Okay, now that we've discussed the two main question banks, let's discuss reading a book.
Best Books for ABIM Prep
If you subscribed to MKSAP, you may or may not have gotten the actual books. These are excellent resources.
If you have time, you should reference the MKSAP books for additional reading when reviewing wrong questions. If you actually want to read something, similar to First Aid for Step 1, then you should try to get through the Board Basics book. This is an excellent and easy-to-read summary guide of everything on ABIM and includes excellent pictures.
Just a side note in general: if you find that a specific resource is not working for you, don't waste time using it. Move on to something else. If you're not learning from MKSAP or UWorld, then go explore another question bank—there are others out there. But the reality is, everyone is pressed for time, money, and energy.
MKSAP works. UWorld works. And remember, if you study, you most likely will pass! The stats are in your favor. Just do your part and make time to study.