By Deepa Ramadurai, MD
It is surprisingly difficult to find board examination content on the internet that has been vetted by physicians familiar with the exam’s content. However, if you have already completed the first step of the United States Medical Licencing Examination, you know that UWorld is a trusted resource. What some trainees might not know is that UWorld also has ABIM and ABFM question banks (QBanks). Today we will delve into the UWorld’s American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) Certification Exam QBank.
Like other UWorld QBanks, the UWorld ABFM QBank allows for both Tutor Mode and Timed Mode. The tutor mode is essential in the beginning stages of studying, allowing the learner to practice questions with immediate guidance and quick access to explanations on why responses were correct or incorrect. This detail is essential in board examination practice.
Once you pick a mode, you will notice that questions on the UWorld ABFM QBank can be divided into “unused,” “incorrect,” and “marked” categories, allowing for a review of specific questions/content areas. This learner-driven feature can come in handy for reviewing a particular type of question, especially if UWorld is your primary QBank for the ABFM. Having the ability to go back after a first pass of any QBank and review weak areas is often critical to student success, as shown in studies on “spaced repetition.”
After using the question category tool to identify weaker topic areas, users can then use UWorld’s flashcard feature for rapid reviews or to help emphasize high-yield topics. If you choose to make combination flashcards for both weak and high-yield topics, the QBank also has a search function that allows you to quickly find questions by key word or phrase. Therefore, if you choose to view the “incorrect” category in your ABFM QBank and make flashcards based on its contents but still want to make flashcards for some high-yield content you answered correctly, this is not difficult to do.
Learning professionals recognize that not everyone sees excellent results from using flashcards. Some students can’t even bear the idea of flipping through a deck of medical concepts, while others thrive on this strategy. Because UWorld’s flashcards feature is uniquely excellent, we recommend that everyone use it since there is much evidence supporting the efficacy of flashcard learning for medical exam preparation.
Finally, as most individuals studying for their board exams are incredibly busy, UWorld’s mobile phone app is a must-have. It’s especially worthwhile for learners completing residency or prepping while already in a clinic or hospital, where they can dedicate a few minutes of downtime to reviewing questions in rapid succession.
Based on the content of the annual ABFM In-Training Exam (ITE) report, the UWorld ABFM QBank closely mirrors the ITE. The categorization of questions in the QBank reflects the breakdown of questions on the ITE, with emphasis on cardiology, musculoskeletal, and respiratory topics. To be specific, the UWorld ABFM QBank contains 60% internal medicine questions, with the remainder categorized as pediatrics (16%), obstetrics and gynecology (15%), psychiatry (6%), and surgery (2%).
In addition to the previously mentioned function of separating ABFM questions into “unused,” “incorrect,” and “marked” categories, UWorld questions can be categorized by subject matter. This allows the learner to organize studying by specific topic. This is a significant strength of UWorld; studying in a content format enables the recognition of subtleties between questions and answers related to similar disease processes – a common theme that board examiners use to trip up exam takers.
The UWorld QBanks offer a few great features that are not widely available with other board exam QBanks. Some of these features may spark interest in trainees with particular studying habits or those who like more bells and whistles.
If time organization and utilization are important to you when studying for standardized exams, UWorld may be a perfect choice. UWorld’s ABFM QBank offers users the ability to create and complete exams on a timed basis, and to assess their strengths and weaknesses while working through the live exam. This can be crucial for learners in the middle or late stages of exam preparation if they have struggled to complete questions efficiently or need practice picking out key phrases and words within long question stems. The opportunity to take a timed test is a unique tool in exam preparation materials and one not typically available for many board examinations.
As mentioned, students can create unique flashcards through the UWorld interface. However, while reviewing questions, there is also an option to create a flashcard directly from question content using the explanations of correct and incorrect answer choices. This feature guides flashcard creation in real time, and dramatically reduces time spent creating cards. Such ease of flashcard making may even encourage non-flashcard users to consider this study method of studying.
As mentioned, the UWorld ABFM QBank allows the student to create timed (or untimed) exams. The exams consist of up to 80 questions that attempt to mirror the true exam, which allocates 95 minutes for four sections of 75 multiple-choice questions each. While completing the questions, learners can cross out answers they feel are less likely, take notes, highlight key words or phrases that may help determine the correct answer, and use a calculator. Although these features are all present on the actual ABFM Examination, the formatting may differ. Therefore, it is always a good idea to review the ABFM website to test out the actual exam format.
Key Takeaways from the UWorld ABFM QBank
1. UWorld’s ABFM QBank can be an excellent resource for those who wish to practice timed tests with content that mirrors the actual examination.
2. The flexible question sorting capabilities of UWorld allow for a learner-directed approach to effectively studying for the ABFM.
3. The UWorld flashcard feature is awesome!
4. The variety of content offered in medicine, pediatrics, and OB/GYN is a significant strength of the UWorld QBank.