So after many months and a few intensive weeks of study the nephrology boards are now in the record books and I thought I’d examine what worked and didn’t work in my study efforts. If you’re part of the board police, not to worry, no board content specific information will be shared here.
I started by taking a look at what Matt had previously written, including our own reader poll results about studying for the boards here on RFN. Armed with this I, along with a couple other fellows, decided to use ASN board review course lecture notes, videos and questions as our core material.
We used the 2011 materials, I would have liked to have attended the live course but unfortunately was unable (and as Matt mentions, the all in cost of travel, hotel and course is high). What I quickly re-learned as I watched the lecture videos (and I should have remembered from med school) is that I’m terrible at retaining things presented in lecture format. While my colleagues were happily jotting down notes and remembering things, I was dozing off and wasting hours, having to re-visit what the heck was going on.
I switched over to a more active strategy of doing questions. I used the questions available from the ASN board review course, NephSap (which has a huge bank of questions and answers) and those available through The Kidney Doctor. I would do a question and then review each answer choice using UpToDate and my trusty Mass Gen Pocket Medicine 3rd edition from residency (which I was shocked to learn is now on it’s 4th edition! I still have a battered and abused blue 1st edition from med school :).
I periodically joined up with my co-fellows using Google Hangout (which is free) to discuss broad sections of the ASN board review and practice questions. Being interactive with others helped as it challenged me to be able to explain and articulate things which sometimes I wasn’t crystal clear on and I picked up details that others had recognized and I had missed.
I occasionally dipped into Clinical Physiology of Acid-Base and Electrolyte Disorders by Rose and Treatment of Primary GN by Ponticelli and Glassock but for the most part I stuck with UpToDate due to the speed and ease of finding things.
Matt mentions he was disappointed with NephSap questions but I actually thought they were pretty good, particularly older versions and the Core Knowledge questions. As board content experiences a lag between emergence in the literature and making it to the test, the past year or so of stuff generally isn’t represented while stuff from a year or two before is starting to make it in. The Pathology NephSap is particularly good and I would say a must review for path images.
The test is a now a bit longer for first time test takers than Matt mentions and now consists of four 60 question blocks. I took a break after each section to clear my head and use the restroom and also took a break for lunch after the first two sections. It’s a long day, so pacing is key.
A final note (and shameless piece of self and RFN team promotion) is that RFN is a great resource! Our new and archived content are a wealth of board review pearls and resources. Best of luck in your own board review efforts and for those who have taken the test, let us know in the comments what worked and didn’t work for you.