Studying for the dermatology boards is a stressful task that can feel daunting at times. However, residents need not fear; with the proper resources and good study habits you can feel well-prepared for this exam.
There are a plethora of resources devoted to the dermatology boards. The AAD meetings provide MOC courses to help dermatologists prepare for re-certification. These courses are comprised of 25-50 board quality questions and answers, and can help residents understand the type of questions asked on the boards. There are also AAD sessions which focus on high-yield board topics such as infectious diseases or genodermatoses. Many residents choose to attend private board prep courses such as Barron’s board review, Chicago board review, and DIR board review among others. These courses can be helpful for residents who struggle with self-guided study, but they can be expensive.
Online study resources are constantly expanding. Some “tried and true” online resources include the Derm In-Review question bank and the AAD website. The AAD website has archives of past MOC exams as well as old JAAD CME articles. Residents can also purchase an official Kodachrome set of images. Residents should become familiar with viewing dermatopathology slides since a part of the pathology board section is digital.
Journals provide good sources of board-relevant material, and residents should read several each month to stay up to date on current trends in dermatology treatment.
Textbooks are traditional resources that provide the foundation of a resident’s dermatology knowledge. Some quality texts include Bolognia Dermatology, Andrews Diseases of the Skin, and the du Vivier Atlas of Clinical Dermatology. These texts serve as a resource for quality images. Approximately half of the board questions contain an image, and the importance of image review cannot be understated. The Derm In-Review study guide is another excellent resource. Ideally, one textbook and the Dermatology In-Review text should be reviewed during the six months prior to the boards.
Residents should create a study schedule that allows review of all pertinent topics within the six months prior to the test date. A reasonable goal is two hours a day during the week, and 8-10 hours during the weekend. You should also schedule study-free days, which will help avoid burnout. Do not schedule any new topics to review in the final week before the exam, as you will want this time to review areas of special weakness.
Six months prior to the boards, you should have good knowledge of your personal dermatology strengths and weaknesses. It is tempting to shy away from studying materials with which you are less comfortable, but these should get the most attention.
In-service exams and other self-assessments help identify areas of weakness. You have taken many standardized tests and should know how you learn best. Do not deviate from the learning strategies you have utilized up to this point. The boards are like any other standardized test with a set number of concepts to learn and it is a matter of mastering these.