This morning on my way to work, I received a text from one of my friends reporting that he had passed the oral board exam. Wha..congrats! But the results weren’t due yet! We had taken our exams exactly 12 days ago. At the orientation, we had been told that the results would be out in 4, maybe 3 weeks.
My hands itched to reply to the texts that started pouring in. As soon as I moved into the parking space, I hit reply. ‘Was driving. Going to get to a computer.’ I walked/ran into the office, turning on the computer even before I turned on the lights. My fingers were shaking slightly and I was having trouble typing. Still anxious, eh, some part of my brain noted. It seemed to take forever to log in to the board website and find those tiny floating words- Status-passed.
Most medical specialties have board certification exams. Some medical specialties have 2-step board certification exams, with a written and an oral exam. I took (and passed) my written exam exactly one year ago.
The oral exam is a different ball of yarn. Up until a couple of years ago, the pass rate for the oral exam has hovered around 60%. Medical forums in random corners of the internet are filled with horror stories about doctors who did not pass the oral exam once, twice, three times.
I read all those horror stories. I re-read them. The board prep course I took came with its own little section of horror stories. I read that too. None of that was helpful. What did help was Maria’s extremely well written tale of The Oral Exam, parts I-X. I read it on her old blog, and she re-posted it after one of my anxiety fueled tweets.
The exam as she and I took it will be no more in 2016. We were the last batch to take the exam in this format, where the examinees interview a real patient over 30 minutes, while they are observed by two examiners. There is a 30 minute presentation and Q&A after that. Other than the live patient interview, there are four vignette sections, with three written and one video vignette, each followed by a brief Q&A with different examiners.
I will attempt to imitate the best and share my experience of the exam in the next few posts. It may not help many future examinees, but may serve as an amusing reminder of what will be, at least for the next 4 years, a strange, strange exam.