And how it all went down. (I)

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.


About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in Psychiatry, Work. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to And how it all went down. (I)

  1. Maria says:

    Congratulations again! I look forward to reading your experience and thank you for sharing it with your audience. 🙂

  2. Yay! Congratulations! While I understand the need for certification and keeping the bar high, I wonder at the stress these boards cause. Do they really produce better physicians, or is it a kind of professional hazing? “I went through this when I was your age, now it’s your turn!”

    I’m also glad to see you back here. You’ve been missed. 🙂

    • purplesque says:

      Thank you, friend. I’m glad to be back as well.
      There are a lot of arguments against board certification- does being a good test taker make you a good physician? Especially for the oral exams- I’ve always felt that it’s more a test of how well you can ‘perform’ for a cantankerous audience. I went in confident- I’m a good test taker, I can put on a good ‘performance’, if you will, and cranky old people seem to like me. There are a lot of good physicians I know, though, who haven’t and probably won’t be able to pass the live exam, simply because they are uncomfortable with performing or have public speaking/anxiety problems.

      Rather than hazing, though, the drive behind certification exam seems to be at least partly financially driven- they are quite expensive, and you have to take maintenance of certification exams every 5-10 years. They earn respective medical boards a good chunk of money.

  3. mizunogirl says:

    Congratulations!!! Sounds like things went swimmingly for you!

  4. LG says:

    I am surprised at the tone of disbelief in your post. Had I known you were facing this exam, I could have told you you’d ace it.

    • purplesque says:

      Lol..don’t do that. Most of my teachers and my parents were the same way- ‘Of course you passed.’ It drives me nuts. I want credit!

      • Vijay says:

        Of course you passed. And of course you want credit.

      • student4now says:

        I know exactly how you feel! There are times I want to shoot back “based on what evidence?” (particularly if math is involved)
        Congratulations! Forgive me for not reading any of the posts on the experience, I read this one, couldn’t stand the suspense and waited for the final posting. 🙂

  5. Drude says:


  6. phantomxii says:

    That’s awesome—congratulations!

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