5 High Yield Pearls for Success on the ABIM Internal Medicine Boards

It’s crunch time for the ABIM Internal Medicine Boards, and “High Yield” is key. You don’t want to waste your time, and you want to be as efficient as possible. Well, I recently gave a lecture entitled, “Dr. Rezaie’s 5 Pearls to Passing the Boards.” This is a general post, and can be used for any standardized test in your last few weeks of preparation.


Pearl #1: Always read the question first, look over the answers, then go back and read the question stem
  • You waste your time reading the passage and looking at the labs first
  • What do you focus on?
  • How many times do you go back and forth between passage and answers?
  • This process wastes precious time
  • Instead read the question and answers first and then go back and read the passage.
  • Some questions can even be answered without reading the passage


Pearl #2: Know the breakdown of the test
  • Specifically for the ABIM board exam “THE BIG 5” are:
    1. General Internal Medicine
    2. Cardiovascular Disease
    3. Gastroenterology
    4. Infectious Disease
    5. Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care
  • These 5 sections alone compromise approximately 50 – 60% of the exam
  • If time is short, focus on these five sections
  • Ideally, you have left yourself enough time to go over all sections, but if time is short, reading over things like dermatology are not high yield


Pearl #3: Know the big 4 of medical decision-making
  • If you can answer 4 questions about every disease process, you will be prepared for over 80% of the questions on the test:
    1. What is the BEST initial test?
    2. What is the MOST ACCURATE test?
    3. What is the BEST initial therapy/treatment?
    4. What is the NEXT BEST STEP in management?
  • These four questions are known as “The Fischer Method”


Pearl #4: Pick a single book and question bank and stick with it
  • There are so many options, and all are good.
  • Personally, I think Med Study reads the easiest and is the most high yield followed by MKSAP
  • Ultimately pick one resource and stick with it. Buying five different resources is not realistic to complete and you will not get through all the information
  • Also pick one question bank and stick with it.
  • Whether it be Knowmedge, MKSAP, MedStudy, or Kaplan, you will be able to pass if you learn the material
  • Personally, I have used the Knowmedge and MKSAP question banks and felt like both were very comparable to the ABIM Board Exam


Pearl #5: Focus on most commons
  • I would know the top 3 conditions of each area cold
    • i.e. Top 3 infectious disease killers in the world are HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
    • i.e. 3 of the top 5 killers in the world are Cardiovascular diseases, Infectious diseases, and chronic lung disease (No wonder Cardiovascular, pulmonary/critical care, and infectious diseases are 3 of “THE BIG 5”)
In addition to these 5 High Yield Pearls also consider another FREE resource such as twitter (My personal recommendations for daily board review questions and pearls include: @knowmedge, @awesomereview, @IMmemorandum, @uthscsapearls and @srrezaie). Let me wish all of you the best of luck on your studies, ABIM Internal Medicine board exam and future endeavors.

About Salim Rezaie

Dr. Rezaie completed his medical school training at Texas A&M Health Science Center, and followed that up with a combined Emergency Medicine/Internal Medicine residency at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. Currently, he is an attending on the faculty of UTHSCSA in San Antonio, TX, where he focuses on medical education, social media as a tool for education (FOAMed), and building the bridges between internal medicine, critical care, and emergency medicine. Feel free to contact him on Twitter (@srrezaie) (@UTHSCSAPearls) about anything EM/IM! Salim Rezaie

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