failed pediatrics board exam

Say No To Despair and Fear and Yes to Steps to Just Persevere

on Tuesday, 01 December 2015. Posted in failed pediatrics board exam, pediatrics board review

In past years you had to wait until the most wonderful time of year was done before you

received that letter from the American Board of Pediatrics either congratulating you on

successfully passing the exam or a letter regretting to inform you that you unfortunately, didn't

pass the Boards. Well, it seems like now that the exam is electronically graded those letters

come before the holidays even have a chance to get rolling. We have heard those whoo hoo

celebratory shouts and those sighs of despair which means the results were sent out just before

the most wonderful time of the year.

For those of you who were congratulated we would like to second that. We want to especially

congratulate those who didn't pass the first time around, how much sweeter it must be to get

that letter.

For those of you who didn't pass, this is certainly not the time of the year to despair. It's the

most wonderful time of the year to persevere. However, persevere doesn't mean studying the

same way you did the first time. You must do something different.

If you are one of those who passed after taking the exam the second time around, you very

likely tried a new approach. Feel free to share your experience with those who are in the

position you were a year ago.

In fact, the 6th edition of Laughing Your Way to Passing the Pediatric Boards released last

October not only contains completely updated material, but we've also included a chapter

devoted to those of you taking the exam for the 2nd time. If you want to get started right now

you can start the most wonderful time of the year and not despair. Use the code persevere2015

to get an 20% discount to take the sting out.

If at First you Don’t succeed Try Try ….Something New ( Part 3 )

Written by Stuart Silverstein on Wednesday, 06 March 2013. Posted in failed pediatrics board exam, pediatrics board review, pediatric board certification review, Pediatric Maintenance of Certification

Of Course a Course?

Even if you are an auditory learner, attending a pediatric board review course is often not enough.  Live board review courses are primarily a good way to preview what you should be studying and/or serve as a review to reinforce the material you have already studied in board review books and questions. Even within a board review course one will find wide variation in the lectures. Some lecturers are very good at providing high yield pearls and focus their lecture on the board exam. Other lecturers just give their standard lecture on their area that includes clinical information and research that is not helpful to those of us who are only interested in passing the exam at this point in your career. 

Less is More

Often out of desperation, after failing the boards there is a tendency to buy every book written and attend every course you “ heard” was good.  It is better to focus in on a limited number or resources and really work with them than to surround yourself with a forest of books and material. 20% of the material out there will give you 80% of the results. Focus on the 20% that will work for you. There is nothing wrong with using the same resources as before or updated editions, as long as you take a new approach.

Pediatric Studying

Content Specifications

The American Academy of Pediatrics publishes the Content Specifications of topics you need to focus on in preparing for the pediatric board exam, which is similar to the content specifications for the Pediatric Maintenance of Certification/ Recertification exam published by the American Board of Pediatrics. It can be found here


Included in the content specifications are important images and illustrations you must be familiar with. Therefore you will need a good access and/or material that will help you distinguish between similar looking illustrations, tables and photos.


There is very little variation from year to year regarding the topics emphasized in the content specifications. The core material needed to pass the boards is fairly static.

Reinforce with Review

Remember to review the material you studied the previous study session. With each progressive week the sections you have reviewed more than 3 times will become less and less time consuming. At the end you will be studying the areas you were stronger in to begin with.

In fact each study session you should begin my answering board review questions from the material you studied the previous week to gauge how well you actually mastered the material and to identify any gaps.

Missed it by That Much

Of course most pediatricians who failed the exam tell us they failed by only a few points. In the past the curve has been set up so that everyone who fails the exam misses it by a small margin, which often comes down to 10-15 questions. We have heard that the grading system has changed somewhat and that instead of a curve, passing is based on answering a minimum number or percentage of questions correctly.  This will be the subject of a future blog.  In the meantime we still suspect that passing and failing will still come down to 10 -15 questions making the difference between passing and failing the boards.

We have outlined some important steps you can take that will help you answer the 10-15 that make the difference between failing and passing the boards successfully.

We have heard from some of you who are taking the exam again and wish to hear from more of you. This will enable us to help share, anonymously of course, the experience of others. This pooled information can further help repeat board takers finally get it done.

Finally, we know you may feel like this now:

You may feel like this

But once you outline a study schedule and strategy you should and need to feel like this:

You need to feel like this 


If at First You Don't Succeed Try...Something New (part 2)

Written by Stuart Silverstein on Friday, 15 February 2013. Posted in failed pediatrics board exam, pediatrics board review, pediatric board certification review

pediatric board review (night before)

Above image: Night before the board exam

The 7 Year Itch

In Part 1 of our blog for those taking the pediatric board exam for the 2nd or nth, we left off by noting the importance of a fresh start and a new approach. We have heard from many readers in other specialties since publishing Part 1, noting that we seem to be focusing on the pediatric board exam.  We want to point out that the same exact principles apply to the Neurology Board Exam as well as other medical specialty exams.

This becomes particularly important now that you must take the exam within 7 years of completing residency. That means you get 7 tries before being sent to the penalty box. The penalty box is having to complete another year of Internship.  Not to offend anyone who has had to do this[1], but this cannot be pleasant.

Know What you Know

When we are stressed the first thing we do is reach for comfort food, but the comfort is of course only temporary and empty of any nutritional value. Many of us after failing the boards feel empty and need validation and we reach for the equivalent of comfort food. That is we study the areas that we know well, to make ourselves feel good.  While this might help in the very short run, it should be done only to help you get back in the saddle

Part of doing something new must consist of studying and working on the areas you are weakest and sections you have done poorly on. The challenging part is working on areas that you are not only weak in but areas you find mind numbingly boring. For me, remembering and studying developmental milestones was particularly challenging. You must identify those areas for yourself. Start your road back to passing the pediatric boards (or any boards), with the material you are weak in and find most boring while your energy level is up and you are eager to get it right this time.

You might consider differentiating the material you know well from those you do not know well with a color-coded spreadsheet. For example material you know well can be highlighted in green, the material you know fairly well, but needs additional work can be yellow, and the material you find most boring and need to work on a lot can be highlighted in red. As you learn the material and become more comfortable with it, you move it to the yellow column and finally the green column. Once you have honestly moved all of the material to the green side, you can see visually that you are on your way to passing the pediatric board exam. As an aside, you may pick your own colors from the rainbow for your spreadsheet.

Know Your Own Way

An often-overlooked step is recognizing how you study best. Different approaches work for different people and you must determine what will work for you. You can begin by determining if you are primarily an auditory or visual learner. As a general rule, most of us are better visual learners.  If you are primarily a visual learner, and find that you get very little out of live lectures, why would you now consider attending a live board review course?  Your focus should remain visual learning through books, but focusing on different books than before.

If you are primarily an auditory learner, you don’t necessarily have to attend a live board review course. Another alternative might be dictating and playing back the file in your car, while you are working out at the gym, or even during sex if that works for you [2]

If have any artistic talent, drawing a picture to help remember the characteristics of a disorder might help, for example drawing a child on a motorcycle might help you remember the characteristics associated with Kawasaki Disease.

In the final section of this blog we will go through some of the pros and cons of courses and putting together a study plan and outline to better streamline your next attempt to pass the exam.

 pediatrics board exam prep

Above image: When you block out time to study, it's important to actually study 


[1] Feel free to contact us if you had. We would like to know what this process was like/ Clearly you are not the only one your experience can be helpful to others.

[2]  and the person you are having sex with assuming there is an actual partner involved


If at First you Don’t succeed Try….Something New (Part 1)

Written by Stuart Silverstein on Friday, 01 February 2013. Posted in failed pediatrics board exam, pediatrics board review, pediatric board certification review

If at First you Don’t succeed Try….Something New (Part 1)

The failure rate for those taking the General Pediatric Board Exam administered by the American Board of Pediatrics is surprisingly high. The overall failure rate is approximately 40%. However, this includes everyone taking the Pediatric Board exam, including those taking the exam for the first time and those taking it for the 2nd, 3rd and Nth time


Sadly, if you have taken the exam before, which would mean you failed at it at least once your chance of failing is higher. The failure rate is only ~25% for first time takers. Therefore, a large proportion of those taking the Pediatric Board Exam have failed it in the past.


I have a confession to make. I didn’t pass the pediatric certification exam the first time I took it either. But please don’t tell anyone, I would like to keep this a secret between myself, pediatric residents, pediatricians, and those who are following us here, here, and here. Shh let’s keep this between us only.


Misery enjoys Miserable Company

If you have taken the board exam before you know who you are… You are the ones going to the same pediatric board review courses and avoiding eye contact with each other. 


This is unfortunate since making contact and comparing notes would go a long way to avoiding making this into an annual ritual. Instead of attending another board review course it’s time to become a board certified pediatrician and attend one of those vacation pediatric conferences in the Caribbean.

Life in the Skinner Box Taking a New Approach

Do you remember those rats in the Skinner box you learned about in Psych 101 during your glorious college days? Those rats often understood something that even the brightest doctors sometimes miss: The rates learn that if pressing the same bar over and over gets you a tazer shot they need to try a new approach. Yet most pediatricians who get that tazer in the form of that failure notice from the American Board Of Pediatrics continue to take the same approach year after year thinking eventually it will work and they will get the “pediatric board certification“ pellet they desire. They attend the same pediatric board review courses, order the same pediatric board review DVD’s, access the same Board Review Questions and Answers, and the same editions of the Board Review Books that didn’t work for them. By no means am I telling you that those won’t help. However, it is the study method that must be tweaked.


It is unlikely that the pediatric board certification will suddenly appear unless you change your approach.  We will go through a systematic approach here for those of you who will be preparing for the boards a 2nd time. I once had to go through that process myself, but as I said that will be a secret between us.