27 February 2013


I'm fast entering the "dedicated study period" for the national boards exam. The boards exam, called Step 1, is an eight-hour-long multiple-choice standardized test that will largely dictate how competitive an applicant I am for residency.

Although the boards broadly concern medical knowledge, many questions are about minutiae of marginal importance: obscure diseases, medications that are no longer used, and detailed biochemical mechanisms. Medical students nationwide tend to use the same test prep materials from the same companies to prepare for those otherwise-untaught topics that perennially appear on the exam.

Although standardization can be a force of good, I do wonder if it is wise that so many students spend so much time learning from the same resources. It seems like it will reduce the diversity of knowledge that we medical students as a group will possess when we are practicing doctors.