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  1. The night before the test should not be devoted to an “all-nighter” or intense review. Read a few things to ease your conscience but spend time having a good meal and, more importantly, getting a good night's sleep.

  2. Beware of the urge to change answers. Statistically, your first answer is correct more often than a changed answer.

  3. If you know an answer is correct but can't remember why, the reason may not matter. For the sake of the test—so you don't get too hung up on one single question—just answer the question and move on.

  4. Don't get bogged down by wordy or long questions. Often the last sentence or two tells the primary question being asked.

  5. The best prep for the ABSITE is RESIDENCY and a small amount of daily formal study. Always do what you do in real life: stabilize patients before the OR, never send an unstable patient to the CT scanner, and always remember to differentiate sick patients from non-sick patients.

  6. “Get to two”: these exams are usually about narrowing the answers to two likely choices. Then go back to look for the clues to sort out these final options.

  7. Study hard in order to treat your patients in the best way possible, not to take an exam.

  8. As noted in tip #1, it is a bad idea to try to study the night before an ABSITE exam. This can lead to finding information that you have not totally mastered and may affect your confidence for the exam. If you are going to review a topic, choose a topic in which you are well versed to boost your confidence for the exam.

  9. Layer your clothing for the exam. You never know what the room temperature will be like.

  10. Eat breakfast but avoid eating heavy foods. Bring snacks to the test.

  11. Questions are generally “fluff free.” There is little fluff in the questions. If they wanted you to know more, they would have told you! The absence of clues toward a particular decision is a clue that you should NOT be moving in that direction.

  12. It is unwise to devote excessive time and energy to a difficult question. Mark difficult questions and return to them after you have gone through the entire test.

  13. Consider bringing Tylenol and Ibuprofen for muscle aches or headaches.

  14. Remember to underline key words.

  15. The test writers love the “thoughtless trap.” For example, they will give you a patient with colon CA that needs an operation, but they will also mention the patient had an MI last week. You have to factor the MI into your decision. Read the questions carefully: there is usually more than enough time.

  16. Remember, the ABSITE is an endurance test. Pace yourself wisely and take a short break if necessary to get back on track.

  17. They want you to get it right! Only a handful of questions are designed to separate out the 99th percentile from the 98th percentile. Most of the questions on the senior exam are basic management decisions with most of the clues pointing you in one direction.

Dale A. Dangleben, MD, FACS
James Lee, MD
Firas Madbak, MD
Courtney Edwards, MD

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