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  1. A good night’s sleep before exams brings renewed spirit and concentration to complete the task.

  2. Simple meditation or yoga on the morning of the exam can help with stress and anxiety release and promote focus.

  3. Do not carb-load for breakfast because you may crash and get fatigued during the exam, so balance it out.

  4. It is not a one-night preparation, nor one week, nor one month. It is a continuous year-round schedule.

  5. Do not second-guess yourself.

  6. Do not choose an answer because you have not heard of it.

  7. There is no 100% item on test. Each year a pattern is seen: some commonly asked questions do not show up, but common things are common. You have to know the basics.

  8. Do not overthink the questions. Keep it simple.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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.

  12. Don’t get bogged down by wordy or long questions. Often the last sentence or 2 tells the primary question being asked.

  13. 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 operating room, never send an unstable patient to the CT scanner, and always remember to differentiate sick patients from nonsick patients.

  14. “Get to 2”: these exams are usually about narrowing down the answers to 2 likely choices. Then go back to look for the clues to sort out these final options.

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

  16. As noted in tip #9, 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.

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

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

  19. 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.

  20. Consider bringing Tylenol and ibuprofen for muscle aches or headaches.

  21. The test writers love the “thoughtless trap.” For example, they will give you a patient with colon cancer who 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.

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

  23. They want you to get it right! Only a handful of questions are designed to separate out the ninety-ninth percentile from the ninety-eighth percentile.

Dale A. Dangleben, MD, FACS
Firas G. Madbak, MD

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