EM Boards Survival Guide: How To Best Prepare for Your Emergency Medicine Board Exams

Kelly SeagravesEmergency Medicine, Personal Education

Med-Challenger, Med-Challenger EM, Emergency Medicine Board Review, EM Boards Study Tips, EM Board Exam, pass ABEM

Emergency Medicine Board Exams Survival Guide


Med-Challenger, Online Board Review, Confused Doctor, Questioning Doctor

It’s time to prepare for emergency medicine boards, and you’re wondering where to begin … Let us help you with that! This fast and dirty emergency medicine study guide is full of tips, tricks, and valuable insight into the art of emergency medicine board prep and the inner-workings of the exam itself. After all, this is the only thing standing between you and your new career.

While grasping the full magnitude of this implication may be overwhelming at first, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There are many resources available to guide you towards success. You can do this!

1. Review Courses: Your New Best Friend

You’d never wander aimlessly into a vast and unfamiliar forest alone without a guide, would you? It stands to reason that same logic should be applied to board prep. Do yourself a huge favor – find a solid review course. A thorough review course will help you learn how to handle the applied knowledge questions, and offer structure and organization you may otherwise lack as you embark on the perilous journey of preparing for upcoming exams. Simplifying the process in this way will help you feel less overwhelmed, relieve stress, and ultimately power through and absorb more of what you need to know in less time.

2. Schedule Study Time & Stick To It

Don’t let your exam date creep up on you, lest you find yourself panicking through a desperate, last-minute cram session. You’d be surprised how painless exam prep can be if you get started early and set reasonable goals.

First, take the time to assess the content you need to cover, and portion it out into manageable increments. Once you’ve grasped the breadth of the material, schedule times throughout your day dedicated solely to the topics and sections you’ve chosen to focus on. Setting a strict schedule and mapping out a plan of attack from the get-go will not only help you manage time and stress, it also ensures that you cover all relevant material.

3. Set the Bar High

Never expect to get by knowing only the bare minimum. Hard stop. Certainly you did not decide to pursue such an ambitious, esteemed career to remain unremarkably average. In times of stress, you don’t rise to the occasion – you fall to your highest level of preparation. You must challenge yourself. Know more than you must know to scrape by – know enough to go above and beyond what is expected of you. That having been said, this tip leads seamlessly into my next …

4. Leave No Stone Unturned – Study Everything!

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. While that thought may seem a bit melodramatic, there is immense wisdom in it, especially when preparing for EM boards. Never omit any content from your studies in the hopes it won’t be covered in the exam. More than likely, it will. Work your way through the entirety of your study material. Prioritize subjects you’re less confident in, but don’t completely neglect those you feel you’ve already grasped. Take time to double-check yourself. Something you thought you knew but didn’t just might sneak up on you.

5. Focus on Your Weak Areas

Let’s be honest – we all suck at something. Don’t fool yourself into believing you’re covering some serious ground when you’re really just breezing through things you’re already competent in.

Consider leaning on an adaptive assessment / prescriptive learning platform. With adaptive learning, not only are you assured to properly utilize all materials available, your time is spent exactly where it needs to be spent with every use, thereby producing a more effective individual review, with no wasted value, all in less time.

6. Technology is a Large Part of the Board Exams

Medical board exams are usually conducted on computers, and aren’t merely a set of questions you answer. The old multiple choice, paper-based exam days are over, and simply knowing the answer is not enough. You will need to demonstrate that you know how the answer to a question is applied in a clinical environment.

Know that your exam will require you to analyze different forms of media, which you must interpret and integrate into the Q&A process as a whole. For example, you may be presented with an audio clip of lung or heart sounds, or a video of a patient describing their ails. You have to correctly evaluate what the patient’s symptoms or the sounds mean. Knowing this going in may help you better understand the complex landscape of the exam and what to focus on while you prepare.

7. Self-Care is Essential

Preparing for EM boards will push you to your limits – you will be stressed, burnt out, and oftentimes exhausted. But like they say: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. In the long run, it won’t do you any good to sacrifice your physical and mental well-being.

At least every 3 hours, allow yourself a break to relax and unwind. Stay hydrated throughout the day. Remember to eat and nourish your body with healthy meal options. Exercise will help maintain healthy circulation and oxygenation to your brain. Take some time to meditate. And perhaps most importantly, maintain a healthy sleep schedule, especially the week before your exam.

8. Be Ready Day-Of

So you wake up the morning of your exam and realize, “Wait a minute … I have no idea where I’m supposed to be!” Scenarios such as this are exactly why I highly recommend visiting the test-taking facility beforehand. This is guaranteed to set you at ease, as familiarity gives you the upper hand. Speak to those in charge and ask questions. Learn the ropes. And keep in mind: Security will be tight – almost like passing through a TSA checkpoint at the airport. Be familiar with what you are and are not allowed to bring with you and plan accordingly. You will want to minimize surprises at all costs on exam day. The earlier you run damage control, the better.

9. The Board Exam has Time Limits

When the clock is ticking, it can be hard to think clearly. Tick, tock, tick, tock – it mocks you. It’s enough to give even the most hardened test-taker major anxiety. However, this is intentional. Timed exams remind us that decisions on medical care must often be made accurately & on the spot.

Taking timed practice tests during study sessions will help get you warmed-up to the mandatory time requirements of the exam. Again, I must recommend a review course. There is much to be gleaned from review courses that offer timed exam simulations, such as Med-Challenger’s Emergency Medicine Review Course.

In Conclusion …


We understand the pressure you’re surely experiencing knowing the fate of your future career rests on a comprehensive understanding of challenging exam material and peak test performance. Here’s the bottom line: You need to ace this exam, & we at Med-Challenger can make that happen. Our Emergency Medicine Board Review Course has everything you need to practice the various test scenarios you will face during your exam. Begin your full free trial today!


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