Okay, I can’t resist. Since I used to be a Magician – “Pick a module, any module, don’t let me see which one.”
If you are right out of training and your residency included Obstetrics and a lot of hospital rotations, you might actually be able to pass any module you choose. But if you have been in practice for a while, and your interests have narrowed, then your knowledge base has probably narrowed as well. If this is the case, picking the right module may make the difference between passing and failing your board exam.
Candidates used to pick two different modules, but now it is only one. That module still counts for an important 13% of your total score. I like to treat the module as a mini board exam. I try to pick something I am the most passionate about in my practice and want to be the best at. I use this as an opportunity to hone and fine-tune my skills so that, by the time I’m done studying, I’m completely up to date in that area and have the most sophisticated knowledge to offer my patience in the areas that are the focus of my practice.
Having sat on committees that reviewed the entire Board Exam, I can tell you that the more difficult questions in an area are often shunted into the module. It is not just a higher volume of questions in that area, but they are questions that require a greater degree of depth and sophistication to do well on the module exam you choose.
Here is my crisp summary of the module choices. See which ones resonate most with your practice and your interests:
Ambulatory: The ambulatory module includes a wide spectrum of outpatient clinical practice. Many people take the module, so there’s a lot of competition for the top scores, but also a buffer at the bottom end of the range. There is also a lot of breadth, which makes it very difficult to study the whole area if you have not been practicing general medicine for a while. If, on the other hand, you practice in the outpatient setting and see a wide variety of patients, much of this knowledge will be at your fingertips.
Geriatrics – The geriatrics module is great for people who have a CAQ in geriatrics. The questions often emphasized answers that are right in geriatrics and wrong in younger, general adult internal medicine type patients. For this reason, it’s important that your practice focus on, or your interests focus on, geriatric patients, as opposed to internal medicine, to do well in this module.
Sports Medicine – This is another module where a CAQ will come in handy. The sports medicine module focuses at a level of depth above standard orthopedic and musculoskeletal knowledge in family medicine. Hence, the people who do well in this tend to be those whose practice has a strong focus in sports medicine.
Women’s Health – This is the GYN module. This module is interesting in that it contains a lot of material, beyond pap smears, with in-depth knowledge of some endocrinology and infectious diseases as well. Although the knowledge-depth level needed is high, the total amount of material is lower, making it something you can study in detail if you dedicate the time.
Pediatrics – Pediatrics is another area in which the module requires significant depth and understanding of the uniqueness of pediatric patients in terms of growth and development parameters. The natural history of disease and condition specific to the pediatric population is also important.
Urgent / Emergent – Urgent Care is somewhat of a misnomer; although it does include standard outpatient urgent care practice, there is also a significant amount of emergency room level intensity life and death knowledge needed. If you just practice urgent care and want to take this module, you should study extra for the ER-type questions.
Hospital Medicine – This module is clearly for people who practice in the inpatient setting. Many of the questions are things that will be unfamiliar to people whose practice has not recently or does not ever, include current participation in moderately-intensive inpatient care.
Let your practice and your passion dictate the module you choose. Use it as a way to enhance your knowledge in your areas of interest, to re-dedicate yourself and your enthusiasm to the practice of medicine.