How to Prepare for the CREOGs…Even During Coronavirus
This unprecedented time in history is also an unprecedented time in your education as a resident. I took my first CREOG exam just a few months ago and although the world has changed a lot since then, I also know that once it goes back to normal, I’ll have to start thinking about studying again. In the free time afforded to me by various stay-at-home orders and social quarantines regarding coronavirus, I’ve had some time to reflect on best studying practices. What better time than now to devise a study plan for next year or even spruce up on some topics that may not have gone well in the last exams?
Four dos and don’ts for CREOG studying
Do: Learn from your patients
As an intern, every patient seemed to hold some secret of medicine that was previously undiscovered. A perfectly healthy pregnant woman with an elevated blood pressure today and two weeks ago came into triage. Did this constitute a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy? Eight months later, this question seems obvious to me. But the way I learned was by pulling up ACOG practice bulletins on the fly. If there wasn’t enough time to look up practice bulletins and committee opinions while seeing patients (and when is there ever enough time?), I would pick a topic to read about that night before leaving the hospital. The more patients that came back with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (hint: that patient above did have one), the better I remembered Practice Bulletin No. 202: Gestational Hypertension and Preeclampsia.
Don’t: Pressure yourself to read every night
This may be controversial and even in direct contrast to what your program directors have told you. But the truth is that residency is really hard and the likelihood that you actually manage to read even five pages of Williams every night is extremely low. It’s important to read when you have a clinical question—and this may happen every day. But if you try to keep up with an unrealistic study schedule, you’ll feel discouraged and might give up. Remember, OB/GYN is what you really want to do with your life, so learning more about it should be enriching, not a chore.
Do: Break up studying into chunks
Set discrete amounts of time for your study schedule by breaking it up in a number of ways. What might this look like?
- Get through 10 practice questions a day, regardless of how long that takes
- Read 3 practice bulletins a week
- Dedicate 1 hour a week to practice questions
- Pick a topic to master and put the books down once you feel a strong command over the subject
There are lots of ways to divide and conquer the material, and you should find the one that is best suited to you personally. This can help make the studying feel less overwhelming but also will help you meet your goal, whatever that may be.
Don’t: Cram the night before
There are a LOT of subjects covered in CREOGs. It’s impossible to cover or even touch upon all of them the night before. Chances are your residency schedule means that you’ll be working either the night or day before you sit for these exams, which means you’ll already be tired. Better not lose even more sleep. I know you’ve been told this countless times before and maybe some cramming got you by in med school. But this exam requires you to rely more on your rote knowledge—knowledge you’ve built up in the months of actually practicing medicine—rather than what you could have read in a textbook the night before.
Do: Use lots of different resources
In grade school, we were taught that some people are visual learners, some are aural learners, some learn by doing, and some learn by teaching. The truth is that we all learn from each of these things, to varying degrees. The bulk of your studying will come from treating patients (as it should), but this should be supplemented with reading ACOG practice bulletins and committee opinions, teaching medical students, and doing practice questions. Question banks with comprehensive explanations will be your best bet, and there are many options out there. I’m a question writer for Rosh Review, so I know our OB/GYN Qbank focuses on topics that will be on CREOGs, and explanations are drawn primarily from ACOG resources. Answer explanations are highlighted and easy to read, and there’s always a bonus “One Step Further” question that’s perfect to mention to that attending who always pimps you in the operating room.
Don’t: Rely on others to teach you
Of course your program has built-in didactics and dedicated attendings, nurses, and chief residents who want to provide you with the best education. Not relying on others doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to or participate in these things. It means that you are responsible for obtaining the most up-to-date information and committing it to memory. Your educators are also health care providers, and this may sometimes trump your education. More importantly, some of us work at community hospitals where the latest science is not always what’s in practice. So take matters into your own hands—both for your CREOG score and for the benefit of your patients—and study independently.
Do: Lots of practice questions
Earlier, I talked about using all of the different resources available to you. But since I’m a practice question writer, it should come as no surprise that my strongest study recommendation is to do lots and lots of practice questions! I took a job writing practice questions because doing questions is the way that I learn best—always was and still is. When you answer a question you are participating in active learning, and this allows you to form more solid memories about the subject being tested. Practice questions also provide a way to track your progress: are you getting better the more that you do, or is your average the same? Should you go back and review old questions or focus on new ones yet to come? Whichever question bank you choose, I recommend one that provides a way to track your progress, compares your progress to your peers, and also gives you a percent likelihood of passing your exam. These extras are what make Rosh Review my favorite question bank (and employer!).
Don’t: Forget to review tough topics
My Achilles’ heel is betamethasone. I can never remember at which gestational ages betamethasone should be given, and the term “rescue steroids” makes my head spin. This is a topic I have to review over and over again, both on the wards and before I take my exams. I’m sure you have a similar topic that sticks in your craw, and these topics are exactly what should be re-examined every now and then. You might make a list of difficult subjects and review them all again at the end of each week, removing the ones that eventually seem rote. Or maybe your senior resident has asked you to present on a topic for didactic learning—choose your toughest topic! Regardless of how you do it, it’s important to review those subjects rather than assume they won’t be tested (or, worse, that you won’t encounter them in your practice). Eventually, you’ll forget why you found them so challenging in the first place.
I hope these tips and tricks will prove useful to you as you consider your study schedules. Please remember to stay safe, stay at home, and stay sane in these wild times. We are all lucky to have you as health care providers!