Tools and Tips for Rocking Your Rotation Exams
Clinical rotations are exciting—finally you get to practice what you’ve spent all of didactic year learning about! But, they also come with their own challenges: the PAEA End of Rotation™ Exams (EOR™). I have completed three rotations thus far into my clinical year: women’s health, general surgery, and internal medicine. I passed all three of the rotation exams, and hopefully my study tactics can help you!
Figure out your study environment
I need relaxing surroundings so I can effectively study, which usually means being in my bedroom or a coffee shop. If I really need to focus, I prefer the solitude of my own home, but if I’m looking for a more casual environment, I make myself comfortable in a coffee shop at a small table with a latté. If you didn’t pin down a favorite study location during didactic year, it’s time to figure out your optimal learning environment. It can be a library, a park, or your own couch, as long as you can fully focus. But, you shouldn’t save all of your studying for outside of clinic. Always bring your laptop and textbooks with you in case you have downtime between patients.
Make sure to review
When I begin a new rotation, I review the basic necessary information I’ll need to know. For women’s health, I reviewed the anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive system. For general surgery, I freshened up on overall anatomy and physiology using Atlas of Human Anatomy by Frank Netter.
Throughout all three of my rotations, I studied and read each day (30 min to 1 hour for women’s health and general surgery, 1 to 2 hours for internal medicine because it’s so broad). I used PANCE Prep Pearls by Dwayne Williams, the Step-Up series textbooks, and UpToDate to read about things I saw in the clinic. But, I never exceeded more than three main concepts per day. Limiting the concepts I studied meant I mastered one concept at a time instead of overloading my brain with information I would inevitably forget. This is especially important for internal medicine. For my internal medicine rotation, I split my studying into systems (e.g., cardiovascular, hematological, infectious disease) and completed two to three systems each week of my six-week rotation.
Try watching videos
If you’re a visual learner, videos can be incredibly helpful. For women’s health, I watched Khan Academy videos, which helped me understand the complexity of the uterine and ovarian cycles in women, as well as the associated hormone levels. Then, to make sure I fully grasped the anatomy and physiology, I took free online quizzes about the main concepts of the female reproductive system before learning about abnormalities.
For general surgery, because surgery is difficult to learn from a textbook, I watched procedures on YouTube (who knew?). I also used apps on my phone (like Gastro Ex) that simulate actual procedures, such as working a colonoscope or performing polypectomies via wire loop or forceps. Having a basic grasp of these skills was extremely beneficial when I had to transfer them to a real-life clinical setting. My preceptor commented on my efficiency using endoscopes, which I attribute to practicing with Gastro Ex and watching YouTube videos.
Listen to podcasts
For all you auditory learners, make sure you always have headphones with you. When I go to coffee shops and on my drives to clinic in the morning, I listen to the Physician Assistant Exam Review podcast. Each episode begins with several questions that make you think about the content. Focus on episodes that cover areas you feel deficient in to glean information you might not get elsewhere. This podcast was especially helpful for my internal medicine rotation. It covers many topics commonly seen in clinic that require a thorough understanding to successfully care for, such as rheumatologic conditions, COPD, and coronary artery disease.
Use a question bank
I used Rosh Review’s Boost Exams in “tutor mode” to create study guides for each of my rotations. This mode gives detailed explanations for each correct and incorrect answer, as well as helpful illustrations. Before studying with Rosh Review, I created a Word document and copy and pasted the PAEA blueprint and topic list terms for each EOR™. I then worked through the boost exam and noticed the Rosh Review questions aligned with the topic list terms. I wrote a summary of each term based on the boost exam answer explanations and the readings I did from textbooks, my notes from didactic year, and UpToDate.
My women’s health study guide was 38 pages long, and it helped me understand issues I saw daily during clinical rotation. It also helped me correctly answer “pimp” questions from my preceptor. My general surgery study guide was 40 pages long, and it similarly helped me understand what I saw every day and helped me answer my preceptor’s questions. Note that you need an exceptional foundation in anatomy and physiology for this rotation, so if these aren’t your strong points you’ll have to put in extra study time. For my internal medicine study guide, because the topic is so broad, the guide was 115 pages long! The topic list is more extensive than previous rotations, with approximately 191 terms that were critical to grasp. This actually worked out well because it aligned nicely with my next rotation, family medicine, which includes many of the same foundations.
After completing the study guide, I repeated the boost exam in test mode (which doesn’t include the explanations), and I saw my score significantly improve. The boost exams gave me the confidence that I would do well on each rotation exam. I walked in feeling extremely prepared, which was reflected in my grade each time.
I did well on each of my rotation exams (94% in women’s health!), and I could not have done it without Rosh Review. An effective study pattern is essential for these exams, as well as in the clinical setting, and I will continue to utilize it for my subsequent rotations.
Make sure to review your material, figure out the types of studying that work best for you, and put in the work. You’ll do great!
Learn more about Rosh Review’s Physician Assistant Qbanks.
Rock Your Rotation Exam series shares the experiences, insights, and perspectives of PA students preparing for their rotation exams. The goal of the series is to provide you with actionable information and key takeaways to help you not only prepare for, but to excel on your rotation exams.
Rosh Review, LLC is not sponsored or endorsed by, or affiliated with, the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) or the End of Rotation™ Exam (EOR™). All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
You may also be interested in these blogs:
How to Rock Your Clinical Rotations and End of Your Rotation Exams
The Exam Writer’s Strategy That Test Takers Don’t Know About (But Should)
Pummel the PANCE blog series