What The Core Exam Low Pass Rate Does Not Tell Us About This Year’s Test Takers!
In residency programs throughout the country, you don’t need to go far before you hear some chatter about the low pass rate on the core exam and the change from years before. And, then, you take a look at the article on Aunt Minnie, with headlines stating, the ‘fail’ rate is rising. Or, you check out a forum or two or social media, as they rail against the exam and the test takers. It’s no wonder that many residents are on edge. I know that at my residency, the buzz is palpable.
Similar to other years, I have seen sketchy opinions about this year’s exam and misguided words about the residents who took the exam this year. But, given the increased failure rate, these statements weigh more on the residents who have taken the exam. And, unfortunately, many of the assumptions and statements made about this class of residents taking the exam and the test itself are entirely off-base. So, I aim to dispel any misconceptions by telling you what you should not assume about this group of test-takers and the core exam. Here are some of the more common ones!
This Group Of Test Takers Are Not As Smart
I know many residents who took the exam this year. And, although more residents had trouble passing the boards this year, these residents are just as intelligent as others. Perhaps, many are not great test-takers (reflected in the USMLE board scores used for admission to residency). But, by no means, are they going to make radiologists that are inferior to any other year.
Moreover, residents throughout the country in this class practice radiology competently as judged by faculty, chairman, and program directors. This judgment is in spite of the board score results. So, instead, I am forced to fault the exam itself, and some of the reported esoterica and minutia tested, not the folks taking the exam.
They Are Lazy
The residents of the class who just took these boards have worked very hard, if not harder than in years past. In my program, some of these residents are the best since I started. Indeed, they have studied very hard for the board examination. But, by no means, should anyone call them lazy!
They Have Been Targeted To Fail The Boards
No, no, and again no. The ABR does not seek to fail more of any particular class in general; however, misguided any exam may be. Instead, I believe they have created a test that does not measure what it claims, minimum competency to practice radiology. The ABR did not specifically target this residency class taking this particular test.
There is No Way To Predict Who Will Pass The Boards
Interestingly enough, the Radexam pre-core exam did predict the outcome of the core exam results very well. Percentages on our pre-core Radexam mirrored the real exam almost perfectly. At least in my residency, it turns out that this test is far superior to the old in-service examination. I would love to hear the experience of other institutions as well since the Radexam is so new. Based on our experience, we will continue to take it more seriously. We will do so to make sure that residents have studied enough (and the right way) to pass the core examination.
Low Pass Rate And The Residents Taking The Exam
An exam is only as good as the material it tests. And, competent residents who perform well in my residency tell me about the many esoteric questions and minutia on it. Therefore, I squarely place the blame of the low pass rate on the core exam, and not the residents taking the examination. As I’ve written before, it’s time to start reworking the test and its questions. We need to change the material tested so that residents will remember useful content for years to come, not just spit empty facts on an examination and quickly forget.
And just as importantly, let’s stop putting all the blame on the residents taking the exam. Based on the judgments of our faculty, we already know that they are competent and will make great radiologists. We do not need a faulty test to tell us otherwise!