It’s no surprise that the ABR decided to delay the core exam. For years, they were unwilling to go virtual, even before Covid, claiming they needed their computers at the RSNA to give an appropriate “image-rich” examination. And, then, of course, they were not prepared at all when the Covid disaster struck. How do you force over a thousand residents to go to Tuscon or Chicago to take an exam amid Covid? In any case, now, this is water under the bridge. So, what are the real consequences to the current fourth-year residents of postponing the core exam? Will the damage be permanent? Here are some of my thoughts on this issue.
Less Time For Mini-Fellowship Studies
Mini-fellowships have been all the rage since the conversion from the oral boards to the core exam. One reason for this change was more time for residents to dedicate toward more independent learning during the final year. No longer did they need to study for a board exam at the end of the fourth year. Well, now this has mostly changed. Since the examination will be in February, you lose most of your fourth year for studying for the core exam again. (almost like the good old days of the oral boards.) Likewise, the time residents can concentrate on subspecialization without worrying about an exam will suffer.
More Time Spent On Learning Facts Of Equivocal Utility
It’s taken eons to get to the point I am today. I have spent years trimming the useless radiology facts from my brain and concentrating on what is critical. Now, the residents will begin this process a bit later than before. They will regurgitate some of the less useful information at the expense of the critical information needed to become a practical radiologist for several additional months. It’s having completed the core exam that would have allowed this process to begin earlier.
Postponing The Core Exam Will Cause A More Anxiety Filled Year
Residents will continue to spend the majority of this year in the “what-if” phase. What do I mean? They will continuously think about what will happen if they don’t pass the examination. A clear, calm head is much more conducive to enjoying the experience of residency. Test-taking prevents the settling down process.
Less Time For Gearing Up For Fellowship
Some residents like to begin to get ready for their next phase of training. That may mean reading a bit extra on their favorite subspecialty. Or, they may spend time practicing the nuances of bone biopsies if they are going into MSK. Now, residents will be less apt to increase their experiences in their future areas of interest. It’s much harder to concentrate on other topics when a test looms ahead of you.
Missing Out On The Full Fourth Year Experience (It’s Now A Four-Month Experience)
Finally, residents no longer receive the authentic fourth-year experience (However, I never had that as I studied for the oral boards!). It was kind of like an unwritten promise that you will have a great last year if you complete and pass the core examination. Now, it is back to the grind for the majority of the year.
Postponing The Core Exam: Is It The End Of The World?
The short one-word answer to this question is NO! However, for every action, there is a consequence. And postponement of the exam is no exception. After a tough three years, it is a bit of a slap in the face for residents. Many of you have paid to have a great fourth year of residency with blood, tears, and sweat (literally!), working diligently during your training. “Fourth-year” will now only last a few months after the exam.
Nevertheless, remember, in the end, all of you will still become radiologists. Life always throws a few curveballs. And, your residency will become no more than distant memory soon enough!