Reducing Exam Anxiety
Although a closed book examination can elicit anxiety, a better understanding of the examination and the types of questions on the examination can help allay that anxiety. As a result, the ABIM is committed to increasing communication about the examination to recertification candidates, and to clarifying what are sometimes misconceptions about the examination.
An important point of clarification is that the maintenance of certification examination is different from the examination used for certification of residents who have recently completed housestaff training. Residents typically are exposed to specialized types of inpatient problems that are primarily handled by subspecialists, and are therefore not part of the “core” practice or experiences that cut across general internal medicine as well as most subspecialties. Therefore, the maintenance of certification examination focuses on topics that are relevant and of clinical importance to all internists. At the same time, the maintenance of certification examination questions are designed to test clinical judgment, not recall of obscure facts. A Board-certified clinician should be able to answer these questions without using additional resources, since the questions are testing judgment rather than factual recall.
The pass rate for the examination is generally approximately 89 percent on the first try, whereas approximately 97 percent of candidates ultimately pass the maintenance of certification examination. The passing score is set as an absolute threshold, and is not based on a curve. Thus, there is no intent to fail a specified percentage of candidates taking the examination.
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