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Breakfast of Champions

September 03, 2017
by Mark David Siegel

Hi everyone:

Whenever someone in our family has a big test to take- whether it's the SATs or the boards- Heide concocts a "breakfast of champions:" eggs, hash browns, sausage, OJ, and coffee. A full stomach fuels us for success.

Most of you have just taken or are about to take the In-Training Exam or "ITE." Compared to the boards and SATs, the ITEs are low stakes, but we take the results seriously because they gauge your fund-of-knowledge and predict how you're likely to do on the boards. So yes, you need to eat a good breakfast for this test too.

Most of you should exceed the 50th percentile on the ITE and, preferably, exceed the 75th. Beyond the 50th percentile, you can be reasonably sure you'll pass the boards. If you exceed the 75th, you'll know you're well-positioned to function as an elite clinician, ask the right questions, and create thoughtful differential diagnoses.

Remember the difference between the percentage of questions answered correctly and your percentile. For a PGY2, the 50th percentile correlates with answering ~2/3 of the questions correctly and the 75th percentile correlates with getting ~3/4 correct. A few of our residents have scored in the 100th percentile, which correlates with 90% right.

Your scores will provide insight into your strengths and weaknesses. If you exceed the 75th percentile, your study plan is working well and you should continue what you're doing. If you're between the 50th and 75th, you'll find holes to fill with targeted studying.

If you score below the 50th percentile, don't despair. First, we don't use the ITE to make decisions about promotion or graduation. Second, we know that each of you can do well on future ITEs and the boards if you commit yourself to an effective study plan. Low scores usually reflect an inadequate strategy, for example using review materials such as MKSAP haphazardly. Less commonly we identify problems such as dyslexia, test anxiety, or other test-taking challenges. If your score is low, your advisor will reach out to you to discuss the results and work with you to find resources to help you do better next time.

There's obviously more to being a successful physician than scoring well on tests. You need to communicate clearly, listen well, reason logically, and act professionally. You need to be clear-headed, reliable, self-motivated, honest, and compassionate. But having said that, you also need a deep fund-of-medical knowledge and the ITE is an accurate gauge.

So good luck to all of you. Wear comfortable clothes, stretch between sessions, pay close attention to the questions, and eat a good breakfast. Every one of you has the potential to be a champion.


PS We're in Lancaster County, PA this weekend. Yesterday we visited the Hershey Museum and today we're headed to Dutch Wonderland before we drop Isabella off at Haverford for her fall semester and begin the long ride home.


Submitted by Mark David Siegel on September 03, 2017