My youthful obsessions included an unhealthy focus on grades and test scores. In the fierce competition for high school valedictorian, I lost out to a girl who was blithely unaware of the contest. In bed at night, I’d berate myself for silly mistakes I made on tests. When it came to the SATs, I was consumed by impatience as I waited for the mailman to bring the results. The obsessions persisted into college as I stalked the halls of a campus building where grades were posted on a wall at the end of each semester, identified by social security number.
Thankfully for my mental health, and for my friends and family, I ultimately saw grades for what they were- not as summary judgments but as sources of feedback. My obsession with grades made it hard for me to love learning, but when I began to see grades as learning opportunities—how to focus my studies, how to write more precisely, how to think more critically—I began to really fall in love with school. And, miracle of miracles, the good grades followed. I write this just as the ABIM test results and ITE scores have arrived. Happily the news is good: so far, all the graduates I’ve checked with passed the Boards, and we did well overall on the ITE. The love of learning seems to be paying off.
In the days ahead, our Registrar, Nicole Potter, will prepare score packets for those of you who took the ITE. The packets will include your raw score and your percentile by PGY class. You will also get a detailed analysis of your performance in specific subject areas, which will help you target your studying.
As a reminder, unlike the ABIM exam, the ITE is low stakes; it has no impact on promotion or graduation. We also know that some of you experienced computer malfunctions this year, which may affect some scores. We will take this issue into account when reviewing scores, but the impact in most cases should be modest- it would be a mistake to discount the important information the test provides.
Here's how we recommend interpreting your scores:
- >70th percentile: Your approach to studying is working. You may identify some areas needing attention, but you should continue your current plan and be confident that you will ultimately pass the Boards without difficulty. If you’re a PGY2, you don’t have to take the ITE again next year (congratulations!). Just keep doing what you’re doing.
- 40th-69th percentile: Look carefully at your detailed score report; there will almost certainly be areas needing more attention. Ask yourself if you’re spending enough time reading and taking practice tests. You’re probably on target to pass the Boards, but if you haven’t done so already, you should map out a study plan. Your APD-Advisors would be happy to discuss study strategies with you.
- <40th percentile: There are likely global subject areas that need attention. If you’re in this range, your APD-Advisor will be in touch with you to review the results and we will likely refer you to Dr. Jack Contessa, an exceptional Education Specialist in the GME office, for a consultation. With a score in this range, you will need to change your study strategy to pass the Boards.
The good news is that almost all our residents ultimately do well on high stakes exams, including those who’ve needed extra support along the way. When it comes to the ITE and the ABIM exam, doing well is no mystery- they’re knowledge exams and good scores come with studying. Many residents raised their scores dramatically this year after collaborating with their advisors and Dr. Contessa.
So here’s the last word from a veteran test taker: It’s ultimately not about the score. Exams help us gauge how well-prepared we are to care for our patients- to ask the right questions, to make diagnoses, and to implement treatments. Studying isn’t a chore when you immerse yourself in the joy of medical science. To know medicine is to love it, but like all true loves, you have to invest the time and effort. Good grades will follow.
Enjoy your Sunday, everyone,
PS For those of you who just can’t wait to get your test result, your APD can give you the raw score and percentile.
PPS thank you to everyone who sent me pictures for our interview slide show! I wish I could show them, but the file's too big!