This page is for sharing pathology study and board preparation materials and study strategies. For legal reasons, please do not post specific board rememberances on the wiki; however, general advice and suggestions in regards to which study resources to use or what general topics to focus on are welcome.
Disclaimer: All information posted on this wiki represents the views of individual users and does not in any way represent the views or suggestions of the College of American Pathologists.
Board Examinations 101- Content and Registration
Registration for Pathology Board Exam
- Registration must be completed online at the American Board of Pathology.
- $2200 for AP/CP combined exam, $1800 each for CP and AP taken as separate exams.
- Effective for 2010 examinations, all candidates for combined primary and subspecialty examinations (e.g., AP and NP) will complete separate application and registration forms and pay $1800 for each examination.
- Deadline for registration is usually early to mid January. See the ABP Exam Dates webpage for the official deadlines.
- Remember that you must have completed your 50 autopsies PRIOR to submitting your application for the board exam! That means you must have all 50 by December of your PGY-4 year, not by the end of your PGY-4 year. Also, it is HIGHLY advised that you keep your autopsy case log up to date on ACGME.org, as you will need to submit a list of all of your autopsies when you apply for the board exam. Each autopsy case should have the following info: sex, age, major pathological diagnoses, limitations (full, brain only, heart and lungs only, etc). Avoid abbreviations and do not list case numbers or any patient identifiers. By keeping your autopsy log organized and up to date from the start, you will save a TON of last minute work when you are rushing to get your board application ready!
- General info about the format and administration of the Board Exam can be found at the ABP Website. A summary of the important details is listed here. Please ALWAYS refer to the ABP website for the official, accurate, and up-to-date information regarding the Board Exam. Excerpts below are taken from the ABP General Description of Exams pdf.
Section - Questions (Time)
Written: 141 questions (2.25 hours)
Practical: Images - 108 questions (1.75 hours)
Practical: Microscopic/Virtual - 50/26 questions (3.5 hours) Material Tested:
- 70% - "pathology of specific organ systems or multi-system disease"
- 30% - "general pathology and laboratory management"
- Heme path and molecular path account for about 10-15% of the AP exam
- Note: EM images for Medical-Renal only; some solid tumor questions may reference EM findings but will not be straight ID from an EM image (per B. Bennett at USCAP 2012)
Section - Questions (Time)
Written - 130 questions (2 hours)
Practical - 110 questions (3.25 hours)
Practical with Images - 120 questions (2 hours) Material Tested:
- "Questions related to laboratory management and medical microscopy make up 10-15% of the total examination."
- "The remainder of the examination is roughly equally divided between blood banking/transfusion medicine, chemical pathology, hematology, and medical microbiology."
- "Questions on molecular pathology are included in all content areas of the examination and account for 10-15% of the examination."
The information below is quoted from a presentation given by the Residents Forum Executive Committee during the Spring 2010 meeting. The information was derived from the AOBPa's website, and discussion with the Chairman and Director of the AOBPa. The AOBPa is n active organization within the American Osteopathic Association, with approximately 180 members.
Board-certifies Osteopathic Physcians (D.O.):
- Anatomic Pathology
- Forensic Pathology
- Laboratory Medicine (CP)
- Also available: Certifcation of Added Qualifications in Dermatopathology
The exams are held anually in conjuction with the AOA meeting (2011: Oct 29-30 in Orlando, FL): Approximately 1-2 individuals sit for the boards each year.
- Completion of an AOA-approved residency program
- Completion of an AOA-approved internship
- Member in good standing of the AOA
- Has been accepted as board-eligible by the appropriate specialty board
- Has an unrestricted license in the state or territory where he/she practices
- Is a graduate of an AOA-approved College of Osteopathic Medicine
Specialty training Requirements:
- AP- 3 years
- CP- 3 years
- AP/CP- 4 years
- AP/Forensics- 4 years (2 years AP + 2 years Forensic or 3 years AP + 1 year Forensic)
Application and Fees:
"The examination process consists of written multiple choice/matching examinations, practical written multiplechoice/matching examination, and oral examination. Failure to achieve a final passing grade in any part of the examination shall require the applicant to be reexamined in all parts regardless of the scoring on any individual part of the examination"
- Application deadline for 2011: Friday, July 22
- Application Fee: $50.00 (required per application)
- Written: $600.00
- Practical: $600.00
- Oral: $600.00
- All 3 Components: $1,800.00
- Any two full-component examinations: $3,000.00 (i.e. AP and CP)
The Insider's Scoop:
The AOBPa is equally accredited at all institutions in the USA. There is no need to take both the ABP and AOBPa examinations. If for some reason the institution has a problem with the credentials, the AOBPa will interceed on the physician's behalf.
If one has goals of teaching or working in an Osteopathic institution or being involved in the upper ranks of the AOA, one would have to be certified through the AOBPa.
Many subspeciaties cannot be certified through the AOBPa, including Transfusion Medicine, Microbiology, Cytology, Hematopathology and Molecular Pathology. If you desire certification in one of these areas, you must take the pathway of the ABP at this time.
The oral component may seem daunting, but is designed to ask more recent questions (since questions are not updated as often due to so few test takers). The basic idea is, "Here is your clinical scenario, what would you do?" and can be something of a dialogue between you and the evaluator.
There are Osteopathic questions on the exam, but they are geared towards philosophy, so you won't need to crack out your green book to refresh on sacrum.
For More Information:
- E-Mail: email@example.com
- Website: http://www.aobpath.org
Studying for Board Exams
Board Review Courses (alphabetical order)
Been to a review course? Share your thoughts here (worth it or not)?
- "Excellent and thorough."
- "I wish I had attended this sooner like during my 2nd or 3rd year."
- "ASCP review course was very helpful to attend, but the questions they provied for review were lacking."
- Held annually in Spring. A fairly new course. 2010 was in Chicago, 2011 was in Atlanta.
- "An excellent review. The speakers were all really good and understandable."
- "The course director is really nice and all the people involved were very welcoming and eager to please."
- "I really enjoyed all of the review questions at the end of each section."
- "Notable points: it is half the price of Osler and the food was really good."
- "I used the osler mp3 files and notes to study and I thought they were essential to my success in passing the boards. I didn't attend the review course but I think it was much better to be able to stop the lecture, or back up and listen to what I missed a second time."- Emily Green (board certified in 2009)
- "Osler was very effective."
- "Osler was the best of those I attended. I also attended the ASCP course."
- "Osler was great. Very helpful in getting me into the right frame of mind for studying and passing the boards the first time."
- "Osler Live Lecture course was very high-yield; great way to meet residents from other institutions and trade tips; the microscopes at the Tampa course were virtually identical to those at the exam."
UHC Seminar in Pathology (Dr. Chinmay Datta)
- Held annually in Pittsburgh
- For Anatomic Pathology -
- Robbins for general review and "big picture" material
- Cibbas for Cytology (there is as much cytology as the RISE)
- Anatomic Board Review (by Jay Lefkowitch) for Q&A
- Quick Compendium Companion for Surgical Pathology - Outline form, you can take extra notes in the margin
- Consider a used copy of Sternberg or Rosai - cut out all the color images for DIY flash cards.
- For Clinical Pathology -
- Quick Compendium of Clinical Pathology/Quick Compendium Companion for Clinical Pathology Book Bundle - the compendium is in outline form and the companion is Q&A
Other Board Study Resources
See the Links page for a complete list of useful pathology websites. Please list below any websites with specific focus on board preparation.
- PathMD Board Prep Practice Questions (free) - Great AP review (per a prior board-taker, some of these questions are practically verbatim)
- Board Exam Sample Questions from the ABP
- I found Pinterest.com an easy way to collect images over the course of my studies - see examples at http://pinterest.com/labmedpath/ (JM Giltnane)
Travel and Hotel Info for Pathology Board Exam
- The ABP Pathology Board Exam is only offered in Tampa, Florida. You should fly in to the Tampa International Airport (TPA). Check well in advance to be sure that flights are available at the times you need to travel. Last flight of the day to certain cities is fairly early (e.g. - last flight to Houston is around 6:30pm).
- InterContinental Hotel - located just 10 minutes from the airport. You can book a room at the hotel via a link on the ABP website ; you will receive a small discount since you are taking the board exam (rooms are about $150 per night with the discount, as of October 2012). Crosscheck the price on other discount sites like Expedia.
- Other hotel options :
- Best Western
- Courtyard by Marriott
- Days Inn
- Embassy Suites
- FORUM hotel
- Howard Johnson
- La Quinta
- Springhill Suites
- Super 8 Motel
- Tahitian Inn
- Westshore Hotel
Food Options for Pathology Board Exam
- A Panera Bread is available for lunch, although there have been some complaints about how busy it is. Contrary to popular belief, many other food options are also available very close to the test center!
- The little food shop inside the hotel (in the opposite tower from the one the ABP is in) on the first floor makes a really good Cuban sandwich and has other food as well.
- There is a mall with a food court across the street from the test center.
- If you stay at the Intercontinental, you can pre-order hotel room service to your room at a specified time.
- The ABP website gives some food and travel info here: http://abpath.org/RestAndMap.htm.
- There is a CVS right across from the hotel, in case you need to buy something.
Retaking the Boards 
We hate to think about the possibility, but if you don't pass the Boards on your first try... what do you do? A survey of 2004-2008 Board participants demonstrated that 82% of respondents passed the Board Exam on the first attempt. Which means that almost 1 in 5 had to try again... here is their advice:
- Of respondents who did not pass the exam on the first attempt, 46% indicated that 'studying harder' was the most crucial factor in passing a subsequent time.
- For 32% of respondents, 'participating in a live review course' was a crucial factor.
- Not passing the boards is a serious blow to the ego and it's important to realize that many good pathologists have struggled with the test and you just need to get up and go at it with everything you have, so that it can finally be in the rearview mirror and you can get on with your career.
- Identify where the problem was and remedy that. Most people who are unsuccessful have a specific reason, i.e. not enough time to study, didn't get through the material, had a particular problem area that needed more attention, etc.
- It is best to study for Boards during residency; afterwards, you will have much less time to do so.
- Carefully review your section scores to identify weak areas and focus your study on those portions.
- Make sure you have access to your residency's board preparation materials. (But don't bring them to the exam room!)
- Look at lots of clinical cases -- review as much glass as possible.
- Stay calm, focused, and don't be intimidated by the test.
- Likewaise, do not let the anxiety of the test cloud your thought processes. Do not panic during the test. Consult a psychiatrist - a beta-blocker or other anxiolytic may be helpful.
- Study hard in preparation... you will be surprised by how much you know.
- Do Osler and take the exam during or right after residency if possible.
- Go into more depth. Details matter.
- But don't ignore the "most common" benign/malignant diagnoses of any organ system -- concentrate on Robbins for AP and Henry for CP for this material (make note cards)!
- Use atlases heavily. Don't rely on "clues" like patient history or demographics to help guide you.
- Get formal testing for a learning disability such as dyslexia which can affect reading speed and therefore affect test results. The board is receptive to increasing the time required for the exam if there is a formal documentation of a learning disability.
- Pay attention to detail and stay away from the "Go to End" button.
- Take notes on the glass slides - you can change your answers on those questions, but you can't get those boxes back.
- Use practice questions, practice slides, practice pictures, and a positive mental attitude.
- Study from an exam point of view, concentrating on the most esoteric AND the most common things, and not from a practical point of view, how you would approach a case in real life.
- Take a review course again and listen to the review discs when you return. Don't wait until you feel ready to re-test. That may never happen. Just study a lot more and go to Tampa again.
- Study board review notes from candidates who passed successfully.
- Think twice about retaking the exam in October, assuming the first time was in May/June, unless your score was very close to passing. The short preparation time and letdown of not passing are not easy to overcome.
- Relax before the exam and practice for the computerized microscopic pictures (try PathMD.com).
- Use pathology outlines as a guide and Ackerman for pictures.
- Work hard, don't lose confidence.
Study Resources (Daily Learning and Reference)
Which books do you use for daily learning or for reference on difficult cases? Click on "Textbook Capsule Reviews" to go to the textbook discussion page.
CAP NewsPath NewsPath
- The CAP releases one podcast per month on newsworthy topics in pathology. You can pick based on your interest or listen to all of them. Many good basics since these are geared towards clinicians.
- Pathology Mini Tutorials by Dr Geoffrey Hulman Pathology Mini Tutorials
- Surprisingly useful little video podcasts. Each lasts only a few minutes and goes over the basics of a particular condition, including gross and histological changes. Best for first-years or as a refresher after having been off service fo a while.
Clinical Chemistry American Association for Clinical Chemistry Clinical Chemistry
- Nice short podcast reviewing a recent concern in the chemisty world. Similar in style to the Newspath podcasts. Sound quality is sometimes a bit tinny.
Clinical Laboratory Strategies Clinical Laboratory Strategies
- Short podcast reviewing recent advances in clinical chemistry. A little dry. Probably not very helpful for boards.
- Joe Chaffin, the guy who does the excellent Blood Bank lectures at the Osler course, has an extensive website and has started a series of podcasts. However, the series currently consists of only one 50 minute talk on plasma. Interesting and useful, goes over the essentials of plasma thouroughly. Hopefully he will add more podcasts in the future. Probably worth a listen for boards, definitely while on a transfusion rotation.
Medscape Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Podcast Medscape Pathology
- Short discussions on recent pathology news. Simlilar to Newspath. No fluff, the selected article just starts and stops without advestisements or discussion of sponosrs (or even in intro to the speaker). New article weekly.
Microbe World Microbe World Video podcast, entertaining and informative, but you would have to be very selective fo topic to make it useful for boards study. Mollie Medcast Molecular Medicine Mollie Medcast
- Concise review of articles recently published in Molecular Medicine. Good if you have interest in this area. The research is too new to be useful for boards.
Persiflagers Infectious Disease Puscast Persiflager's Infectious Disease Puscast
- Very entertaining discussion of recently published infectious diease articles. Again, probably not helpful for boards.
Autopsy Podcast Autopsy Podcast
- Two 7 minutes podcasts on the importance and history of autopsy. Might be useful for perspective, but not helpful for boards prep.
Pathology 2005 Pathology 2005
- UTHSCSA Academic Affairs. Recorded medical school lectures, recent, updates often (many lectures in 2009, 2010). A lot of background noise. References to slides which are not available. Decent basics if you have the time.
Naked Scientists Naked Scientists
- Not sure what the title is supposed to represent. Entertaining podcast by two Scottish gentleman who discuss recent science news topics and answer call-in/email questions. Nothing on pathology.
Path751-Mechanisms of Human Disease West Virginia University Path751
- Audio and video available. Recorded lecture series.
Laboratory Medicine Grand Rounds Laboratory Medicine Grand Rounds
Parasitology BIOS385 Parasitology BIOS385
Medical Parasitology Medical Parasitology
Hematology Lecture's Podcast Hematology Lecture's Podcast
Clinical Micro's Podcast Clinical Micro's Podcast
Create your own pathology flashcards and share them with other pathology residents. This can be done using Flashcard Machine (free website) which allows you to make image based flashcards (i.e. -pictures!)...this site also allows you to download flashcards to your ipod! Flashcard Exchange is another good site, but they charge a one time fee of $20 if you want to add pictures or sound to your flashcards. If you create a set of pathology flashcards on these site, please post the link below so everyone can find your set.
iFlipr.com is another site where you can make flash cards for free, share them, and look at them on your iphone in addition to the web.
- Pathology Board Prep Flashcards - Online flashcards for cytology, micro, molecular, hemepath.
- Surgpath Flashcards - from pathologypics.com. Good stuff.
Tips and advice on preparing for the USMLE Step 3.
- Take the exam as early as possible, it is remarkably similar to Step 2.
- You can "register" in any state and take the exam in any other. It doesn't matter where you plan to practice. Try Connecticut - you can register under Connecticut as soon as you start residency.
- Individual contributors
- Extracted excerpts from linked websites.
-  2009 CAP Board Exam Survey