I’m now two rotations and one End of Rotation exam down for Clinical Year. I ended up doing fairly well on my Primary Care EOR exam, and I thought I would share the ways I studied. However, there are definitely things I would have done different. Hindsight is always 20/20 and there were ways this exam could have gone smoother for me. So I’m going to share how I studied, and what I would have done differently. Later this week I’ll share a post with the study tools that I used for Primary Care and what I thought of them!
I think a big thing to realize with PA school, or Medical School, or Nursing School, is that the ways that you studied in undergrad will probably not be as successful for you in graduate school. In Didactic year, I had to constantly reassess how I was studying and make changes to ensure that I continued to succeed. This hasn’t changed now that I’m in Clinical Year.
First step is to head over the PAEA website and check out the EOR exam topic list. This is a list of different diseases covered in the EOR exam, but keep in mind that this list is not all encompassing, and there could be other diseases tested on. This is just something to get you started. Looking back, while studying from this list was great, I wish that I hadn’t taken this as the holy grail of topics and broadened what I studied – I can think of 3 questions on one disease in Urology that wasn’t on the topic list. I used this topic list to create my EOR chart that I did most of my studying from.
While you’re there, also check out the blueprint chart. This gives you a breakdown of the sections and what percent of the exam they make up – for instance, Cardiology makes up 15% of the Family Medicine EOR exam. I wish that I would have spent more time looking at this breakdown, because it would have guided me more on what I should study. For example, I would have focused more Clinical Therapies for Cardiology because there were 5 questions on the exam about this! And there were only 2 questions on diagnostic studies, which was something I studied more. Look at the big topics and try to focus more on study those! Cardiology is a huge portion of the exam, while Hematology only makes up a small portion. Because of this, you should spend more time studying Cardiology than Hematology.
Next I took a practice exam to get a baseline idea of where I was at and what I needed to focus more on. There are a couple of great sites out there for making questions, like PAEasy and ExamMaster. Check with your school to see if you have free access to any of these kinds of test banks, because they can be pretty pricey! I’ve found that PAEasy tends to be a little easier, so I spend more time using ExamMaster as my go-to question bank. You can edit what kind of topics you want to cover in the practice exam, and you can also edit the style – whether you want instant knowledge of if you answered correctly or if you want to take it in exam-like conditions. At the end, look at the topics you got wrong and see if there are any patterns. For instance, at the beginning of my studying for the Family Medicine EOR I got over 90% of the dermatology based questions right, but struggled with the Pulmonary based questions.
After you get ideas on what you need to study, I would devise a study plan. This is something I only started doing the last week of rotation, and I really wish that I would have done it for the first 4.5 weeks. What I did was break down the things that I wanted to accomplish for the week into things that I wanted to accomplish in a single day. I tend to stay away from breaking it down further into hours because I never actually follow the guidelines for the timing, and then it ends up stressing me out more. But I felt like having small goals to accomplish every day helped me towards my end studying goals and what I wanted to have covered before the exam. Learn what works best for you and stick to that. I tried to study one big topic and one small topic every day, so that I didn’t end up feeling overwhelmed with studying.
Figure out what kind of methods you want to use! I strongly recommend, if you haven’t already, taking a test to find out what kind of learner you are. I’m a read/write learner, so reading or creating my own notes tend to work better for me than watching a video or listening to a podcast. Use this knowledge to create whatever study methods you are going to use.
I personally like to use charts. I find the act of reading the information in a reference book, and then synthesizing it into my own words helps me to retain the information the best. This might not be the best study method for you, so you need to do what is going to work best!
I’m now going to discuss what I put into my charts that I use to study for EOR exams
- Disease and definition. This is my smallest and least informative column, but I find it really helpful to have the definition of the disease in italics below the name. Seeing the two together helps cement it in my mind.
- Clinical Presentation. I tend to put signs and symptoms as well as physical exam findings in this column. The things that are really important (like honey-crusted lesions for impetigo), I bold. These are the things that should stand out and immediately make you think of a certain disease when you see them!
- Etiology / Epidemiology / Pathophysiology. This tends to be one of my more full columns for a disease, and originally I had separated out the pathophysiology portion. But the more I studied, the more I realized how related knowing HOW a disease happened was to WHO it happened to and WHAT caused it. So this of this as the WHAT / WHO / HOW of the disease. Same as with clinical presentation, if something is really important, I’ll put in it bold letters.
- Diagnostic Studies. Is something a clinical diagnosis, or are you using having to do a procedure to determine what on your differential diagnoses this person has? Go with the most important ones here, because for some diseases there are going to be a bunch of tests that you can do, but only one will be the gold standard (like for a pulmonary embolism, you could do a helical CT scan, and that is a common study, but the gold standard is really a pulmonary angiogram). Chances are, on the exam, this is going to be the one that they want to know – they’ll ask you what is the best diagnostic test for this patient. I always bold the gold standard diagnostic study.
- Treatment. I tend to do first line and second line treatments for every disease. Because if on the exam, they tell you a patient can’t have the first line treatment for some reason, you’re going to want to know what the second line is. With pharmacological names, stick with either the generic or the brand name for everything. On the exam, they’re going to give brand name with generic in (parenthesis).
- Other. This is my catch all column for the stuff that doesn’t seem to fit in any where. Something that I tend to put a lot in this column is complications of a disease. Or I put in red flags to look for, and what that would make you think of.
I hope my methods of developing a study plan are helpful! I would love to hear your own methods of developing a study plan for PA school’s EOR exams, or your thoughts on how mu study plan worked for you! Comment below and let me know what you think. As always, you can subscribe to the blog to get updates on new post sent to your email. Or you can follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
P.S. – I’ve been having a ton of people reach out to me to talk about the best headphones to use so they can more easily focus while studying. HERE is a great review site that breaks down the best on-ear, in-ear, over-ear, and true wireless. I seriously wish I would have found an article like this before buying my headphones, so definitely make sure to check it out!