This is a long time coming – clinical year has been a lot more chaotic than I was originally imagining- but its finally here! This is my breakdown of the study tools I utilized for the Primary Care, also called Family Medicine, EOR exam for PA school. I had talked about how I came up with a study plan last week, and I think that’s important for succeeding at any kind of exam. If you go into studying all willy-nilly, the end results are not going to be what you want or expect.
So one of the biggest things I do to study is create these huge, detailed but concise charts. I find the act of making these charts really helpful. Reading the information in a resource book and then synthesizing it into my own words so that it fits into the chart helps me cement the knowledge in my brain. The three main books I used to make my Primary Care chart are:
I talked about what my charts include in the EOR Exam Study Plan Post, so check that out if you already haven’t.
- Green Book
- Pros: Since this book is made for PAs taking the PANCE or the PANRE, it covers most of the topics put out by the PAEA. It uses an outline format, something I enjoy over paragraph format. And it doesn’t go too in depth into each disease, hitting the major points for each one.
- Cons: It doesn’t cover every disease on the blueprint, and some topics are very skimpy. There were also times I thought the book was a little unclear on which diagnostic study was truly the gold standard.
- What I used it for: I used this less for filling out the chart, and more for reading purposes. For instance, I knew I struggled with the cardiology section on the practice exam I took. So I went through and re-read the cardiology section in this book and highlighted in a different color. I also took some notes in the margins and tried to come up with pneumonics or phrases that would help me remember something I had read.
- PANCE Prep Pearls
- Pros: Another book made specifically for PAs. This book uses the “5 Ps” model – Pathophysiology, Present, Pick it up?, Palliate, and Pharmacology – which is amazing for when I’m completing my charts. It also does a great job of bolding the information that is really important for you to know. And I like how the book uses flow charts, charts, and figures to better explain some of the topics. I can also count on PPP to have a disease if it’s not in the “Green Book”.
- Cons: Mainly in the 1st edition of this book, the author uses way too many abbreviations. This is drastically improved in the 2nd edition, but is still present in a couple of areas.
- What I used it for: This was my go to for filling out the charts. It was very concise and hit all of the major things that I needed to know.
- Step Up to Medicine
- Pros: I LOVE the “Quick Hit” boxes in the margin. These are great facts to know for testing, and having them to the side makes it really easy for me to understand the importance of them. This is another resource that uses an outline version to go through disease – it hits General Characteristics, Causes, Clinical Features, Diagnosis, and Treatment. This is almost exactly the information that I put into my charts. Plus, this book will have x-ray pictures for diagnostic tests that use x-ray so that I can correlate the name of that x-ray sign with what it looks like in real life.
- Cons: This book is developed for Medical students, so sometimes it goes more in depth into diseases that I will not be tested on. Great for having a full understand of the system, less helpful for when I’m studying for the EOR
- What I used it for: A mix of reading and filling out the charts. This is the resource I use last when I’m studying. It’s mainly for seeing the information in a different wording to learn it better.
Something I just found, and wish I had been able to use for the Primary Care EOR, is Clinical Guidelines in Family Practice. I’ve had my mom’s 4th edition sitting on my bookshelf for the past year, and I finally opened it up last weekend to check it out. It’s seriously amazing! For each condition, it goes through Definition, Pathogenesis, Clinical Presentation, Diagnosis/Evaluation, Plan/Management. I find the Diagnosis/Evaluation section very helpful because it goes through history questions you should ask, things you could find on physical exam, and differential diagnosis. This is great during clinical year, when my preceptors are often “pimping” me on these topics. I actually ended up going on Amazon and buying the newer edition of this book after using it for a week.
Other than making the chart – which forces me to learn the material as I put it into chart format, and then I review off of – I also used these Kaplan Review Videos. My school gave us a group discount for them, and I’ve found the High Yield videos to be extremely helpful for some quick reviewing. The lecturer has some good tricks for remembering things.
During the last week, I also got into using the Physician Assistant Exam Review Podcast while I was running. Downside of these podcast is that the guy running them, Brian, spends a lot of time in the beginning of the episode rambling about non-important things. He also tends to giggle when he makes a mistake. But, he covers the material of the PANCE blueprint (which also coincides with the EOR blueprint). I definitely suggest listening to these if you have to drive to your clinical site! It would be a great use of commuting time.
For sample questions, I used PreTest Medicine. I had bought this from our library’s end of year sale, and after looking on Amazon, I’ve realized that there’s actually Pretest Family Medicine version which might have been more relevant for the EOR that I took. But I felt like the Medicine version did a good job of covering the basics of each of the organ systems, and it allowed me to figure out subject areas that I tended to struggle in. Plus, I love that there are in-depth explanations for each of the questions asked.
I also used PAEasy and ExamMaster in the “practice” setting, so that I could immediately see if I got the answer correct, and then read an explanation as to why the answer is what it is. I will say that after completing the EOR exam, I’ll probably start using PAEasy less and less, because it tends to be a little easier than the exam questions are. I think it was a great resource to use during Didactic year, but now that I’m on Clinicals, ExamMaster seems to be the better difficulty level.
I was recently asked when I started studying for each EOR exam, and honestly, I start the day that I start my rotation. So that means I’m doing 5.5 weeks of studying for each EOR. I’m not great at taking tests, and I probably spend a lot more time than my classmates preparing for exams. But I’ve found the methods that work for me (aka studying from day 1, making charts, and reading different review materials). By doing a little bit every day, I end up feeling a lot more confident when I go in and take the exam. And it means that I’m not stressing out during my last week of rotation because I’ve already completed the majority of my studying!
My biggest suggestion to you as you’re preparing for an EOR or Shelf exam is to come up with a study plan and stick to it. Try not to listen and compare yourself to others, and remember the ways that you learn may be completely different.
With that being said, I would love to hear your methods for preparing for the Family Medicine/Primary Care EOR exam and what you’ve found that works. Comment below on your thoughts, and as always, feel free to follow along on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to get a better glimpse into the daily life of a PA student trying to survive with a stethoscope and some sparkle.