Shelf Exams

How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf Exam & Useful Resources

Mastering the family medicine shelf exam is possible with the right study approach. Learn how to study for family medicine staff.

May 31, 2024

Shelf Exams

How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf Exam & Useful Resources

Mastering the family medicine shelf exam is possible with the right study approach. Learn how to study for family medicine staff.

May 31, 2024

Shelf Exams

How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf Exam & Useful Resources

Mastering the family medicine shelf exam is possible with the right study approach. Learn how to study for family medicine staff.

May 31, 2024

books stacked on top of each other - How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf
books stacked on top of each other - How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf
books stacked on top of each other - How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf

Are you preparing for your Family Medicine Shelf exam and wondering how long are shelf exams? The pressure to perform well can be overwhelming, but in this blog, we'll guide you through the process of how to study for Family Medicine Shelf, share essential resources, and help you ace the exam confidently. Whether you're aiming to discover the best study strategies, pass the exam, or find valuable resources for studying, we've got you covered!

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Table of Contents

How Is The Family Medicine Shelf Exam Like?

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The Family Medicine Shelf Exam is a standardized assessment created by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) to evaluate the clinical knowledge and decision-making skills of medical students in family medicine.

Typically taken during medical school's clinical rotations, this exam consists of multiple-choice questions covering a broad range of topics relevant to family medicine, including preventive care, management of chronic diseases, acute conditions, and patient education. It aims to ensure that students are prepared for the diverse and holistic nature of family medicine practice.

Shelf exams are typically 110 questions long and last 2 hours, 45 minutes each (1.5 minutes per question). The only exceptions are the family medicine shelf exams that lack MSK.

Family Medicine Modular

  • Core only 90 questions lasting 2 hours, 15 minutes

  • Core + Chronic Care 100 questions lasting 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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What Topics Are Tested In Family Medicine Shelf?

big books for exam topics - How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf

The Family Med Shelf will test your ability to differentiate between the problems that a family physician would manage on their own in a clinical setting (such as managing meds for a patient with diabetes and hypertension), and those who would need a referral to a specialist. (Basically, you need to be able to manage the horses, and refer the zebras to a specialist.) It will also expect you to be able to recognize an unstable patient who should be transferred to an inpatient setting.

Focus on Screening and Disease Prevention

A family physician also focuses on screening and disease prevention. You’ll likely be asked about vaccine schedules and the current guidelines for screening exams such as colonoscopies and mammograms. You should also have a sense of what lifestyle modifications would help prevent complications, including guidelines for exercise and nutrition, as well as pharmacologic interventions that are useful for disease prevention.

Use these resources and materials for review, and you will be solidly prepared for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam. 

Is The Family Shelf Exam Hard?

student in cafe revising - How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf

The Family Medicine Shelf Exam is considered one of the most challenging exams during the clinical year of medical school. Here's why:

1. Broad Range of Topics

It covers an extensive range of topics, including pediatrics, OB/GYN, psychiatry, internal medicine, surgery, preventive guidelines, dermatology, and musculoskeletal complaints. This comprehensive nature makes it difficult to prepare for.

2. Incorporation of Inpatient and Outpatient Medicine

The exam incorporates both inpatient and outpatient medicine, further broadening the scope.

3. Shorter Rotations

Family medicine rotations are often shorter than other specialties, leaving less preparation time.

4. Clinical Reasoning Skills

The exam tests your ability to differentiate problems a family physician would manage versus those needing a specialist referral. This requires strong clinical reasoning skills.

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How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf Exam

person making sticky notes - How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf

Create a study schedule for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam

I recommend creating a study schedule for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam. The family med rotation is clinic-heavy; your clinical experiences will occur mostly or entirely in the outpatient setting, generally leaving you with free nights and weekends. Although it may seem like this rotation will be a bit of a break, it’s important not to underestimate it. 

Utilizing Downtime Effectively

You must be on your game to do well on family medicine. Still, although some clinic days are very busy, there tend to be slower days with more downtime between patients. Having at least one book in your bag to study whenever you find yourself with extra time is a great idea. 

Creating a Structured Study Schedule

This will also allow you to read up on the patients you see, to help you shine in the eyes of your residents and attendings. Because your schedule will likely be somewhat more predictable on this rotation, you may find it easier to stick to a study schedule. You’ll want to create a study target; take all the content you want to get through before your exam, and divide it up so you know how much you need to complete each day.

Engage in Active Learning

I recommend engaging in active learning techniques to help enhance your retention and understanding of the material. These techniques include practicing questions, using flashcards, and participating in group study sessions. Regularly test yourself with practice questions from UWorld, Amboss, and other reputable sources. 

Review explanations thoroughly, even for questions you answered correctly. Use flashcards to reinforce key concepts, facts, and clinical guidelines. Anki is a popular tool for creating and using flashcards. Join or form a study group to discuss challenging topics and quiz each other. Teaching and explaining concepts to peers can deepen your understanding.

Focus on Clinical Guidelines and Preventive Care

I recommend focusing on clinical guidelines and preventive care while studying for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam. Family medicine strongly emphasizes preventive care and evidence-based clinical guidelines. 

Ensure you know the latest recommendations from organizations like the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Review guidelines for standard screenings, vaccinations, and management protocols for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia.

Simulate Exam Conditions

I recommend simulating exam conditions by taking timed practice exams to build confidence and reduce test-day anxiety. This helps you get accustomed to the pacing and format of the actual exam. Use full-length practice exams from UWorld or the NBME to assess your readiness and identify areas that need more review.

Review Patient Cases

I recommend reviewing patient cases to help you apply theoretical knowledge to clinical scenarios. Resources like "Case Files: Family Medicine" provide case-based questions and discussions that mirror the format of the shelf exam. Pay attention to each case's clinical reasoning and decision-making process to improve your problem-solving skills.

Useful Resources For The Family Shelf Exams

students sitting outdoor for How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf

1. AAFP Website Question Bank

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers a Qbank free for student members on its website. This Qbank is high-yield for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam and provides questions similar to what you might see on your exam. Starting with these practice questions and moving on to other resources can help you prepare well. Access the AAFP Qbank here.

2. Exam Guru

Exam Guru is a resource that students highly recommend. It includes simple questions useful for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam. Since UWorld lacks a specific section for Family Medicine topics, Exam Guru can be convenient during your exam preparation.

3. Emma Holiday‘s Clerkship Review Videos by The University

Emma Holiday‘s clerkship review videos by The University of Texas are highly praised for covering high-yield topics in Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Surgery. Watching these two-hour videos can help you review before your shelf exam. Though the content is not comprehensive, it focuses on key topics, requiring you to understand the underlying pathology and physiology. You can access these videos here

4. Step Up to Medicine

Step Up to Medicine is a highly high-yield book for the Internal Medicine Shelf. The book covers general internal medicine and emphasizes inpatient care. The ambulatory care section is relevant to the Family Medicine Shelf, making it a great resource for both Internal Medicine and Family Medicine.

5. UWorld

UWorld is helpful for all Shelf Exams, but using it for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam can be challenging. Filtering for family medicine questions is not straightforward in UWorld, making it harder to use this resource effectively for this specific shelf. One approach focuses on pediatrics, ob/GYN, and internal medicine topics on UWorld.

6. Case Files

Carrying Case Files Family Medicine in your bag allows you to study during downtime at the clinic. This book can help you learn more about your patients' clinical problems and review relevant information. Connecting content to your clinical experiences is beneficial for learning, ensuring you can apply what you learn from the book to real-world scenarios.

7. PreTest Family Medicine

PreTest Family Medicine is a print book with 500 high-yield questions on ambulatory medicine, making it a valuable resource for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam. Carrying this book with you allows you to review questions during breaks in your clinical rotations, reinforcing your knowledge base. It is recommended to go through all 500 questions before your exam.

8. Peer-to-Peer Resources

The NYMC library provides peer-to-peer resources for Family Medicine Shelf Exam preparation. These resources can complement your other study materials, providing additional support and guidance as you prepare for your exam. Access the library resources here.

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6 Useful Tips For Test Day

woman revising important topics on laptop - How To Study For Family Medicine Shelf

1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

A good night's sleep is crucial for optimal cognitive function on the exam day. It enhances memory recall and critical thinking. Avoid cramming information and aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep to wake up refreshed. 

2. Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Start your exam day with a nutritious breakfast for sustained energy and mental clarity. Opt for protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Avoid sugary foods to prevent energy crashes. Stay hydrated with water.

3. Manage Your Time Effectively

Understand the test format and manage your time effectively to answer all questions. Don't dwell on challenging questions; mark them to return later. Practice with timed exams for pacing confidence.

4. Take a First Pass Through the Questions

Answer easy questions first, mark unsure ones for review during breaks, and skip those you don't know. This strategy builds momentum and prevents you from getting stuck.

5. Mental Breaks

Take mental breaks during the exam to avoid errors from rushing. Allow your mind to rest briefly before returning to the questions with a fresh perspective.

6. Guess Strategically

For questions you don't know, make educated guesses based on the most probable choice or what test makers expect. For instance, choose a common diagnosis if unsure of the patient's characteristics. Guessing strategically can boost your chances of selecting the correct answer.

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