Shelf Exams

7 Best Study Strategies For Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

Boost your confidence and performance on the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam by following these top study strategies recommended by experts.

Jun 1, 2024

Shelf Exams

7 Best Study Strategies For Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

Boost your confidence and performance on the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam by following these top study strategies recommended by experts.

Jun 1, 2024

Shelf Exams

7 Best Study Strategies For Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

Boost your confidence and performance on the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam by following these top study strategies recommended by experts.

Jun 1, 2024

Person Holding a Pen writing an Exam - Internal Medicine Shelf Exam
Person Holding a Pen writing an Exam - Internal Medicine Shelf Exam
Person Holding a Pen writing an Exam - Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

Are you gearing up for the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam and feeling a bit overwhelmed? Wondering how long are Shelf Exams? Picture this – you're sitting at your desk surrounded by stacks of notes, trying to figure out how to conquer this challenge. Don't worry; we have got you covered! Get into the world of Internal Medicine Shelf Exams. You will learn about Internal Medicine Shelf Exams and discover effective tips to help you prepare for the exam. So, let's get started!

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Table of Contents

What Is The Internal Medicine Shelf Exam About?

Person Filling Bubbles in Exam - Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

Doctors who practice Internal Medicine are generalists. They handle a remarkable range of health conditions, whether acute or chronic, ordinary or odd, complicated or bearable. Internal Medicine is more of an intellectual specialization than other specialties, so the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam is considered before proceeding.

What is the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam?

IMSE aims to evaluate a student’s general medical knowledge and ability to apply that expertise to adult patients right after the medicine clerkship, usually taken in the third year of medical school. 

What does it cover?

The examination may consist of Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) to assess your clinical skills, subjective or constructed appraisals of your clinical performance by residents, and, typically, some tests to determine your understanding of fundamental internal medicine concepts.

Why is it challenging?

This course is incredibly challenging as it covers a wide range of clinical knowledge. Thus, a lot of time should be spent studying for this exam. It is often considered one of the more difficult Shelf Exams due to the breadth of information that it can cover.

What are the specifics of the exam?

  • The Medicine Shelf Exam is no longer than any of the other Shelf Exams—it’s 110 questions and takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete. It evaluates a student’s general medical knowledge and ability to apply that expertise to adult patients after a medicine clerkship.

  • Several universities create exams during the clerkship to evaluate internal medicine knowledge. Nonetheless, the majority of internships in the U.S. use the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) Medicine Subject Examination as an end-of-clerkship evaluation.

  • The assessment under NBME  is known as the “shelf” exam because it was not created locally but was purchased from the NBME. You may encounter exams of a similar style utilized in your other third-year practicum since the NBME uses a series of subject exams to distribute over several disciplines.

The Internal Medicine Shelf Exam is a challenging exam medical students take at the end of their medicine clerkship. It covers a wide range of clinical knowledge and evaluates a student's general medical expertise and application ability.

What Are The Key Topics Covered In The Internal Medicine Shelf Exam?

Glasses Placed on Paper - Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

The Internal Medicine Shelf Exam covers many topics, including cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, hematology, infectious diseases, and more. The questions are typically written from an internal medicine perspective, testing basic internal medicine knowledge that a consulting internal medicine physician would need to know, even if the specific topic (e.g. pediatrics) is not part of an internist's scope of practice. 

Cardiovascular disorders, respiratory diseases, and gastrointestinal/nutritional disorders make up a large percentage of the exam, with other high-yield topics including:

  • Diagnostic workup and management of acute coronary syndrome

  • Heart sounds

  • Asthma classification and treatment

  • Hepatitis B serology

  • Paraneoplastic syndromes

The exam tests clinical reasoning skills beyond factual knowledge, often including questions in the form of clinical vignettes that require interpreting data and determining appropriate next steps in diagnosis and management. It is designed to test knowledge at the level of an internal medicine physician being consulted by other specialties like surgery or OB/GYN.

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7 Best Study Strategies For Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

Person Sitting on Chair doing an Exam - Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

1. Start Early and Make a Plan

During your busy third year of medical school, setting aside dedicated time for studying for your Internal Medicine Shelf Exam is crucial. By creating a study schedule and setting daily goals, you can ensure that you stay on track despite a hectic schedule with frequent call and long hours on the wards. 

It's essential to be flexible with your study plan and make up for missed sessions as soon as possible. Having a daily goal helps you stay organized and prepared for disruptions during your rotation.  

2. Use High-Yield Resources

High-yield study materials are essential for effective preparation for the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. Resources like "Step-Up to Medicine" and "UWorld" are popular choices because they condense the vast amount of information into the key concepts necessary for the exam. These resources focus on the most important topics and clinical applications you need to know.  

3. Practice with Question Banks

Question banks, like UWorld, play a vital role in your preparation for the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. Going through practice questions not only reinforces your knowledge but also helps you become familiar with the style and format of the exam questions. Simulating exam conditions by timing yourself and doing full-length practice tests is crucial. Thoroughly review all your answers, especially the incorrect ones, to understand your mistakes and learn from them.  

4. Incorporate Clinical Cases

Since Internal Medicine is heavily clinical, studying in a way that mirrors real-life clinical scenarios can be beneficial. Resources like "Case Files: Internal Medicine" or "Pocket Medicine" to work through clinical cases can help you apply your knowledge practically and enhance your clinical reasoning skills.  

5. Join Study Groups

Studying with peers can be a great way to enhance your preparation for the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. Studying in groups allows you to quiz each other, discuss challenging concepts, and share resources. Explaining a topic to someone else can reinforce your own understanding while keeping you motivated and on track.  

6. Review and Repeat

Regularly revisiting the material you've studied is crucial to retaining the information for the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. The more you review the information, the better you'll remember it. Employing spaced repetition techniques, which involve reviewing information at gradually increasing intervals, can help solidify your knowledge.  

7. Utilize Your Clinical Rotations

Your clinical rotations are valuable when preparing for the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. Observing the cases you encounter and linking them to your study material can deepen your understanding and reinforce your learning. Conversations with attendings and residents regarding cases can offer additional insights and help solidify your knowledge. Taking notes on interesting cases and reviewing them afterward can be extremely helpful in your preparation for the exam.

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Resources You'll Need For Internal Medicine Shelf

Person Doing an Exam - Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

UWorld

UWorld is one of the most effective resources for studying for the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. These questions come directly from the USMLE, so they are closely related to the questions you'll be asked during your exam. The Medicine category is the largest one with over 1100 questions, so it’s essential to go through them at least twice.

Also, it’s crucial to use UWorld as a learning tool rather than a diagnostic one. This way, you’ll focus on learning from each question and its explanation, whether you answered it correctly or not.

AMBOSS

AMBOSS is a resource that offers a Qbank of USMLE-style questions. These questions are more complex than UWorld, so starting with UWorld is recommended and moving on to AMBOSS. You can also find clinical articles on AMBOSS to help you learn and impress your supervisors. The evidence-based articles are updated regularly.

Besides the Qbank, AMBOSS has clinical articles that you can use on the wards and in the clinic. The information on AMBOSS can help you learn better from each patient you see and impress your residents and attendings. 

OnlineMedEd

OnlineMedEd provides high-yield videos on essential topics. These videos are excellent for review or an overview of the material covered. You can start with these in the first few weeks of your clerkship. Once you have a solid foundation, you can delve into more detailed resources.

The videos are beneficial for connecting various topics and can be a great study resource. Some students choose to watch the OME videos the night before the exam or on the exam morning. 

Step Up To Medicine

Step Up to Medicine is a dense textbook that is useful for supplementing Qbanks. If you start early and diligently go through it daily, you can cover the entire book before the exam. This resource is particularly helpful for the Surgery Shelf Exam.

Case Files Internal Medicine

Case Files Internal Medicine uses real-life cases to teach students in the context of patient presentations. This book also includes review questions that mirror the USMLE board format. 

Pre Test Medicine

Pre Test Medicine comprises questions that mimic the USMLE board format. These questions cover various subtopics with detailed answer explanations. Pre Test Medicine is a great choice if you're looking for a resource that focuses only on questions to boost your exam-taking skills. 

4 Common Pitfalls Students Encounter When Taking The Internal Medicine Shelf Exam?

Person Preparing for an Exam - Internal Medicine Shelf Exam

1. Over-Reliance on Memorization

While knowing and understanding key facts and concepts for the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam is essential, relying solely on memorization is a common mistake. The exam tests your ability to apply medical knowledge to clinical scenarios, which requires a deeper understanding beyond rote memorization. 

Instead of just memorizing facts, try to focus on understanding the underlying principles and mechanisms of diseases, treatments, and diagnostic procedures. This will better prepare you for the complex, multi-step problems you'll encounter on the exam. To combat this issue of over-reliance on memorization, focus on understanding and applying concepts rather than just rote memorization. 

2. Ignoring Clinical Experience

Integrating clinical experiences into your study routine is crucial for success on the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. Real-world cases encountered on the wards can provide invaluable insights and help solidify your medical knowledge. Drawing on these experiences can help you understand how diseases present, how treatments are administered, and how healthcare professionals make decisions in real-world scenarios. 

This practical knowledge can enhance your performance on the exam by providing context and helping you apply theoretical knowledge to clinical situations. Instead of focusing solely on textbooks and online resources, make an effort to reflect on your clinical experiences and apply what you've learned to your exam preparation.

3. Inadequate Practice with Question Banks

Practice makes perfect, especially when preparing for the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. Many students do not spend enough time working through question banks or practice exams. Familiarizing yourself with the types of questions you'll encounter on the exam and practicing under timed conditions can significantly improve your test-taking skills and boost your confidence. 

Working through practice questions can help you identify knowledge gaps, hone your clinical reasoning skills, and get a feel for the format and style of questions you'll face on test day. To avoid this pitfall, prioritize working through question banks and practice exams as part of your study routine.

4. Poor Time Management

Effective time management is crucial when taking the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam. The test is long, and it's easy to get bogged down on challenging questions. Some students spend too much time on questions they're unsure about, leaving themselves with insufficient time to complete the rest of the exam. 

Developing a strategy for pacing yourself and knowing when to move on to the next question can help ensure you complete the exam within the allotted time. Practice timing yourself when working through practice questions, and develop a plan for allocating your time during the exam. Improving your time management skills can boost your chances of success on the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam.

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