Helping hand

You are not alone. This is probably the one sentence I was desperate to read when I thought standardized testing would derail my medical career. It is unusual to need to “figure out” multiple choice tests while enrolled in medical school; the competitive selection process typically screens out those who don’t ace such exams early […]

Jonny & Mike

At some point many of us wonder if the career dreams of our childhood are unobtainable. Youthful optimism can quickly slam into the hard truth inherent in any desirable career: a lot of talented people are probably pursuing the exact same dream. Nowhere is professional competition more fierce than attempting to become an astronaut. A […]

Your mentor is not your coach.

Potential mentors are everywhere; potential coaches are not. Remember this distinction when seeking help with high-stakes multiple choice exams. Unfortunately, medical students and residents frequently confuse mentors and coaches, often with negative consequences. It is easy to determine someone’s rank within a hospital. Title (Professor, Chair, Dean), letters (MD, PhD, FACS), and clothing (long white […]

King Midas

Take a moment to think about your favorite coach. Many of us can recall an unflappable leader from our days on an athletic team. Coaching luminaries such like Vince Lambordi (football), Pat Summitt (basketball), and Dan Gable (wrestling) transcended not only their sport but all sports. Whether it is the first day of the “Pee […]

The Annotation Trinity

Your textbooks should become prized possessions. It is amazing how many current medical students and residents do not own a textbook. The ubiquity of cellphones, tablets, and laptops make lugging around a one-thousand-page textbook seem archaic. Even though the medium is antiquated, I can assure you that learning how to annotate a textbook is a […]

(distant) Cousin Conor

What can cage fighting teach us about standardized test taking? Perhaps a great deal. An interesting prospect from Dublin, Ireland, first competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) in 2013. In the years that followed the brash plumber’s apprentice brought something new to mixed martial arts: psychological warfare. While not in a traditional “glamour” division […]

Guts and Butts

3,909. That is the total number of pages in the following surgical textbooks: Corman’s Colon and Rectal Surgery (1,584 pages), The ASCRS Textbook of Colon and Rectal Surgery (1,361 pages), and Gordon and Nivatvong’s Principles and Practice of Surgery for the Colon, Rectum, and Anus (Fourth Edition) (964 pages). As you can imagine, that is […]

Learning how to read

Do you know how to read a book?  For many, with respect to high stakes exams, the answer is “no”. Perhaps nothing is more critical for long-term multiple choice testing success than learning how to read correctly. This skill is why some people are labelled “good test takers” even if they cannot articulate why this […]

The Secret of Quadrant C

Here is a “secret” to remember when preparing for a high-stakes multiple choice exam: the people writing the test questions look at the available practice problems too. This seemingly simple statement helps explain why some students fail to appropriately utilize a readily available resource. While the use of practice questions is common, a strategy to […]

Tater Tot Hot Dish

What is the capital of North Dakota?  This question is a factoid: you know it or you don’t. The Coen brothers may have prompted you to believe the answer is “Fargo”, but a quick Google search will confirm that the correct answer is “Bismarck”. This is a “first-order” question. Multiple choice exams in high school […]


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