Best Resources for ABSITE Studying and How to Use Them
As you prepare for the American Board of Surgery In-Training Exam (ABSITE), it’s important to have access to the best ABSITE resources. Unlike other standardized tests, it can be difficult to find comprehensive resources for ABSITE studying, and more difficult to determine which are the most effective. Surgery requires a lot of knowledge, and doing only one question bank may limit you when it comes to scoring a higher percentile. Unfortunately, none of the resources for ABSITE are fully comprehensive, so it is best to rely on a few of them when you are studying. With that said, we will take a close look at the best ABSITE resources and provide guidance on how to use them.
TrueLearn Question Bank
When it comes to ABSITE studying, TrueLearn is one of the best resources available. TrueLearn is almost the UWorld of ABSITE. It contains about 1200 practice questions and is always updated with current information and new questions. Questions closely resemble those seen on the real exam. The software also looks the same as the test’s software. The explanations for the answers are lengthy, but very thorough and easy to understand, even when you are tired after a long day of scrubbing cases.
If you are planning on using TrueLearn, start the question bank about two to three months before ABSITE. Ideally, you should be able to get through it once and have time to re-do your incorrect questions. You can even aim to go through the question bank twice. Divide up the questions and set a reasonable goal of how many you can do each week. There may be days when you are on call or end up working late, so it will be difficult to do questions on those days. For your days off or shorter work days, you can aim to complete more questions. Your schedule should include a daily questions goal. Use your day off during each week to catch up on any questions that were not completed earlier in the week, if necessary. You should use TrueLearn in the same way you would use UWorld for USMLE studying.
Whether you get the correct answer or not, read the explanations to each question thoroughly during your first pass. Often, the explanation will have more information that you may not have known. If you learn well with flashcards, make those for the questions you got wrong. If you do not, or feel that you will not have time to make them, you can create a document and write notes on it during your review of the answers. Within 3-4 weeks of the ABSITE, make sure that you are doing these questions on a timed and non-tutor mode to stimulate the environment of the exam.
Truelearn also has an assessment that can be purchased with or without the question bank. Use this assessment about 1-2 weeks out from the test. This will give you a chance to see what your weakest topics are and allow you time to study them. Some residency programs require taking an assessment or two throughout your studying. Use these to gauge your weakest areas and adjust your study schedule accordingly. Unfortunately, even TrueLearn is not fully comprehensive and there are concepts on ABSITE that may not be found in this questions bank. Thus, it is important to also utilize other resources.
SCORE Question Bank
This is another question bank typically used for ABSITE studying. If you start studying early enough, you will have time to complete both question banks – SCORE and TrueLearn. Ideally, you should complete both. SCORE has over 2000 questions. Make sure that you check “Your Specialty” when creating SCORE quizzes, since this question bank also includes practice questions of fellowship level as well as other surgical subspecialties that are not tested on ABSITE. If you have time to complete both question banks, start with SCORE and do TrueLearn afterwards. Unlike TrueLearn, the answer explanations on SCORE tend to be short. At times, you will have to supplement with other resources or articles to fully understand the explanations. However, because of the shorter questions and explanations, you will be able to complete them quicker. SCORE also has modules that can be used to read about certain topics. It is often a good place to start when you are looking up a topic from a SCORE question. There are also weekly assigned readings and quizzes. If you have difficulty sticking to your schedule, consider reviewing the topics based on the weekly assignments in SCORE.
Behind the Knife Surgery Podcast
Behind the Knife Surgery Podcast has podcasts dedicated to the ABSITE, which are updated every year, though the older versions of podcasts have been re-used. There are about 30 episodes (somewhere around 20 hours) for ABSITE review. These are divided by topic and range from 30 minutes – 1 hour in length. The best part about these podcasts is that you can study while you are driving to or from work, cleaning, or doing any other tasks. However, if you want to get the most out of these, it is best to do your first pass while being able to fully concentrate on listening and taking notes. There is also a small book companion that you can buy on Amazon, which has notes from the podcasts. If you have time, however, consider taking your own notes as you listen. If not, you can get the companion and follow along as you are listening. You can also use the companion to take notes on as you study with other resources so that you can have all notes in one place, categorized by topics. Note that you can use your notes as a resource every time you have to study for ABSITE in the future, which will be at least five years if you start these as an intern. So investing time into creating your own notes is very valuable. You can start listening to the podcast as early in your studying as you would like since a lot of the information found here will actually be useful for your rotations as well. The podcasts are designed in a question/answer format and are recorded by surgery residents who have done well on ABSITE. There are minor errors and some of the podcasts are a bit outdated, but overall this is a great resource. Behind the Knife also has a lot of other educational podcasts that are not dedicated to ABSITE studying, but worth checking out.
The ABSITE Review by Dr. Steven Fiser
This book provides a review of ABSITE topics in a bullet point format. Though it contains a lot of high yield information, there are no explanations.This book is good for reference and quick overview, but should not be used as the only resource to study for the ABSITE. It is best to combine it with a question bank (or two). It is easy to use to look up certain topics, as topics are well organized and easy to navigate through. Unfortunately, there are minor mistakes throughout this book as well. If you are making your first pass through a question bank and doing questions by subject, you can read the corresponding chapter prior to answering the questions. This way you will be reviewing the information more than once and further solidify your knowledge.
Though there are pre-made Anki decks for the ABSITE, we highly recommend creating your own flashcards. This may seem very time consuming, which is another reason it is very important to start studying early. Make Anki for the questions you get wrong and for those little facts you tend to forget over time. You can flip through your cards whenever you have downtime at work, or before you go to bed. If you feel strongly about not spending time on making flashcards, you can use a pre-made deck. Start your Anki with your weakest topics.
Enlist the Help of an Elite Medical Prep Tutor
If you are looking for some guidance to help you by helping identify your content gaps and weak points, providing customized and targeted guidance, creating and editing your study schedule to help you make the most out of your resources and providing motivation! Schedule your complimentary initial consultation to learn more about how an ABSITE tutor can help you succeed!
There are many other resources available to study for the ABSITE, but the above resources are found to be most helpful by residents. Whatever resources you decide to use, it is important to start studying early. You can even begin a light review and start on some questions at the start of the academic year (July). Good luck and enjoy your studies!