Home » Best Resources to Help You Prepare for Your Surgery Shelf Exam

Best Resources to Help You Prepare for Your Surgery Shelf Exam

A sudent looking at a book in the library, one of the best resources for Surgery Shelf Exam.


If you are preparing for your Surgery Shelf, the first and most important piece of advice I can share with you is to start early! Surgery is arguably one of the most demanding and time-consuming rotations you will participate in during your clinical year of medical school, so the earlier you can start, the better. Here, we will review some of the best resources to help you prepare for your Surgery Shelf exam and highlight some of the common pitfalls that students encounter before their shelf.



Question Bank (UWorld or Amboss)


The most important resource you can have as you prepare for any of your shelf exams is a great question bank. It is imperative that you complete as many questions as you can prior to your surgery shelf exam. Working through practice questions will not only (1) teach you the material, but (2) also prepare you to demonstrate your mastery of surgery in the form of board-style questions. Our two favorite question banks are UWorld and Amboss, they both test the appropriate surgical content, but have different styles in how they word the questions. Although you will be studying for your surgery shelf, we actually recommend completing BOTH the medicine and surgery questions – this is a ton of questions (we know). However, most students agree that the surgery shelf is a very medicine-heavy shelf exam, so those who also do the medicine questions generally feel more comfortable with the surgery shelf exam.



Practice Tests from the NBME for the Surgery Shelf Exam


The most accurate predictor of your success on the actual surgery shelf exam will come from the practice NBME. At the time this blog post was written, there are currently four practice tests you can purchase (NBME 5, 6, 7, and 8) for $20.00 each. Each exam is 50 questions and designed to mimic your actual shelf exam. These are great to complete midway through and at the end of your surgery rotation so you can assess and refine your progress throughout the entire duration of your studying.



Dr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes


This book is a very quick and easy read, and it will walk you through 180 different surgical vignettes and highlight the most important and high-yield material you need to know regarding common surgical cases. There are also some practice questions at the end of the book which are derived from the content of the book. We recommend reading this early in your rotation as it will come in handy on any surgical service you rotate through, in addition to the shelf.



Surgical Recall


This is a book similar to Dr. Pestana’s Surgery Notes in that it will provide very high-yield surgical information. However, there are two major differences between these two books. Surgical Recall presents the information in short bullet points rather than complete sentences. Surgical Recall also provides a lot of information that is practical for success in the OR, but not necessarily needed on the shelf exam. We recommend reading this book if you have time or are thinking of pursuing a surgical career. It would also be helpful to read the chapters of this book directly related to the surgical service you are rotating with.



Online MedEd Videos for the Surgery Sheld Exam


Online MedEd is becoming a staple amongst medical students as a source of high-yield videos and study guides. While the Online MedEd videos will by NO means be comprehensive for the surgery shelf, they are very high-yield in providing you with practical information regarding the most common surgical procedures and emergencies. Just like our recommendation with the question banks, if you have time, we recommend watching both the medicine and surgery Online MedEd Videos.



Surgery: A Case Based Clinical Review by Christian de Virgilio


This textbook is commonly recommended to medical students as a resource to use during their surgery shelf. While this is a fairly comprehensive resource, it is not the most efficient way to learn the content you need to succeed on your shelf exam. However, if you are a budding surgeon, this may be a great read for you as it will provide you with a detailed description of the most common surgical cases (but sometimes provide more detail than you need for the shelf). This is a fantastic resource for any student, but again, it is not the most efficient way to learn the material.



EMP Surgery Shelf Exam Tutoring


Finally, if you are looking for some extra help with your surgery, any other shelf exam, or any other medical exam (USMLE, COMLEX, Boards exams, etc.), Elite Medical Prep is here to help! Enlisting the help of a tutor will be the best way to get customized help based on your personal needs, progress, and goals. For more information, schedule a free consultation call here!



A Few Final Words of Advice


At a bare minimum, you should use a question bank and the NBME practice tests. However, most of us also used a book (Surgical Recall vs. Pestana), and some of us used the Online MedEd videos. Again, we cannot stress how important it is to start early – there is a lot to cover and you will be very busy during your rotation. Best of luck!

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About the Author

Dylan Eiger, MD/PhD Candidate

In 2016, Dylan Eiger graduated Cum Laude from Duke University with a BS in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry. Matriculated in the MD/PhD Duke…

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