How to Create an ABSITE Study Schedule
Creating a realistic study schedule to prepare for the ABSITE, while in the midst of busy clinical
rotations, is essential for maximizing your chance at success. For many, the critical mistake is failing to
start studying far enough in advance of the exam date. In other cases, failing to recognize that your
rotation schedule is busy in the month or two leading up to the exam can derail an otherwise effective
study plan. We will review the essential steps of creating an ABSITE study schedule and will share a
sample schedule with you.
Start Far Enough in Advance
The most common question our ABSITE test-prep experts here is “When should I start studying for the
ABSITE?” The answer is that it depends on each test taker. Priority #1 is leaving sufficient time to
complete a thorough review of all of your study material. For most, this means time to complete review
of a review book like The ABSITE Review by Fiser, a text-based question review book such as Review of
Surgery for ABSITE and Boards by DeVirgilio, plus an online question bank like TrueLearn (the most
popular selection). Furthermore, many test takers will have a collection of written or Anki flashcards to
review high-yield topics. All in all, even with the lightest clinical schedule, most will need to start
studying at least two months in advance (i.e. the end of November). For those with a more robust
rotation schedule, particularly for those with busy and unpredictable rotations like acute care surgery or
trauma in December and/or January, starting to study three months in advance is not uncommon. As a
final note, remember the definition of insanity – if your score last year was below your goal, you need to
change your study plan from last year to expect a different result.
While being systematic certainly requires more organization, invest that time in yourself and your future
success. Do not pick topics to review at random, or worse yet try to study every topic all at once. There
are approximately 30-40 separate topics that are covered on the exam; select a few topics to review
each week. If possible, combine topics that are similar or related (e.g. thyroid/parathyroid,
esophageal/rectal cancer, etc.). In addition to systematic review of topics, also review each topic
systematically. Create a rhythm and a pattern and stick with them. One example: review the topic in
Fiser while making flashcards of high-yield points, followed by practice questions and more flashcards.
Don’t neglect your flashcards once you make them – remember to review them regularly in order to
solidify topics you’ve already covered.
The reality is that every individual may need a personalized approach, but the schedule below is
representative outline of a typical study plan that generally leads to success. Use it to craft your own
plan based on your previous test results and upcoming rotation schedule.
November-December (9 weeks): Individual topic review
We recommend at least two months to complete reviewing all of the ABSITE topics, based on Fiser
chapters (or the study book of your choice). Creating flashcards every time you study and review
flashcards that you make at least every other day to stay on schedule. With approximately 1,000 review questions in the TrueLearn question bank and in the DeVirgilio review book, there are on average 25-30
questions per topic to be completed as well; allot 60 to 90 minutes to review these questions to allow
for answering plus review of the correct answers. Remember that starting in November will require
review of approximately 4 to 5 topics per week to finish by the end of December; if this seems
unsustainable, start studying earlier!
January (4 weeks): Review
The importance of leaving January for review is three-fold. One, it will afford you enough time to
complete your question bank an additional time (or a second question bank/book if desired). Second, it
will allow you to review all of your flashcards simultaneously, which is essential for integrating the
knowledge you have acquired. Third, and sometimes most importantly, this will mean that even a busy
rotation schedule in January will not derail your study plan.
The Day Before the Test: Rest, Relax, and Remember
Try your best to get plenty of rest the night before the exam. You can do some gentle flashcard review,
but avoid cramming or too many review questions. If there is something you notice you have a difficult
time memorizing (i.e. sensitivity/specificity calculations, cancers staging, etc.), review these before bed
and the morning of the exam. Make sure to eat a well-balanced meal the night before and morning of
the exam. Note: if you drink a caffeinated beverage every morning, make sure you have the same or
similar drink the day of the exam.
Recap After the Exam Is Over
After the exam is complete, the last thing you will want to do is take time to objectively review your
study schedule and determine if it worked for you. However, this is extremely important. If you felt
rushed or unable to finish all of your desired studying, take note of that so that you can adjust your
schedule for next year. By the time you receive you score report in late February or March, you may
have already forgotten your schedule. With that in mind, your score on the exam will also be an
important metric for determining how well you prepared.
We hope you enjoyed this post and as always, if you need assistance preparing for the ABSITE, don’t hesitate to contact us!