Home » Studying for the Shelf Exam During Your OB/GYN Rotations

Studying for the Shelf Exam During Your OB/GYN Rotations

13 min


A group of medical school students on their OB/Gyn clinical rotations.


Studying for the OB/GYN Shelf


So you’ve made it to your Obstetrics and Gynecology clerkship. OB/GYN is a fun and exciting field. However, between delivering babies, scrubbing into surgeries, and working in the outpatient clinic, you somehow have to find time to study for a shelf as well? On top of that, you have to master both Obstetrics and Gynecology for your shelf!


Here we will cover some tips and tricks for how to study for your OB/GYN shelf!



Find Time to Study Every Day in Small Chunks


One of the #1 issues students run into is finding the time to study. On a difficult rotation where there are early morning wake-ups, long calls, and maybe even overnight shifts, this can be a real challenge. You might find yourself running to the OR or between deliveries with little downtime or dedicated study time.


Studying while on a clerkship is very different from the studying you may have done during your pre-clinical years or for USMLE Step 1. It requires a shift in your mindset from having long periods of dedicated time in a day to study to now having to study in small blocks of time. The key to doing well and not falling behind is to study every day in short but frequent sessions.


Maximize any downtime you have during your workday – from your morning commute to waiting in line for lunch at the hospital cafeteria. Download Question Banks, the UpToDate app, and – if you’re a flashcard person – the Anki app to your smartphone and pack a quick study reference in your work bag. While it may not feel very productive, even doing 5 questions or 20 flashcards during downtime is helpful to chip away at your studying.


When you get home from the hospital, it may feel very difficult to study for a long time. Allow yourself some time to decompress, and then set aside at least an hour each night to dedicate to studying. This will help you both shine on your clerkship and keep you on track toward shelf success!


Questions Are Key


Questions, questions, and more questions. I cannot emphasize this study strategy enough! Questions are a great form of active learning and a good question bank also serves as a text and resource to learn from. Choose one question bank as your primary resource and aim to get through all the questions before your shelf.


The gold standard QBank to use to prepare for your shelf exam is UWorld for Step 2 CK. You can toggle between “Step 2 Review” and “Shelf Review” modes. The questions under “OBGYN” cover the information that will be tested on your shelf.


AMBOSS is another excellent QBank to prepare for the shelf. It has over 400+ NBME-style questions. Another benefit of AMBOSS is its knowledge library, which is an extremely handy reference tool for clerkship-level learning. Even if you do not complete the AMBOSS QBank, the library alone is an incredible resource to have as a learning tool and reference to look up information quickly while studying or seeing patients at the hospital.


Another resource some students have access to is uWISE through APGO, The Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics. This is often provided through your OB/GYN clerkship’s subscription. There are approximately 600 questions in this QBank. Many students find them helpful, and overall they are shorter and quicker to get through than UWorld or AMBOSS. If your school can provide this, it is a good supplemental resource but still aim to complete either AMBOSS or UWorld as your primary QBank.

Learn From Your OB/GYN Patients for Shelfs


One of the other key differences between studying before clerkships and after is now you have patients to learn from. It is a privilege to be able to take care of patients and to be able to learn from them. Seeing what you’ve been studying in real life and knowing a patient’s story often make the information more memorable and will help you consolidate what you’ve been reading about.


At the end of each day, try to read up on one chief complaint you saw, whether it was fibroids, endometrial cancer, or preterm labor. Easy ways to do this include the following:

  • Look up the UpToDate article. UpToDate subscriptions can often be accessed through your medical school and will have a very detailed overview of the subject with links to articles that they have cited.
  • Search for the topic in the AMBOSS library. AMBOSS library is another highly educational resource to draw on with excellent summaries and graphics. 
  • Find the ACOG practice bulletin on the topic. ACOG practice bulletins are written and reviewed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. For a full list of ACOG practice bulletins, see here.
  • Finally, for those who are looking for a book read the corresponding chapter in Case Files. Case Files for Obstetrics and Gynecology has 60 cases dedicated to the most important clinical concepts to master for your shelf. 


Remember you don’t have to do them all. Find the resource that works best for you! Focus on clinical presentation, diagnosis, treatment, and management as these are the most commonly tested items about a clinical condition. 


Make an OB/GYN Shelf Study Schedule and Stick to It


While your clerkship is likely several weeks long, it is important to stay on top of your studying as time can fly by. Calculate how many questions per week you need to do to complete your QBank. For a clerkship that is about 6 weeks long, you likely need to do on average <20 questions/day to complete the OB/GYN section (always check at the beginning of your rotation because QBanks are constantly being updated and the number is always changing).


Once you’ve calculated the number you’ll need to get through per week, start crafting your study schedule. You will inherently have some lighter days and some busier days on this rotation so giving yourself weekly goals gives you the flexibility to do more questions one day and still keep on top of your schedule.


OnlineMedEd has wonderful overviews of key clinical topics broken down into both Obstetrics and Gynecology. Mapping these onto your study schedule and getting them done within the first 2 weeks of your rotation is key to setting yourself up for success and building your fund of knowledge.


Schedule days to set aside for practice exams in the second half of your clerkship. Try to choose days when you aren’t scheduled to be on call so you can devote your full mental energy and treat this like a true practice exam. The NBME OB/GYN self-assessments are the best practice tests available, and there are currently 4 forms available (forms 5, 6, 7, and 8). Each is only 50 questions, so try to complete all if possible.


Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help


This clerkship can be demanding. Don’t forget that there are many people you can turn to to ask for help if needed! Be proactive about asking for help early. Your clerkship director and your attendings are wonderful resources who are dedicated to teaching students. Forming study groups with peers who are also learning can be a helpful way to keep yourself accountable and talk through difficult concepts.


Finally, if you find yourself struggling, you may benefit from the help of a tutor. If you would like to learn how the tutors at Elite Medical Prep can help you with your OB/GYN shelf exam, do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation.


Good luck, and happy studying! 

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