Core exam preparation

So much to do, so little time (and energy)....

Don't panic! Board prep does not need to formally start until your third year, and can be broken down into a few basic components:

  1. The "Guide"

  2. The "Q-bank"

  3. The "Courses"

  4. The ABR

The "Guide"

Pretty much everyone uses the Crack the Core series, and you should as well. The actual books are worth buying and marking up extensively as you go through the material. Volume 2 no longer includes physics and you need to buy War Marchine separately. The first edition came out during my R3 year, and when I started reading through it my mind was blown. It is outstanding and will serve as an excellent guide.

However, it is a refresher, and not a good way to learn from scratch. It will refresh or solidify concepts that you've already learned with textbooks or journal articles, so pay your dues during R1-R2 years, and you'll reap the benefits!

"Core Radiology" by Mandell might be helpful a helpful addition for some, but is not a dedicated Core exam study guide.

Volume 1

Volume 2


Case Companion

The "Q-bank"

I should admit my bias: I was not a huge fan of RADPrimer. So many of the questions predate the first CORE exam, and the sheer number of questions is overwhelming and counterproductive (Spoiler alert! You don't have to do 7,000 questions to pass the Core Exam!). There are more efficient ways to get through questions. However, I admit that many people like it, so that does make it a good option.

My favorite series by far is the excellent "A Core Review" series. These are question books. Each book incorporates physics and non-interpretive skills into their sets, just like the real Core exam. The questions are generally harder and more detailed than on the actual Core exam, but they are intended to TEACH you and have very nice, detailed explanations. You will learn a LOT from these questions, which was often not the case for me when I used RADPrimer.

Supplemental Q-banks:

The "Courses"

While not for everyone, many residents go to review courses. During my R3 year, I went to AIRP, Duke Review, and HUDA. I loved AIRP and would highly recommend to anyone who can go. HUDA gives an outstanding review of physics if you can go. UCSF's review course is another popular option, both in person and the recorded videos.

ABR Key Resources

The ABR gives study advice that is worth reviewing (although not all helpful).

  1. Non-interpretive skills. Have to review this. Dr. David Larson's videos are a nice way to get through some of the material (1.5 - 2.0x speed).

  2. 100-question Core practice exam is worth reviewing at least in part early. This will give you an idea of what "board-style" questions look like, so you can appropriately judge the value of different Q-banks and get in the right mindset.

  3. The Core Exam Study Guide appears to be a list of every diagnosis in all of medicine with a radiology correlate, confirming that you need to know everything. Thanks, ABR.

  4. The Blueprints section is actually pretty interesting and helpful to review, and gives you an idea of how to weigh your time for studying to maximize yield in each section.