The Pediatrics ITE, or In-Training Examination, is a yearly exam offered by the American Board of Pediatrics that assesses a pediatric trainee’s knowledge. The ITE acts like a mock pediatrics board exam. It is typically given in July, lasts about 3 hours, and has approximately 150 multiple-choice questions. Because residency is a particularly busy time, you need to plan how you will study and tackle the mound of material you need to get through.
Below are tips on how to get through the information and prepare for the ITE:
- Know how you learn. Think about what types of resources gave you success on previous tests like the USMLE or COMLEX. Was it review books, question banks, or watching lectures? There are various materials to use to study for the ITE, including board review books, didactics at your institution (lectures, simulations, etc.), online review videos, medical journals, and question banks. Your program may offer each resident a stipend for educational resources. You may also have access to materials (like medical journals and question banks) for free through your program, so be sure to find out about these before you spend any money. However, strongly consider focusing on a good question bank as one of your primary learning resources. The ITE is in a multiple-choice question format, and simulating this at home helps to train your brain for the real thing.
- Create a study plan and do it. Create a schedule and stick to it. Know that on very busy months, it may be more difficult to fit in all the studying you would like, so plan accordingly. If you miss your study goal for the day, move on and focus on tomorrow. It’s okay, but don’t lose your momentum.
A sample study plan may look something like this:
- Months 3-6 before the exam:
- Read board prep books for 30 minutes per day 5 times per week.
- Complete 10-20 questions per day in tutor mode, and review questions missed from the previous session 5 times a week.
- Watch board review lectures from your institution 1-2 times per week.
- Months 1-2 before the exam:
- Read board prep books or review journal articles for 30 minutes a day, 5-6 times per week, focusing on problem areas.
- Complete 25-50 questions per day in timed mode, and review questions missed from the previous session 5-6 days per week.Perform a mock ITE at home. Take a 3-hour timed test with 150 questions one week before the exam, and review missed questions.
One note about studying in tutor vs. timed mode in a question bank: When you first start studying, use tutor mode. As the ITE approaches, switch over to timed mode. This will help you pace yourself when you are taking the real thing and reduce anxiety about having enough time to complete the test.
- Make question banks work for you. Start studying months in advance with a question bank, and set it to all topics. The question bank will show you weaknesses and strengths of which you may not have been aware. Flag and highlight the questions that you miss, and make sure you understand why you missed the question. It’s not enough to just know why the right answer is the right answer; know why the wrong answers are wrong by reading all the explanations.
- Know your weaknesses. Like in the hospital or at the clinic, knowing what you don’t know is just as important as knowing what you do know. For example, if you find infectious disease is your strong suit and cardiology is your weakness, focus more time where you could improve. Set your question bank to your problem areas and review, review, review. Go through board review texts multiple times on the topics you find tough. Work it in to the schedule you’ve created.
- Be creative about where you squeeze in study time. Have resources like question banks available on not only your computer, but also on your cell phone or tablet. If you have a few minutes of downtime between patients or finish writing notes early, hammer out a few questions on your cell phone. This will help you meet your question quota for the day while you are at work, giving you more free time at home.
- Use the rotation to help you study. As you move through various rotations, try to study material and questions that are applicable to the rotation you are on. For example, if you are rotating through gastroenterology, study board material related to that topic. If you get through the topic before the rotation ends, start studying the material for the rotation you will be on next. Not only will it impress attendings that you are actively learning the subject matter, but it can also help cement disease processes and treatments when you see patients that have the conditions you are reading on.
- Don’t dismiss downtime. Make sure you still have time for you. Residency is a busy, busy time, and adding study time adds to stress. It’s hard to retain information if you are exhausted, so make sure you factor in time for resting and recuperation. Scheduling time to rest is just as essential as scheduling time to study.
- Practice, practice, practice. Like success in any field, you get better with consistent practice and hard work. Remember that when studying for the ITE, you are also studying for the pediatrics certification exam. The content outline is the same and the test acts like an abbreviated version of the pediatrics boards. After you complete the ITE, don’t let studying fall by the wayside. That’s easy to do. Keep on top of the material, and use the results of your ITE to help you study for the next one and ultimately your pediatrics boards.