Preparing for the ABOS, Part 1

Gabriella Ode, MD | Milton Little, MD, FAAOS

July 5, 2022

Congratulations! You’ve just graduated from residency. After an arduous five or six years of training, you have made it through to the other side. And your prize for making it through to the other side * drum roll* … you get to take Step 1 of the ABOS shortly! But don’t panic. Your last five years of training have prepared you for this.  Every in-training exam, every article you have read, every patient you have cared for has provided a phenomenal base of knowledge to help you be successful on this exam.  Here are some tips on how to further prepare for this critical examination at the end of your training.

1Create a Schedule

Break down the core topics that you want to review and be realistic with the amount of time that you will have to prepare. Residency graduation dates and schedules will set the duration of your study schedule. It’s not possible to read all of Campbell’s Orthopaedics and Skeletal Trauma over the next 4 to 6 weeks so with the time that you do have available, use a study guide text. A preexisting study guide such as into the AAOS Resident Core Knowledge Page (, Miller’s Review of Orthopaedics as well as OrthoBullets,  breaks things down into topic-specific sections for a consolidated review curriculum. Remember, the goal right now is not to learn a topic all over again, but to review the essential facts and high yield information. Use your residency experiences and patients as primers for the knowledge you have attained throughout your residency.  

2Attend a Board Review Course

While pricey, attending a board review course is an effective immersive study program. and Residency programs or organizations may provide funding including the Zimmer Biomet/Gladden Society ABOS Part 1 Board Review Scholarship (  The most common review courses are the AAOS Board Review Course, the Miller Review Course and the Maine Review Course. All three allocate different amounts of time to review the core material on the boards with the aid of dedicated and experienced orthopaedic teaching faculty. Find one that works with your schedule, your budget and your learning style.

3Questions, Questions, Questions

This is a test, so it is essential that you dedicate a substantial amount of time practicing test questions. Reviewing old OITE examinations is a helpful starting point, but using other Qbanks such as ResStudy, OrthoBullets, SAE (Self-Assessment Examinations) will also provide you with a surplus of helpful questions. A critical tip for doing practice questions is taking time to review the right and wrong answers. The review paragraph will provide excellent high yield content about each of the answer choices. This is an efficient way to fill in some of your residual knowledge gaps. If possible, during your residency including your chief year try to complete ten questions daily to get into a rhythm of answering these types of questions.  10 questions a day will get you an extra 3650 questions a year of practice. Preparation is everything!

4Don’t Get Hung Up on Your Testing History

While previous studies have shown that performance on the OITE during training may be predictive of your performance on the ABOS, this is not a foregone conclusion. Even if you crushed the OITE every year, that is not a guarantee that you will pass the ABOS. On the other side, if you struggled on previous OITE years, that does not mean that you won’t pass. In both scenarios (and for those in between), it is critical to be disciplined in your studying. Use your previous OITE performance as a guide. Which topics did you have a consistently weak performance (particularly in your 4th and 5th year tests)? Triage your time and prioritize those topics for extensive review. At the same time, don’t completely ignore areas that you consistently did well. They deserve your time as well…just not as much time.

5Lastly, Take Care of Yourself

This test, and the weeks of study leading up to the test, are a marathon.  Make sure to build in some element of daily exercise, well balanced nutrition and hydration. Be sure to take study breaks during your study days. Take those times to do something unrelated to orthopaedics. It is important to give your brain some time to digest all of the knowledge that you have been reviewing each day. On the night before the test, finish studying early. Get a good night’s rest. You’ve been preparing for this test for 5 years and 5 weeks. You’ve got this!

DISCLOSURES: Dr. Little Globus Medical, Consultant: Depuy Synthes, Committee Member: AO Fellowship Committee; OTA Membership Committee; OTA Diversity Committee; OTA Wellness Committee Dr. Ode This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2022 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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