April 27th, 2010

What are we testing for?

I recently had to register to recertify for my echo boards and it got me thinking more about board exams, review courses and such.  What is it about exams?  Just what are we testing?  Is it basic knowledge, competency, advanced knowledge?  In addition, what do we expect our fellows to know as they take exams? 

This is also an issue that came up at our recent fellowship directors meeting. What level of learning do we expect fellows to have upon completion of training?  Is testing for competency enough?  Look it up: the defintion of “competence” ranges from “adequate for the purpose,” to “the ability to perform tasks and duties to the standard expected in employment,” to “being adequately or well qualified physically and intellectually.”  What do you think we should be testing for on certification exams?  What should our standards be?  Once we have proven that we are competent, how often should we have to demonstrate this?  And just what does this mean?  Any more than a little piece of paper?  I think recertification exams do have value: this is discussed in the recent blog by Dr. John Mandrola. What about the physicians who are exempted (“grandfathered”)?

We want to hear your thoughts on this.  Please tell us what you think we should be evaluating on board exams. And what are your thoughts for evaluating fellows during training?  (See also my earler blog on the evaluation process.)

One Response to “What are we testing for?”

  1. Cardiology in-training exams?

    I have often wondered why there is no national “in-training” exam during cardiology fellowship, in the style of that done during medicine residency. Certainly, CardioSource/ACCIS is now a good resource for testing EKG skills (and for teaching). It would be nice to see that approach broadened by the ACC to make a web-accessible self-assessment covering the whole of cardiology training (an in-training exam). Apparently, many programs do offer home-made in-training exams, as outlined in this document hosted by the acc.org: