Thursday, January 31, 2008

Studying for the CBT.

January was a busy month, well sort of.

4th-year medical students in Japan now have to go through a set of exams called the Common Achievement Tests (CAT), which comprises an objective-structured clinical examination (OSCE) and a computer-based test (CBT). The former tests basic clinical skills while the latter checks to see if you have the essential knowledge that is deemed necessary to begin clinical rotations. So basically, the CBT part is a complete review of the 4 years.

However, like most other tests, studying for the CBT is test-focused and test-oriented. It's not something you should start off by opening your textbook from two years ago, but more like get the unofficial guide and workbook (like the First Aid for the USMLE) and study based on that. Why unofficial? Because there's no such thing as an official guide nor workbook. All they give us is a handout with a brief explanation of the exam, and the exam itself is not made public. So what this means is the quality of the exam does not improve. The unofficial workbook is made up of questions that have been remembered by past examinees, and so though it is not the actual past exam, it is the closest one available, and at a glance, there are tons of questions that are not clear and some just lack explanation to the extent that we can come up with more than one answer.

Finished the OSCE two days before Christmas, and now the CBT. One of my biggest concerns is whether I would be able to keep my concentration through the exam, most notorious for its length of seven hours. The unofficial workbook is what I along with everyone else is doing, but there are six volumes to the series totalling over 3,000 questions. Since I'm the kind of person who can't concentrate for long in his own room, people would find me studying in a Starbucks or a McDonald's for hours.

By the way, it's been a pretty cold winter, and Tokyo, which seldom gets snow much less any accumulation of it, has so far had 5 centimeters of snow twice this year.

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