Focus your study time with efficient, reliable resources and tips
Finding time to study during your CA-1 year can be a challenge. However, if you plan to sit the ABA BASIC Exam, it's important to make the most of the precious hours you have available. We've assembled these tips and resources to help you study more efficiently and effectively.
About the BASIC Exam
The BASIC Exam is the first of three staged exams required for certification—BASIC, ADVANCED, and APPLIED.
Typically offered in June at the end of your CA-1 year, the four-hour BASIC Exam includes approximately 200 questions covering basic and clinical science that are fundamental to the practice of anesthesiology. It's a pass-fail exam, so you can take it again (and again) if you fail, but passing on the first attempt can save a lot of time and money.
For more about the exam, review these ABA resources:
• Staged exam timeline detailing where in-training and staged exams fall during and after your residency.
• BASIC Exam blueprint with a breakdown of topics covered and additional specifications.
• Account portal and pricing, including a link to sample questions, instructions for creating your account, and current registration fees.
• Initial Certification in Anesthesiology details the subject matter within the specialty of anesthesiology and provides the framework for the assessment of knowledge.
Five smart study tips
Incorporate these evidence-based and common-sense learning techniques into your study.
1. Ask around. Every residency program is different, so gather tips from senior residents or your residency director. Find out what materials they used, when they fit study into their schedules, and what didn't work, too.
2. Mix up your study style. If you like to learn by quizzing yourself or by reading texts, absolutely make that the centerpiece of your study. But don't neglect other ways of gaining knowledge. The idea of dual coding, or learning via multiple types of input, can help you master concepts.
3. Come back early and often. Spaced repetition, or exposing yourself to a topic and revisiting it at growing intervals, has been shown to strengthen recall. Try to study for a set amount of time each day, and go harder when your schedule is lighter, rather than trying to cram the night before.
4. Keep it active. Passively rereading texts may feel like you're making headway—until you have to recall those concepts on your own. Train your memory through retrieval practice. Try answering questions, writing down what you know, using flashcards, or generating questions for yourself.
5. Slow down. As you're studying and during the exam, take your time. If you want to avoid making mistakes, slower may actually be faster.
Resources: Question banks and keywords
This is not an exhaustive list, as resources' influence and currency tend to rise and fall, but you can count on these providers for reliable, up-to-date information.
• OpenAnesthesia—This free resource sponsored by the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) provides detailed learning across the anesthesiology curriculum. You can browse by keyword, subspecialty, or area of expertise to find detailed information that often draws directly from textbooks.
• SelfStudyPLUS—While there are many subscription question banks available, this collaboration between IARS and ASA includes high-quality ACE questions and Summaries of Emerging Evidence (SEE) content in a way that builds lasting, practical knowledge.
• Anesthesia Review: 1000 Questions and Answers to Blast the BASICS and Ace the ADVANCED—With a format that reflects the exams, this recent addition includes valuable content for the first two staged exams.
• Anesthesia: A Comprehensive Review (aka The Hall Question Book or Hall's)—Access 1,000 questions and answers in textbook or eReader form. Hall's consistently appears in residents' preferred resource lists.
• University of Kentucky Department of Anesthesiology videos—These detailed keyword review videos may help you retain ideas by delivering information visually and verbally.
If your residency program uses any of these books, you're already on your way. Certainly, residents have their own preferences, but any of these titles can make a valuable addition to your study. Just choose one that you find easy to understand and you enjoy reading.
• Miller's Basics of Anesthesia (aka Baby Miller)—User friendly and easy to follow, this is often considered the leading text in basic science as well as clinical topics in anesthesiology. An included eBook makes the text easy to search.
• Morgan and Mikhail's Clinical Anesthesiology (aka M&M)—Past residents suggest that if you understand the items in bold at the start of each chapter, you'll be well positioned for the BASIC Exam. This perennially relevant text is available as an eText and paperback, or via Access Anesthesiology, if your institution is a subscriber.
• Faust's Anesthesiology Review—At the top of many residents' lists, Faust provides comprehensive anesthesiology knowledge in an easy-to-use format. The most recent editions include a readily searchable, enhanced eBook.
• Clinical Anesthesia Fundamentals (aka Baby Barash)—Recognized for clear, simple explanations of anesthesiology concepts, the current edition includes interactive video lectures and tutorials to help convey essential principles.