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How to Prepare for the Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine Oral Exam

BCEMThe Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine (BCEM) requires candidates to successfully complete both a written and oral exam to earn EM board certification. Candidates must pass the written exam in order to take the oral component. To effectively prepare for the BCEM oral exam, it’s helpful to understand how it is administered and what is expected of you as a candidate.

Designed to be a dialogue between you and the presenter, the oral exam consists of five patient cases—two single-patient encounters and one triple-patient encounter. Patient cases are based on real-world scenarios and are intended to reflect typical circumstances encountered in an emergency medicine setting. Each exam station has at least three examiners, one of whom will act as the presenter.

You will be scored on your performance in the following categories:

  • Patient medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic exams ordered
  • Standard of care for management and treatment
  • Diagnosis/disposition

The BCEM recommends that candidates focus their preparation efforts on:

  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Trauma
  • OB/GYN
  • Cardiovascular
  • Toxicology
  • Pulmonary
  • Urology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Endocrinology
  • Infectious disease
  • Neurology

Additionally, to provide examiners with the best and most accurate picture of your knowledge and skills, here are few tips to keep in mind:

  • Verbalize – Remember that your examiners need to assess your management

of the case, not just the diagnosis. So, tell them about your decision-making and thought process. BCEM oral examiner Sarah Gilbert, MD, FAAEP, offers advice in this regard. “Patient cases are developed from bread and butter emergency medicine,” she says. “We are not trying to throw you curveballs. That being said, if there’s something you order and your examiner is unable to give you the test result, it may mean there is something else that you need to do in the management of the patient before they are allowed to give you the results in the script.”

  • Be clear and thorough – “Ask questions,” Dr. Gilbert says. “Your examiners are your eyes and ears.” Examiners do not know exactly what is included on the panels or protocols at your hospital. Therefore, be as clear as possible.
  • Be calm – “All your examiners are board-certified Diplomates,” Dr. Gilbert says. “They all sat for the oral exams and know exactly how you feel.” Remember, you have already completed both the application and written exam and are an experienced practitioner. You know how to do this; just show us what you know.

“People ask board members all the time if there are courses that we recommend to study for the oral exams,” Dr. Gilbert says. “There is no one specific course that BCEM recommends or sponsors. Any good oral prep course will help you prepare for this exam. Just remember to be organized and methodical.”

For more tips on preparing for the BCEM oral exam, contact the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS), the governing body of the BCEM.