Good resource for the SHELF

Apr 9, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:very good questions

Cons:book is frought with errors, typos, missing answer choices

The Bottom Line: it is ok

I am writing a series of reviews that are intended to help current 1st and 2nd year medical students, or those reading medical textbooks, make informative decisions about which books to use during studies.Here are some:
Residency by Iserson
Robbins Pathology
Ekg?s by Dubin
Basic Histology by Junquiera
Immunology by Abbas
Embryology by Sweeney
Heart Disease by Lilly
Anatomy by Mather
Microbial Disease by Schaecter
Pulm. Medicine by Weinberger
Review of Physiology by Ganong

I used this book to prepare for the Ob-Gyn shelf exam which was administered at the end of my OB clerkship of 3rd year medical rotations. It was recommended to me by many senior classmates as a good way to practice and self-test my knowledge about the subject, prior the real exam. I used Blueprints Ob-gyn to read about specific topics and used this book to supplement the question basis.

In retrospect, there were problems with this book but I think I would still use it again because I had nothing else better to use.

The contents
The book has over 500 questions to simulate the question format seen on the shelf. This includes multiple choice and extended matching. It deals with issues of relative importance to medical students and other problem-oriented materials. It is designed to facilitate regular review of such material.

The book is broken up into 2 sections: Obstetrics and Gynecology. Each has its own chapter problems to focus on specific questions pertaining to each topic. For instance, Ob has the following:
Early pregnancy
Pregancy complications,
Labor and Delivery
Lactation, ethics, Legal issues

Gynecology has:
Menopause, anatomy, puberty
Contraception, abortion, sterilization
Infection, urology, pelvic surgery

Each chapter had about 50 questions. I would read a chapter in Blueprints and then answer questions in pretest that corresponded to that chapter. I would allot 1 minute per question to simulate the real test and train myself to the pacing issues of the shelf.

Question Quality
Overall, I think the best way to learn is to practice questions. I think that it helps to reinforce the material that learnt through reading. That being said, I didn't find that these questions reflected the content on the actual shelf. The questions in this book were too specific and focused on alot of unnecessary details that the shelf never bothered about.

There were also quite a few questions where the answers were incorrect, as well as the explanations. I noticed this first in the Early Pregnancy chapter in regards to fetal organs.
The chapter on Genetics focused ALOT on interpreting ultrasound images. I did not see a single ultrasound on the shelf and that is probably because:
1) ultrasounds are difficult to interpret; that is why there are people called radiologists
2)as a 3rd year medical student, I never got the opportunity to read an US. As a matter of fact, alot of the resident physicians could not read them either. So how can medical students be tested on such topics?
3) the explanations in this book were awful. it never used arrows pointing to the diagrams to show what the actual abnormalities were.

I would have liked to have seen more imaging in regards to fetal heart rates. In this section, some images were missing but questions were being asked in reference to these missing images. I would have liked to have seen more questions on gestational diabetes as well. The questions on pelvic relaxation were no where near the type of questions on the shelf. Not even close. I think to improve this book, the editors need to pay attention to the topics that are tested by the NBME and correct the typos and other errors that are fraught within the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book because it is the only review question book that is reasonable. Other sources, including Appleton and Lange, are worse: the questions are easier and not sufficient in quantity. Therefore, get this book but beware of its cons.

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