How to Study for Family Medicine Shelf

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Maybe you’ve just started your family medicine rotation, and you’re thinking it’s a good idea to get started on how to study for family medicine shelf right from the start. After all, this way, you’re going to get a good head start and have some foundation while you’re working through the rotation, right?

Or maybe you’re getting closer to the end of your rotation, and you’re really starting to think about how that family medicine shelf is looming closer and closer with each passing day. Maybe you figured you’d do better if you allowed the rotation to teach you first, and then you filled in the blanks with some dedicated study.

Or maybe you’re not really sure if you should be taking the family medicine shelf at all. Well, don’t worry, because no matter where you are on this cycle, we’re going to help you see just what it takes to study for this all-important exam and whether you’re the one who should be taking it or not.

Who Should Study for NBME Family Medicine Shelf?

Who Should Study for NBME Family Medicine Shelf?

Who Should Study for NBME Family Medicine Shelf?

The first thing you’re probably wondering about is just who should be taking this exam. Well, you should be taking this exam if you are planning to continue on in medical school to complete your degree. Chances are, that’s going to be you, right? You want to make sure that you’re going to complete your degree after you’ve made it this far.

Well, there are several shelf exams that you’re going to need to take in order to get there, and family medicine is one of those. Also known as clinical clerkship exams, you do have a little bit of variety to when you need to take them, but you should be doing it in your third or fourth year.

How to Get Started Studying for Family Medicine Shelf?

How to Get Started Studying for Family Medicine Shelf

How to Get Started Studying for Family Medicine Shelf?

Okay, so if these exams are so important and you absolutely should be taking them, what should you do in order to get started? Well, for one thing, you should begin as early as you can preparing. And for another, you should make sure that you’re studying the right things, in the right way. We’re going to help you go over just what those are.

Know the primary test. In general, the family medicine shelf is asking you to be able to effectively and efficiently identify the urgency of a specific case that is presented to you. Everything else that’s happening is actually tangential to that fact.

Know what you’re studying. We’re going to go over this a little bit more in the next section, but keep in mind that you only want to study the areas that are actually important, not a lot of additional ones that will just bog you down.

Focus on family medicine. Another aspect of knowing what you’re studying is to focus on family medicine. So, when you’re presented with a case, you only need to know what would happen as a family medicine doctor, not what would happen after you refer the patient to someone else.

What Topics are Covered on the Family Medicine Shelf Exam?

What Topics are Covered on the Family Medicine Shelf Exam

What Topics are Covered on the Family Medicine Shelf Exam?

There are a number of different topics that are covered on the family medicine exam; however, it’s important to note that many of these topics are very limited in the scope with which the exam looks at them. We’ll present them as an overall table so you can see just how small these sections are, however, keep in mind that this does not mean you should ignore them. Every piece makes up the essential overall exam.

Immune System1-5%
Blood & Lymphoreticular System1-5%
Nervous System & Special Senses1-5%
Renal & Urinary System1-5%
Pregnancy, Childbirth & The Puerperium1-5%
Female Reproductive System & Breast1-5%
Male Reproductive System1-5%
Multisystem Processes & Disorders1-5%
Biostatistics, Epidemiology/Population Healthy & Interpretation of Medical Lit.1-5%
Skin & Subcutaneous Tissue3-7%
General Principles, Age-Related Findings and Care of Well Patients5-10%
Behavioral Health5-10%
Musculoskeletal System5-10%
Cardiovascular System5-10%
Respiratory System5-10%
Gastrointestinal System5-10%
Endocrine System5-10%
Social Sciences5-10%

Keep in mind also that there are optional additions for musculoskeletal and sports-related injuries as well as chronic care. These will add to the amount of content that is taken by each of the different sections.

You will also be asked questions and given scenarios for patients within different age groups with the primary patient load being between the ages of 18 and 65 but some being birth to 17 and some 66 and older.

Finally, you will be focused primarily on diagnosis and foundational concepts but will also need to know maintenance, prevention & surveillance as well as pharmacotherapy, intervention, and management.

The Best Books for Prepping for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam

The Best Books for Prepping for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam

If you’re looking to study for anything, having the right textbooks and study guides is definitely going to be an essential piece of the puzzle. Without the right study materials, you can easily find yourself falling behind or struggling immensely. So, these are a few of the most important books that you should be looking at when you start studying.

Step Up to Medicine

The first book that is often mentioned when it comes to studying for the family medicine exam is Step Up to Medicine. Specifically, you should be paying attention to the ambulatory section of this book during this stage of your clerkships and rotations. Within the Step Up book, you’ll find a practice test, full-color illustrations to make studying easier, and even what they call ‘quick hits.’

Quick hits are designed to give you the most essential information in easy to remember formats so you can do better both in your clerkship and in the exam. You’ll also find that this book is focused on all of the different areas of medicine, which will give you a good overview for other clerkships and other shelf exams that you need to take.

What Makes it Unique:

  • Quick hits and clinical pearls focus attention on more relevant information
  • Focuses on important information with less ‘extras’ or fillers

Why Choose This Family Medicine Shelf Exam Book:

On Sale
Step-Up to Medicine (Step-Up Series)
  • Agabegi MD, Dr. Steven (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 592 Pages - 05/08/2019 (Publication Date) - LWW (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-28


Case Files Family Medicine

This is another of the most popular books when it comes to studying for your shelf exam. It actually offers 60 different cases that you can evaluate and review. It actually provides real-life cases, so you’re getting situations that have really happened to practice with, making it more realistic to what you’ll experience in your clerkship. Each case also includes discussions, references, definitions, and review questions.

The idea of the Case Files book is to present you with real patients to work with rather than attempting to use rote memorization, which can be challenging to regurgitate when it comes to the exam. You’ll be able to learn about how to approach different cases as well, so you won’t be overwhelmed or surprised when you come across a completely new case you haven’t seen before.

What Makes it Unique:

  • Focus on real people instead of memorizing facts
  • Offers descriptive case files and information for review

Why Choose This Family Medicine Shelf Exam Book:

Case Files Family Medicine, Fourth Edition
  • Toy, Eugene (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 704 Pages - 03/10/2016 (Publication Date) - McGraw-Hill Education / Medical (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-29


Pretest Family Medicine

We’re going to put this one under the books even though it’s more of a question book than anything else. You will get some review content and information here, but you’re mostly going to want to look at the over 500 questions and answers that are included. That’s because those questions are all designed and formatted, just like you would see them on the actual boards.

Every answer, both right and wrong, is described and defined, so you’ll be able to see where you’re making mistakes. You’ll also be able to see what the most important aspects are for your exam so you can study the right areas. This book is actually designed to help you prepare for the shelf exams as well as the USMLE, so you’re going to have a lot of in-depth questions here.

What Makes it Unique:

  • Over 500 questions written in true board style
  • Designed and edited by students who have taken the exam

Why Choose This Family Medicine Shelf Exam Book:

Family Medicine PreTest Self-Assessment And Review, Fourth Edition
  • Knutson, Doug (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 12/12/2018 (Publication Date) - McGraw-Hill Education / Medical (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-29


The Best Questions and QBanks for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam

The Best Questions and QBanks for the Family Medicine Shelf Exam

While textbooks and study guides can be a great way to go, they’re not the only thing you’re going to want when it comes to studying for the shelf exam. You’re likely also going to want questions and Qbanks that will prepare you more for the actual exam rather than just giving you the material. These are some of the best family medicine questions currently available.

AAFP. This is possibly the most popular question bank when it comes to family medicine, and it comes directly from the American Academy of Family Physicians. It’s all about studying for the board review. What that means is you’re going to have different sections, and you’re likely not going to need them all for family medicine. You’ll need to choose the various categories that are important, but you’ll have over 1,000 questions available.

Uworld. This should not surprise you when it comes to Qbanks because it’s one that’s popular for just about any subject that you need to study during medical school. You will need to work a little bit to use this bank, however, since there’s no exact family medicine section, so you’ll have to find the different subsections you struggle with along with internal medicine.

COMBANK Family Medicine COMAT. These questions are going to be just a little bit different because they’re actually geared toward the DO version of the family medicine shelf. This is called the COMAT. So, you’ll be able to get a little bit more background and studying about family medicine, but keep in mind that these questions aren’t entirely as dedicated to the shelf, so you’ll need to pick and choose a little more.

How and When to Use Case Files

How and When to Use Case Files

Case Files, if you didn’t know, refers to a specific book, which will give you a set of cases that are realistic to what you’ll find in your clerkship as well as the exam. These can be useful in helping you to study because they present things in a similar way to how they could be presented in an actual exam (or your clerkship, of course).

Read it first. Before you start studying with other methods, and even before you get too far into your rotation, it’s a good idea to start reading through the Case Files book. This will give you the ability to get a head start and to brush up on some of the basics related to interpreting a case.

Read daily

Read daily. You want to get through the Case Files earlier on so you can get started on some of the other topics as well. You can do this by reading at least one and preferably a couple of case files each day. Do at least one in the morning before you start your rotation and then add in another one by the end of the day.

Use it as a foundation. Don’t expect Case Files to be everything that you need for your studying. You want to make sure that you are supplementing this with other content such as other books and the question banks as well. It’s an excellent place to start, but not the full prep you need.

Don’t get bogged down. We mentioned using this every day until you finish the cases, but make sure you’re not getting too bogged down. The content can be long and wordy, so if you find yourself getting tired of it, take a break and then come back. You won’t remember much if you’re too bored to keep your eyes open.

Jump around the topics. There are a number of different types of cases in this book. You can always jump around if you find specific topics to be more relevant to your current needs or if you’re just more interested in one than another. Starting with topics that interest you could get you more into the whole thing.

Review the quick points. You’ll find these at the end of the book, and they’re going to give you a basic overview of some of the most important things that you need to know. Make sure you pay attention to these topics and ideas moving forward with your study.

How to Use the AAFP Questions and Podcast

How to Use the AAFP Questions and Podcast

AAFP is the American Academy of Family Physicians, and it’s actually a series of podcasts that you can listen to about different topics in family medicine. What’s great is that they’re actually quite short, around 15-30 minutes, so you can listen to one or two every morning and evening, but just how are you going to use the content?

Review podcasts daily.

These podcasts are short enough that you can listen to at least a couple during the day. Load them onto your phone or play them in your car on your way to or from work/school/clerkship or listen on your lunch. You can also listen while you’re getting ready in the morning or at night.

Review questions daily.

Review questions daily.

Especially after you’ve completed the Case Files book, you’re going to want to make it a practice to work on questions every day. You could also use the questions alongside the Case Files to really back up some of the things you’re reading and the ways that different cases should be evaluated.

Focus on relevant topics.

If you’re struggling in a specific area, you can focus on the topics that are most pertinent to you. Or you can focus on areas where your clerkship is most likely to concentrate (depending on the area, for example, you could see more of one case than others).

Start with one topic.

When it comes to the questions, it’s actually best if you look for a single topic you want to study and then work your way through that. You could start with endocrinology and get through all of the questions on that topic before moving on to the next one.

Set it to random.

Once you’ve gone through each section by itself, you’ll want to take a closer look at all of the topics. At this point, you’re ready to set things to random and go through the questions as they come up. This will help improve your overall recall of information without the focus of a topic.

Consider important presentations. This isn’t entirely about your shelf exam, but if you’re going to have to do presentations or specialized reports during this time, you’ll also want to take a look at the podcasts to hear the latest information, research, and studies being released.

Wrapping Things Up: 3 Final Tips for How to Study for Family Medicine Shelf

Okay, so we’ve gone through a whole lot of information, and you’re possibly a little bit overwhelmed. Well, there’s no reason to worry because we’re going to sum things up a little bit here and give you just three final tips that you should take into consideration when it comes to studying for the family medicine shelf. Are you ready?

1. Take advantage of your time.

The first thing to do is take advantage of any extra time you have to study. Use question banks or the Pre-Test book when you have some spare moments or listen to a podcast from the AAFP list. You’ll be able to gain even a small amount of additional information during these moments, which could add up to a whole lot.

2. Check out the videos.

2. Check out the videos.

OnlineMedEd actually has a number of different videos that you can watch related to different topics from family medicine. These are going to cost you (as will the other resources on this list), but you can gain access to the videos and even some notes, so you can review and follow along. They actually focus on some of the most critical aspects of your rotation, which will help with the shelf exam.

3. Know where you’re struggling.

Start by taking an inventory of the areas on the exam and which ones you feel strongly about and which you don’t. You want to make sure that you get at least a foundational understanding of all of the areas and that you’re working harder at your difficult zones than the ones you already feel confident on.

Overall, you can absolutely do great on your family medicine shelf if you know what you need to be studying, and you start early. Take a look at the top study guides and materials and focus on variety to your resources. You’ll be better prepared in the long run.

Did you enjoy this post? Then you may like our other shelf study guides:

> How to Study for OB/GYN Shelf

> How to Study for Surgery Shelf

You may also like our section on the site for medical school study tips.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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