For Residents

Studying in Dermatology Residency

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Toward the end of second year, studying may be tailored to preparing for the CORE examinations using the resources of one’s choice. Based on my discussions with current residents, a combination of reading review books, reviewing one’s personal notes, and quizzing through question banks and/or flashcard apps could be used.

In addition to maintaining a consistent and organized study schedule, second-year residents should continue to read in depth on topics related to patients for whom they are caring and stay on top of the dermatology literature. Table 5 provides a list of medical journals that dermatology residents should aim to read. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology’s continuing medical education series ( may be particularly helpful to residents. In this series, experts review a variety of dermatologic topics in depth paired with quiz questions.

Third Year

As a third-year resident (PGY-4 for most), studying should focus on deepening one’s knowledge base and beginning preparation for the boards examination. At this point, residents should stick to a limited selection of resources (ie, 1 textbook, 1 review book, 1 question bank) for in-depth study. More time should be spent on active learning, such as note-taking and question banks. Boards review courses historically have been available to dermatology residents, namely the Barron Board Review course and a plenary session at the American Academy of Dermatology Annual Conference (Table 4).

Consistent Habits

Studying strategies can and should differ throughout dermatology residency, though consistency is necessary throughout. It is helpful to plan study schedules in advance—yearly, monthly, weekly—and aim to stick to them as much as possible. Finding what works for each individual may take trial and error. For some, it may mean waking up early to study before work, whereas others may do better in the evenings. It also is helpful to utilize a combination of longer blocks of studying (ie, weekend days), with consistent shorter blocks of time during the week. Many residents also learn to take advantage of time spent commuting by listening to podcasts in the car or reading while on public transportation.

Final Thoughts

There are many resources available to support residents in their learning such as textbooks, journals, podcasts, flashcards, question banks, and more. The path to mastery will be individualized for each resident, likely using a unique combination of resources. The beginning of residency is a good time to explore a variety of resources to see what works best, whereas at the end studying becomes more targeted.


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