Whether you regard written board examination as a harrowing, life-defining event or as a routine interval task, we can all agree on one basic premise: when you sit down to the test, you would like it to be the only time you have to in the next 10 yr. To that end, the best preparation strategy is likely twofold: first, understand the content, and second, master the medium in which it is tested. Years of reading and clinical practice aid with the first aim, but rehearsal may be the key to the second.
Enter Lippincott’s Anesthesia Review: 1001 Questions and Answers by Sikka et al. The book is exactly what it claims to be, and nothing more: it is, simply stated, just over a thousand board-style questions, each accompanied by a brief explanation of the answer.
With a target audience of residents facing in-training examinations or primary certification and seasoned practitioners facing MOCA examination, Anesthesia Review is organized into 21 chapters, with titles such as “Perioperative Evaluation and Management,” “Peripheral Nerve Blocks,” and “Neuroanesthesia.” Each chapter contains between 26 and 102 questions grouped en bloc, with eagerly awaited answers just a few pages away at the end of every topic. Contributing authors are both trainees themselves and board-certified anesthesiologists, perhaps underlying the book’s internal variability. As is often true of books with multiple contributors, each chapter’s level of difficulty of questions and lengthiness of explanation vary to some degree. But to its credit, there is consistency in the format and breadth of information covered in each.
At a svelte 321 pages, Anesthesia Review is quite portable, and therefore easily smuggled into operating rooms for stolen moments of imminently interruptible study. Even better than its $89.99 paperback form, for around $50 the e-book can be downloaded to the device of your choosing. Of note, its greatest virtue is not the book itself but rather the highly customizable electronic test bank that accompanies its purchase. Through the publisher online, the reader can create tests of varying lengths, from one question to, well, 1,001, including or excluding content from any designated chapter. Each session can be completed in one of two modes. The test mode simulates the examination process in high fidelity and after test completion results are displayed and content can be reviewed for each question. The review mode reveals the explanation after each question is answered, thus allowing for immediate activation of both the amygdala and hippocampus each time a conceptual vulnerability is unmasked with an incorrect answer.
Having studied for and taken a staggering number of examinations in the past several years, I can say that an interactive format makes study more engaging and, as a result, more palatable. This book and its test bank make the process of examination preparation more like a game, for which all diplomates-to-be and diplomates should be grateful. However, one strong caveat stands: this book is less about study and more about practice. Each question presents a discrete moment of potential learning, limited in scope, designed for mastering the medium of test taking. The glaring absence of annotated references within the answers does not direct the examinee to a trusted resource for expanding content mastery—it is left to you, the reader, to find a reputable source.
This text is unlikely to significantly expand your knowledge base and should certainly not be used as a primary source for preparation of in-training or board certification examinations. Rather, Lippincott’s Anesthesia Review: 1001 Questions and Answers is a purist’s publication, true to its name. It is merely the icing on the proverbial content cake, designed less to help you learn about the practice of clinical anesthesiology than to aid in its test preparation. And as long as the latter does not replace the former, there’s nothing wrong with that.