The NBME® Obstetrics & Gynecology Shelf Exam

What You Need to Know

The NBME® Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB-GYN) Shelf exam tests a student’s ability to assess women’s health and to manage pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum stage. Success on the exam will depend on what is learned throughout the Obstetrics & Gynecology clerkship, coursework, and private study time. OB-GYN covers a wide breadth of topics related to inpatient management, outpatient management, and surgery.

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How to Study for the Obstetrics & Gynecology Shelf Exam

  • Expect a 50/50 split between obstetrics and gynecology questions.
  • Familiarize yourself with what’s normal for OB-GYN: question stems can be tricky and are will lead you to believe something is off even when everything is normal.
  • Dedicate extra studying time to Obstetrics since it isn’t generally introduced to students until their clinical years. Gynecology, however, might already feel familiar due to its basis on pathology.
  • Study High Yield topics like cervical, breast, and ovarian cancer; contraception; pregnancy; urinary incontinence and STDs.
  • Master differential diagnoses of OB-GYN pathologies, since they can seem quite similar.

Taking the Obstetrics & Gynecology Shelf Exam

Not all medical students are required to take the NBME OB-GYN Shelf exam, and it’s not required for obtaining a U.S. doctor’s license. However, most medical schools have a required OB-GYN clerkship, and the most popular way to test students on this particular rotation is by using the NBME’s official Obstetrics & Gynecology Subject Examination. The exam can be taken on campus at select medical schools or at authorized testing locations, like Prometric test centers.

The OB-GYN Shelf exam is formatted as an online test consisting of 110 questions which must be answered in 165 minutes. It shares the same interface as the USMLE Step exams, with each question presented as a hypothetical clinical scenario. The exam is graded on a national average, though whether or not you pass your entire clerkship will depend on your individual medical school’s requirements. More specifically, the number of correct answers you get places you in a percentile, which is then measured across national grades.

The following textbooks and resources have traditionally been very popular when preparing for the Shelf:

UWorld, UWise, Case Files, and NBME practice exams

However, while informative, these resources can feel disjointed and require cross-referencing between sources for missing information.

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