The NBME® Pediatrics Shelf Exam

What You Need to Know

Study for the Pediatrics Shelf with AMBOSS

The NBME® Clinical Science Pediatrics Shelf Exam assesses a student’s ability to administer medical care to infants, children, and adolescents. It is typically taken during the third year of medical school, after the pediatrics clerkship. Success on the exam will depend on what is learned throughout the clerkship, both in the classroom and on the wards.

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How to Study for the Pediatrics Shelf Exam

  • Master the differential diagnosis of high-yield topics like gastrointestinal complaints and gait abnormalities.
  • Be wary of tricky phrasing in the question stems. Children and adolescents aren’t as likely to clearly articulate how they’re feeling, and what seems abnormal could turn out to be normal.
  • Focus on patient presentation and know the classic illness scripts.
  • Find a Qbank with plenty of high-quality practice questions—the more questions you go through, the more likely you are to score high on the exam.
  • Don’t forget to cover congenital heart disease, developmental milestones, trauma, type 1 diabetes, viral exanthems, vaccination schedules, and sickle cell disease during your study sessions.

Taking the Pediatrics Shelf Exam

Not all students have to take the NBME Pediatrics Shelf Exam, and it’s not obligatory for obtaining a U.S. doctor’s license. However, most medical schools have a required pediatrics clerkship, and the most popular way to test students is by using the NBME’s official Clinical Pediatrics Subject Examination. The exam can be taken on campus at select medical schools or at authorized testing locations, like Prometric test centers.

The Pediatrics 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.

Pediatrics features tricky topics: children and adolescents come with their own set of medical issues, and many of the rare conditions covered on the exam might not ever come up while on the wards. With that in mind, it’s best if students give themselves a head start and try to cover as much material as possible.

While students have long relied on traditional textbooks and resources for the exam, they are often too expansive and unwieldy to use when short on time. A more unified and condensed solution is available for more streamlined studying.

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