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  • CNS Oral Board Exam Course: Optimal Preparation Through an Individualized and Tailored Approach

    Authors: Costas G. Hadjipanayis MD, PhD
    Robert J. Spinner, MD





    The Oral Board Exam represents the final hurdle on the road for a candidate to become board certified in neurosurgery (after passing the primary exam and completing an ACGME accredited residency). Preparing for this important exam is as important as preparing for a surgical case. For seven years, the CNS has sponsored a one-and-a-half day Oral Board Exam Preparation course. Initially offered once per year, the course is now available twice per year (in the fall and winter) to provide increased access to learners. The next course will be held immediately prior to the CNS Annual Meeting, October 19-20 in San Francisco.

    Although fair and standardized, the oral exam is daunting and intimidating because of its broad scope and format. Given neurosurgeons’ busy schedules, preparation can be equally as daunting and intimidating and must be time efficient, rigorous, and relevant.

    Two years ago, the ABNS changed the format of the oral exam. Recognizing the presence of increasing subspecialists in the field both in academic and private practice, the ABNS began offering oral exams with a general neurosurgical or a subspecialty focus (vascular, tumor, trauma/critical care, spine, functional, and pediatrics). The scope of the general neurosurgery exam became better defined and narrower focusing on neurosurgical patients that can present to any emergency room. For the first time, it included not only cases presented by examiners on general neurosurgery (and/or a subspecialty focus) but also actual cases of the examinee (selected by the examiners). This new format is intended to assess competency in the cerebral and technical aspects of a neurosurgical practice—by testing knowledge and judgment, particularly related to specifics of the pre, intra- and postoperative management of patients and their complications.

    Mindful of this new paradigm, we have redesigned the 2019 October CNS Board preparation course to reflect the recent changes in the oral exam and prepare participants for the general or subspecialty-based neurosurgical oral exam. Participants will learn core principles of general neurosurgery and then more focused information related either to general neurosurgery (i.e., complex spine) or a selected subspecialty. Learners will take part in didactics as well as small group and one-on-one case-based sessions depending on the track that they chose. All teachers are neurosurgical leaders who are effective and enthusiastic educators. Subspecialty sections will be directed by experts within these fields. Instructors (matched with participants practices) will be mock examiners, offering constructive feedback on case presentation style and responses, and identifying gaps and ways to address them. Candidates can learn, rehearse, and perfect in a simulated environment.

    We recognize that there are different ways to prepare and various courses to take, all of which are beneficial. We believe this course, however, optimizes preparation through a tailored, directed, and individualized approach. Learners will gain knowledge, confidence, and experience with the new exam format. Our goal is for participants not just to pass the exam, but master skills and information that will be applicable throughout their careers.

    Registration is now open for the 2019 CNS Oral Boards Review Course at CNS.ORG/ORALBOARDS

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