Should Medical Board Exams Allow for Cellphones During Test-Taking Sessions!

Should Medical Board Exams Allow for Cellphones During Test-Taking Sessions!

Medical Information versus Medical Knowledge

We should not mistake medical information for medical knowledge! The bubble of multibillion dollar medical test-prep industry that has ambiently permeated  the entire medical board-related  activities  appears to favor substitution of bits of information over knowledge. I do, however,  firmly believe that the top two most prestigious medical exam producers of the United States, namely, NBME and NBOME, are well aware that knowledge of medicine has to be the dominating theme of their assessment exams. 

For what I know, there used to be a time when only physicians had access to the vast database of medical information. For what I further know, these days we can hardly go anywhere without our smart cellphones! Our cellphones have become the indispensable, 24/7, parts of our lives. Anyone who knows the art of internet searching can easily come up with all sorts of health-related data and information.  Would you be willing to grant license of practicing medicine to anyone who has access to more medical data and information? Of course, ‘not’. Medical board exams are not trivia games about medically-related facts… PERIOD! Only those who preside over knowledge and wisdom of medicine should be allowed to practice medicine!

I trust that NBME and NBOME  organizations are considerate of the aforementioned matters. For this reason, I believe that their new generations of test items will progressively target assessing medical knowledge at the expense of minimizing usage of medical information. When will they start doing this? You will be surprised to hear that they have been doing  this for quite some time!

The question is not whether medical board exam testing sessions should allow for the cellphones or not? It is rather when and how they should allow it!

Knowledge/Wisdom (DIKW) Hierarchy

What is knowledge (information) hierarchy and how is it related to the above comments?

The knowledge pyramid is commonly known as DIKW pyramid/hierarchy, and wisdom hierarchy. It depicts  structural and functional relationships between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom (DIKW). Each higher-level category is explained or defined based on the level that is located immediately below it. For instance, wisdom relies on knowledge, and information on data!

Conclusion: In a world that the cell-phone search engines can bring all sorts of health-related information to anyone instantaneously, wisdom and knowledge are the only two levels of DIKW that should define the proper roles and functions of our physicians.


Dr. E


Also known as "Dr. Testbuster", Dr. Eftekar (Dr. E) is the founder, head coach and lead lecturer of the medical board training programs at Northwestern Medical Review. A unique attribute of Dr. E is his well-rounded academic background that, in addition to the science of medicine, extends over several other disciplines such as physiology of aging and longevity, philosophy of science and medicine, and integrated kinesiology.


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