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Invited Commentary
September 2015

Improving American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination Scores: Motivation Matters

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Surgery, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland
JAMA Surg. 2015;150(9):889. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2015.1729

The study by Kim et al1 in this issue of JAMA Surgery provides excellent guidance for both residents and residency program directors. The authors report the results of an anonymous survey of 266 residents from 15 diverse residency programs that explored their study habits and attitudes about the American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination (ABSITE) examination, and they assess the correlations between the responses and the residents’ ABSITE scores. The impressive 74% response rate of the survey lends credence to the accuracy of their findings, although the above-average self-reported ABSITE score (mean, 61st percentile) leads one to wonder whether the nonrespondents might represent a group of lower scorers whose responses might have differed from those of the responders. Nevertheless, the study’s findings have face validity: in keeping with the tenets of adult education that adults will pursue what they find important, a resident’s ABSITE score very strongly correlated with how important he or she felt the examination to be for his or her future career. Also, higher scores on previous standardized examinations correlated with higher ABSITE scores, and assignment to previous remediation was associated with lower ABSITE scores.