#TipsforEMexams: Dr. Rob Woods shares his EM Exam Tips

In Mentorship, TipsForEMExams by Rob WoodsLeave a Comment

#TipsforEMexam Series

In the last post of this series, I (Dr. Teresa Chan) nominated a few people to blog about their EM exam tips for final year residents sitting their exams this year.  Dr. Nadim Lalani of USask already added his tips in the comments, but I also formally nominated Drs. Rob Woods (#USask) & Heather Murray (#QueensU).

I now present you our first respondent:


Name:  Rob Woods, Survivor of the 2007 RC emergency medicine exam.

Where are you now?
University of Saskatchewan Residency Program Director

Here are my five EM exam tips for getting through the RC EM exam:

1. Imagine every difficult airway scenario you can.  Think how you would manage it.  Take one shift per month, and imagine if you had to intubate every patient you saw (regardless of their chief complaint) based on 3 different scenarios (facial trauma with head injury, upper airway obstruction from tumor or inhalational injury or infection, respiratory failure from lung pathology – asthma, pneumonia, etc.).  Then imagine option A and B are not possible.  Yes usually airway plan A works, and asthmatics get better with bronchodilators, and UGI bleeds stop on their own, and seizures stop with one dose of Benzo’s, but that’s not how exams work.  They need you to demonstrate your depth of knowledge of topics.

Woods' Textbook of Emergency Medicine2. Quality is better than quantity.  My wife and I wrote our exams (Pediatrics for her) in the same year, with a toddler, with no family in town.  We had 2-3 hours per day to study, that was it.  Knowing how much time you have keeps you focussed on a manageable amount of content.

3. No new material 6-8 weeks leading up to the exam.  Just consolidate. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  What you study in September, will be forgotten by spring.  You can only fit so much in that brain.

4. Study with your peers.  Rob Keyes and I were the only 2 in our year at the UofA.  I can’t imagine not having had him to meet up with weekly to go over content, do practice exams, and vent about how frustrating the year can be sometimes.

5. Writing has greater retention than typing.  Make your own textbook (see pic).  I made my own textbook in the 6 weeks leading up to the exam.   Many people have seen it, the residents borrow it.  They often say, ‘you should publish this!’.  I say, the value was in making it, not reading it.  Make your own.



Rob’s nominations:

Chris Hicks

Aaron Sibley



Rob is an emergency physician and STARS Transport Doc located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He founded the Royal College emergency medicine residency program at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and currently serves as Program Director. He has also recently founded the Clinician Educator Diploma AFC program at USask.
BoringEM has been 'bringing the boring' to emergency medicine since 2012. In 2016 this Canadian blog brought its content to CanadiEM.