The Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program (OKAP) is a 250-item multiple-choice test that is administered to ophthalmology residents in each year of training. It is designed to measure residents’ ophthalmic knowledge, relative to their peers, in order to facilitate the ongoing assessment of resident progress and program effectiveness.
Since their development in the 1960s, however, the OKAPs have grown beyond their original intentions and gained new significance as a preparatory exam for the boards. To help ensure that you perform your best on the OKAPs, the YO Info editorial board offers 26 pearls for the final six weeks of test preparation.
Brian Chan-Kai, MD
- Set aside scheduled study time.
- Review your lecture/reading notes and create a list of topics that need more attention.
- Attend reviews and occasionally study with other colleagues — for first years, try to study with people who have taken the exam before. Some solitude is good, but talking with other colleagues can reveal gaps in your knowledge base.
- Complete as many practice questions as you can find. Optics questions can be particularly useful.
Dr. Chan-Kai is a vitreoretinal specialist at EyeHealth Northwest in Portland, Ore. Dr. Chan-Kai completed his residency at the Cullen Eye Institute/Baylor College of Medicine, where he also served as chief resident. He then trained in vitreoretinal surgery and diseases at the Casey Eye Institute/Oregon Health and Science University. He is a new member of the YO Info editorial board.
James G. Chelnis, MD
- Complete a few comprehensive mini-exams, either from a question book or Ophthoquestions.com, so as to isolate weaknesses. Adjust your focus to these topics.
- If you made notes as you read or highlighted, flip and skim through your notes/books to remind yourself of high-yield terms and concepts.
- After rereading a book or topic, complete more focused questions to ensure and reinforce your understanding.
Dr. Chelnis is a resident at the University at Buffalo, where he also attended medical school and was the school government president. As a resident, he serves on the UB Resident's Council as well as the Program Director's Advisory Council and is a member of the UB Grievance Committee. In these roles, he has helped organize and promote resident well-being and camaraderie. This is his second year as a member of the YO Info editorial board, and he remains eager to infuse a resident’s perspective into the newsletter.
Natasha Herz, MD
Weeks 1 to 3:
- Review notes made throughout the year, while reading the Basic and Clinical Science Course (BCSC) series.
- Review the questions in the backs of all the BCSC books to quiz yourself on retention.
Weeks 4 to 6:
- Make a list of “keywords” and “most commons” to quiz yourself and two or three other colleagues.
- Read through the Ophthalmology Review Manual by Kenneth C. Chern and Michael Saidel for a good overview.
- Quiz yourself with Review Questions in Ophthalmology: A Question and Answer Book edited by Kenneth C. Chern and Kenneth W. Wright.
Dr. Herz is a cataract, corneal and refractive surgeon who works as a solo practitioner at Kensington Eye Center in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. She completed her residency and fellowship at the Cullen Eye Institute at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Local peers selected her to appear in Washingtonian magazine’s Top Doctors of 2012. She also serves on the Academy’s Young Ophthalmologist Committee and is the chair of the young physician committee for her local medical society. She has served as a member of the YO Info editorial board since 2008 and became the chair in August 2011.
Edward Hu, MD, PhD
- Do all the review questions at the end of the BCSC series and make sure you understand the answer explanations.
- Review BCSC series photos and figures.
- Review Last-Minute Optics: A Concise Review of Optics, Refraction, and Contact Lenses by David G. Hunter and Constance E. West. Very high yield.
- Manage stress levels with a good diet, regular exercise and adequate rest.
Dr. Hu is a cataract specialist practicing in Iowa’s Quad Cities. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he received both his MD and a PhD in retinal electrophysiology from the New York University School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, perennially ranked one of the top three training programs in the country. Locally, Dr. Hu is very active in the medical community as a member of the Quad Cities, Scott County and Rock Island medical societies, where he is the current secretary and treasurer.
Janice C. Law, MD
- Partner up with a third-year resident and spend three hours a week quizzing each other off of your flash cards or photos. Practice using pattern recognition.
- If optics is not your forte (like me), start reading Last-Minute Optics and complete 10 optics practice problems every night from various books. You should be able to recognize what kind of optics problem it is and which equations are needed. Definitely avoid memorizing the equations the night before!
- Go through every BCSC book and familiarize yourself with comparison tables and every photo/caption. This can take the full six weeks to accomplish.
- Reread the BCSC book or subject matter for which you feel the least prepared. The material will stay fresh in your mind and boost your confidence!
Dr. Law is an assistant professor at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Nashville. She received her ophthalmology training at the Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit, where she also served as chief resident. After a two-year medical and surgical retina fellowship at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Dr. Law joined the retina faculty as assistant professor in vitreoretinal diseases and surgery. Dr. Law is also the associate program director for residency education in ophthalmology and plays a very active role in developing curricula and assessing teaching and learning within ophthalmic education.
David E. Vollman, MD, MBA
- Avoid “cramming” for the OKAPs. Take time to make a study schedule that fits your lifestyle. Make sure you allow time for exercise, entertainment and sleep! If you space this studying out over four weeks, it seems more manageable.
- Review subjects that have unique concepts close to test time. Topics like optics, which require specific formulas or concepts that may not be used in everyday practice, are good to review in the week leading up to the test so they are fresh in your mind.
- Review images and pathology slides in the final two weeks leading up to the test. A good tip I received is to review BCSC, Section 4: Ophthalmic Pathology and Intraocular Tumors towards the end of your test preparation because it allows you to both review the images and integrate information about the disease processes. Make sure you know typical clinic photos of common diseases. Also, take some time to review images like CT or magnetic resonance imaging scans for orbital processes, optical coherence tomography and fluorescein angiography for retinal disease and topography for corneal disease. Since these are being used every day in practice, there is a good chance you may see some on the test.
Dr. Vollman is a clinical instructor in the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the Washington University School of Medicine and a staff ophthalmologist at the St. Louis VA Medical Center. After completing an MD/MBA dual-degree program at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, he completed his ophthalmology residency at the Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital/St. Louis Children’s Hospital Consortium Program. Subsequently, he served as chief resident at Washington University, helping to direct the inpatient consult service and resident education.
Elizabeth Yeu Lin, MD
- Notecards can be a hugely beneficial resource for quizzing yourself and others! Also, swap and review your colleagues' notecards, as they often provide a different vantage point of insight into the same topics.
- There were certain topics that were fairly "high yield" that I saved to review in the last two months leading up to the OKAPs. Such topics included neuro-ophthalmology; optics, which required practice with various questions and rote memorization of formulas; and pathology, which required visual familiarization of pathology slides and photos.
Dr. Yeu is an assistant professor at the Cullen Eye Institute/Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She received her MD through an accelerated undergraduate studies and medical school program from the University of Florida College of Medicine in 2003. She completed an ophthalmology residency at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a fellowship in cornea, anterior segment and refractive surgery at the Cullen Eye Institute. Dr. Yeu currently serves as an examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology and serves as an editor for the Academy’s Ophthalmic News and Education (ONE) Network refractive surgery subcommittee. She is also an appointed member of several national committees, including the Young Physicians and Residents’ Committee of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and the Academy’s refractive surgery Annual Meeting subcommittee.
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