The Complete Guide to the Philippine Physician Licensure Examinations


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by Enrico Paolo C. Banzuela, MD
UPCM Class 2005

Registration

The “boards” is administered twice a year – August and February. To take the exam, a candidate must personally register at the Professional Regulatory Commission (located at P. Paredes St., corner Morayta St. Sampaloc, Manila with its website at www.prc.gov.ph). Expect to pay around P1000 all-in-all. The following are required for registration:

Original and photocopy of Medical Transcript of Records(TOR)
Original and photocopy of Certificate of Graduation from Medical School(COG)
Original and photocopy of Certificate of Internship(COI)
Original and photocopy of Birth Certificate(must be NSO certified)
Original and photocopy of Certificate of Marriage, if applicable
Community Tax Certificate (Cedula). Do not buy from the vendors outside PRC! Procure them from your barangay/town hall
Four 2×2 full-face photographs, with name tag (Last Name, First Name and Middle Name). Buy some extra pictures since you would also need them once you have passed the exams.
Postage Stamps (purchase these inside the PRC compound)
One long brown envelope, pencils(Mongol #2) and erasers, black ball pen, paste – You can buy these inside the PRC compound
One government-issued ID
Remember that it takes weeks to procure some of these documents from the Registrar’s Office/Dean’s Office of your school. If you are going to take the August exams, request for these documents as early as May.

Registration can be a very frustrating experience – the PRC people would give you different advice on what to do and where to go that you would surely waste time and patience. Here is a step-by-step guide on what you should do. Expect to spend around 2 hours in registration.

Park you vehicle at McDonalds, KFC or St.Thomas Square which are very near PRC. You know that PRC is nearby when you see all the review schools for different professions along with vendors selling review cds and books.
Upon entering the PRC compound, you would see a bulletin board on your left. This contains codes which you shall need in filling up the forms inside. Copy these codes. The codes that you would need are:
Urban code (code for permanent address)
School code
Degree – doctor of medicine – 4030
Place of birth
Code for med boards – 2200
Review school code

Go to the table near the guard. Present the following documents: NSO birth certificate, TOR, COG. Here, you would be given a petition form.
Before entering the main building buy some metered envelopes worth P16 at the store near the stairs

Go to Window 7 (no need to line up – the ones forming in line are the ones who are almost finished) and present the following documents: NSO birth certificate, TOR, COG, COI, Certificate of Marriage, 4 passport size pictures with name tags. In here you would be given two more forms – a registration form and a registration card.

Once you have filled those forms, go to the cubicles near the entrance and have it metered. This costs P21.
Go back to the main building and proceed to windows 1, 2 and 3(cashier). Pay around P900 for the examination fee.

Make sure that you have COMPLETELY filled up your registration form, registration card and petition forms. There are samples on the walls that you can look up for reference. Once you’re finished, fall in line on the first row of seats facing windows 7, 8 and 9.

When your name is called, present the aforementioned documents together with your cedula and receipt. When you’re cleared, you would be getting back your stub, receipt, notice of admission and pamphlets containing information on the board exams. Bring this on the day of your exam along with one long brown envelope and 1long clear envelope.

That’s it! You’re now registered. Venue for the exam would be announced 2-3 days before it happens. You do NOT need to personally go to the PRC for this information.

Note: for people whose birth certificates lists their parents’ citizenship other than a Filipino, be sure to bring your passports along with a photocopy.

The Realities of the Philippine Physician Licensure Exam

Introduction

One of my classmates referred to the Med Boards as “the big bully” You have to face it the way you would a real bully – fearless and with confidence. Once you begin studying for it, 2-3 months doesn’t seem to be enough time, but believe me, after your 1st reading, it feels like it would be enough. We used to fantasize about taking the February boards after 1 month of studying; come July, we just want to get it over with; we don’t want to study for it for another 6 months.

No one can be truly prepared for the board exams. And the answers to the board exam questions can only be found around 40-50% of the time from all the reviewers you have read. You would guess on a lot of questions. And your “testmanship” would be tested to the limits. However, this doesn’t mean that you should rely on your stock knowledge of medicine. Preparation and prayer are within your control, and looking back, these are your best weapons against that big bully.

The Process of Making Board Exam Questions

How are questions from the board exams made? Members of the Board of Medicine (In the August 2005 exams these include Dr.Ricardo D. Fulgencio II, Chairman; Dr. Miguel L. Noche Jr., Dr.Restituto C. De Ocampo and Dr. Jose S. Ramirez, members) divide the 12 subjects among themselves and submit thousands of questions to a computer which randomly picks out 100 questions per subject. Some examiners ask medical schools to suggest questions for the board exams; however it is still their prerogative which questions get submitted.

Those who have taken the exams have complained about the fact the questions seem out of this world and are not found in the reviewers they have read. The PRC actually releases a guide containing suggested books to read for exams where examiners probably get their questions. These books however are the “mama” books – mama Robbins, mama Nelsons, mama Schwartz, etc.; obviously impractical for a 2-3 month review.

The questions are printed a day before or on the day of the exams. Each answer sheet is identified only by a numerical code – your name is not printed on it. A computer checks the papers and matches the code on the paper with your name. As you can see, leakages and cheating are minimized with these processes. We heard a lot of “tips” during our reviews (e.g. “study this topic found on pages xx, section yy, paragraph zz of this book!”) – none of them came out. One of the best tips about the board exams is to take all those “tips” with a grain of salt.

We have heard some rumors though that you can pay someone at the PRC to switch your answer sheet with someone else. (Of course, the idea being that they would switch your paper with someone who is sure to pass the exams) That’s why each answer sheet is coded, and your answer sheet would be invalidated if you make any kind of mark which would help in identifying it as yours. (Any form of scratch, folding, erasure, pencil mark, etc) Only the computer has the master list of the codes matching with the names of the examiners.

How the Exams are Actually Graded

There are 12 subjects on the board exams, each with 100 questions each. There are 3 subjects taken per day, taken Sunday and Monday for two weeks. To pass the board exams, your average grade on the 12 subjects must be 75% with no grade lower than 50% on any of the subjects. A grade of 75% on one subject doesn’t mean you only had 25 mistakes out of 100. The mean passing level (MPL) of the entire batch of examinees is obtained per subject. Scores are then adjusted so that the MPL now becomes 75%. Scores are curved such that if you have 50 mistakes out of 100, you would probably still pass the subject and obtain a grade much higher than 50%.

Preparation for the Boards

During Internship

Buy your reviewers early! They’re cheaper when you buy them way before the August exams and you also won’t be faced with the answer – “sir, wala ng stock, baka two weeks pa po naming maibigay sa inyo.” Expect to cough up P2000-3000 for all the books that you need.

The problem with buying review books is that the most of the original books are not available anywhere in the Philippines. That’s why most students resort to xeroxed copies of these books. 2-3 vendors usually go around the major manila hospitals and medical colleges and sell these xeroxed copies. They also sell copies of previous board exam questions. Take note that the 2000 and up edition of these sample exams are FAKE. However there is no harm in buying them. Just be aware that their “answer sheet” has a lot of mistakes in it – verify the answers on your own.

Should one study for the board exams during internship? After consulting many people, the best advice I think is to study the book that you would read on your review while your rotation is on the same subject. For example, if you have decided that Surg Recall is the book that you would use for the Med Boards, read and highlight it during your surgery rotation. So that when you are reviewing for the boards on that subject after your graduation, it would just be a second reading. Learn from your teaching rounds on whatever rotation you are in and pay attention to what’s going on all the time. Be inquisitive and ask your residents the finer points of the diagnosis and management. There are a lot of questions in the board exams where I’m sure I haven’t read the answer anywhere in the review books but I have heard it in passing from one of our rounds or inferred it from the way we managed a particular patient.

Don’t study yet for the basic sciences like anatomy or biochemistry. It’s very easy to forget those subjects so you should study them when the board exams are near. If you want to prepare for them anyway, I suggest that you read and highlight the book USMLE First Aid. That book would be your best friend both for the board exams and for the Philippine boards.

After Graduation

Congratulations! Take about two weeks to enjoy yourself, party like there’s no tomorrow and to cleanse 5 years of med school out of your system.

Then set one day to plan. Ask yourself questions on what your goal should be – top the exams or just pass? Then analyze your study habits and decide on your learning style. Bunk-in or study alone? Study at home, Starbucks or at the library? Go to a review school or not? It’s all up to you – just make sure that it is going to be effective and that you’re going to learn enough that you would be confident when the board exams come. Plan, and plan well.

Finally make a schedule. This consists of a daily routine and the schedule of subjects to be studied.

My personal daily routine was this:

4-6 am review past subjects/answer samplex
6-7 am bike/basketball
7-8 am breakfast
8-12 nn study
12-1pm lunch
1-5 pm study
5-6 pm dinner
6-8 pm watch tv
8-10 pm study
10-11 pm answer samplex
11 pm-4 am sleep

Some people would rather wake up at 10 am and study till 4am. Others would include jogging, yoga, or going to mass on their daily routines. Some people study for 8 hours a day while other people for 14 hours a day. The reason I answer sample exams everyday is that they give me an idea of what kind of questions are likely to come out and what I should focus on in my readings.

A daily routine for the board exams depends on you and your learning style. Remember that the purpose of having a daily routine is to keep a regular body clock before and during the board exams and to reduce stress of both the mind and the body.

After planning for your daily routine, make schedule of subjects to study. There are 12 subjects that you need to study for the board exams – 6 basic sciences and 6 clinical sciences. If your internship ends on May 1, you only have 14 weeks left before the August board exams. The 1st 2 weeks would probably be reserved for parties and graduation rites. The last 4 weeks should be reserved for 2nd reading and answering sample exams. These gives you around 8 weeks to finish your first reading of subjects you have taken 4-5 years ago and subjects you have taken recently but haven’t really mastered yet. If it sounds impossible, relax, we had the same fears. After 1 month of studying you would realize that the 2-3 months of studying is more than enough for you to feel confident in passing the board exams.

After sometime, you would realize that the schedule you have made is dynamic and you need to change it often. For example what you thought could be finished after 5 days you would finish in 3 days like Microbio. Or what you could and should finish in 9 days would actually take 14 days like Anatomy. If you finish ahead of schedule, you could give yourself a day off to relax or move on to the next subject. If you fail to finish a particular subject on the day that it supposed to be finished, my advice is to keep studying for the subject and lessen the time of other subjects. Others say that when this happens, one should move on to the next subject, but personally, I like my first reading of a particular subject to be a COMPLETE first reading of a particular subject and I think I would be more effective that way. In the end, because I’ve finished ahead in some subjects, it more than made up for my delay in other subjects.

Many people would recommend doing two readings of basic sciences subjects and one reading of clinical sciences subjects. Some people would read lots of books for the board exams including the NMS series for IM, Pedia, OB and Surg. Personally, I’ve decided to read as few pages as possible for the board exams and to master these pages as much as possible. That’s why I was able to do 3 readings of basic sciences subjects and 3 readings of clinical sciences subjects.

Our exam was scheduled to start on August 21. The schedule I have planned for the 1st reading of each subject is as follows:

Basic sciences

Physio – May 19-22
Ana – May 23-31
Micro – June 1-3
Patho – June 6-15
Biochem – June 20-24
Pharma – June 26-30

Clinical Sciences

Pedia – July 1-5
IM – July 6-10
Surg – July 12-13
OB – July 14-17
Prev Med – July 18-22
Legal Med – July 23-24

In reality, it took me 14 days to finish Anatomy, 7 days to finish Patho, 3 days to finish biochemistry and 4 days to finish pharma. Prev Med also took 3 days to finish and legal med also 3 days to finish.

With regards to the sequence of the subjects, some people would recommend that you study Biochem and Anatomy after all the other subjects since you would be more likely to forget these subjects if you study them in May or June. Looking back, I think they were right. By the time you are doing a 2nd reading on these subjects, it feels like it’s just your 1st reading. Physio is a subject you should definitely study first since it serves as a good background for all the other subjects. I’ve studied Prev Med and Legal last because I wanted to have 27 days (around 1 month) for my 2nd reading and I thought that if time runs short, I could cram these subjects.

My 2nd reading started on July 25 and ended on Aug 20, a period of 27 days. My second reading of the basic sciences took two weeks to finish(2-3 days per subject), for the clinical sciences a week.(1 subject per day) 1 week before the board exams I felt I’m more than enough ready to take the exams; I spent my time doing a very light third reading of the basic sciences. There is one week between the 1st weekend of the board exams and the 2nd weekend — during this time I made a 3rd reading of the clinical sciences. (1 subject per day)

Don’t forget to eat well, sleep well and to pray. On the night before the exam, prepare the things that you need (brown envelope, Mongol #2, erasers, sharpeners, testing permit, watch). Prepare your snacks for tomorrow. The empanadas from Red Ribbon bring good luck according to some board passers and they recommend that you buy them. And no, I’m not connected with Red Ribbon in any way. =)

Exam Day

Examinees were arranged alphabetically. There were 3 sites in Metro Manila for the Med Boards, there are other sites in Cebu. It is advisable to come to your testing site a day before the exam. If you’re room doesn’t have an aircon, bring a mini-fan with an extension plug to the site since some rooms could get very hot according to some examinees. You are required to take the exams in your school uniform although this isn’t strictly enforced. Come to your site around 6:30AM. Attend to your CR needs. Do some last-minute pep talks with your friends and classmates.

You will get 1 hour breaks between subjects. Once again, attend to your CR needs since you won’t be able to go out of the room once the exam starts. In some testing sites, it’s ok to smoke in the hallways and in the CRs.

Make sure that you are never late for the exams! On the first day, it starts at 7:00am, on all the other days at 8:00am.

While taking the exams, stay alert and don’t panic.

On Review Schools
UP Med Review

Don’t look for “patok” questions in here. No questions came of the board exams from the questions in here. The review is schedule around late May to June. This review is a simulation of the actual board examination. The review questions are a good gauge of your stock knowledge in medicine. At the very least, it would tell what particular topics you are weak in and need more review.

One thing I don’t like about the UP Med Review is that there is no standardization. Some examiners take the questions from previous board exams, others make them own their own. Some lecturers are brilliant, quick to point out the must-know topics and giving useful tips in how to approach difficult subjects. Other examiners don’t even bother to explain the reasons for the answers to some of the questions, give questions that aren’t geared for our board exams and are just lousy lecturers. Since you’re paying P1500-2000 for the entire course, be sure to get your money’s worth – ask relevant questions, answer thoroughly the evaluation sheets and be very inquisitive. The biochemistry, anatomy, patho and OB lecturers were very good in the 2005 UP Med review.

Other Review Schools

Some people already consider the UP Med review to be a waste of time – they say the best preparation you could do for the board exams is to study on your own. Review schools do take up a lot of your study time – especially if you have to travel to far-away places for them. If you’re going to take the February exams, it is advisable to take a course in one of the review school like UPEC. But if you’re going to take the August exams, I suggest you either take just the UP Med review (or the review school given by your own college) or forego review schools completely and study on your own.

Review Materials

The very first book that you should buy is the USMLE First Aid Step 1 book. It is a very great book for review, very easy to absorb and contains a lot of high yield subject on the basic sciences. While you couldn’t survive on all subjects by reading this book, it would help a lot. Believe me – if you master this book, you already have a fighting chance for the board exams. The USMLE First Aid Step II isn’t very good, and contains a lot of information that you already know; don’t bother with it.

Basic Sciences

Anatomy

UPEC Anatomy Review Questions
A+, 2-3 days
Anatomy never changes, thus examiners could only ask so much relevant questions. This book is a compilation of previous board exam questions in anatomy. In the 2005 Med Boards, around 50% of the questions came from this or are similar to the questions asked here. Read this book! Find out the reasons for the answers to the questions. Also, be aware that the answers provided in this book are sometimes wrong. Double check everything.

Hi-Yield Gross Anatomy
A-, 2-3 days
In my opinion, the best book in anatomy. Though it cannot stand on its own, reading it makes learning anatomy easier since it is full of clinical correlations. The extremities chapters and abdominal vasculature chapters are a must-read. Very useful also for the USMLE.

Anatomy Recall
B, 2-3 days
Question and answer format makes the material easy to absorb. Very useful for quick review.

Snell’s Clinical Anatomy Review
B-, 10-14 days
This book is concise, has a lot of good figures and illustrations but it has very few clinical correlations. By the time you are doing your 2nd reading, you would feel like you’re reading the material for the very first time. There’s just too much information and not enough guides on what you should focus on and what you could just leaf through. If you decide to read this anyway, make sure you have a Netter atlas nearby.

First Aid Anatomy
B-, ½ day
One of the weak areas of First aid. The material is easy to read and is high-yield; the problem is that there isn’t enough of it. Pay attention to the neuroanatomy part.

BRS Gross Anatomy
C+, 2 weeks minimum
For the ob-c. Packed with so much information, only problem is the information isn’t very high-yield. Not enough illustrations. Be sure to have a Netter atlas nearby.

Hi-Yield Histology, High-Yield Neuroanatomy, High-Yield Embryology
C, 7-10 days
There are less than 10 questions in the anatomy exam with regards to these topics. And these books are quite hard to understand and would take up a large amount of your time. Don’t bother with them. Just study these topics in UPEC or 1st Aid. In the 2005 exams, questions on these subjects can be deduced from what you know on all the other subjects so studying these books isn’t recommended.

Recommendations: Read Anatomy Recall first followed by Hi-Yield Anatomy. Make sure you answer UPEC questions everyday. Read also 1st Aid Anatomy. Make sure you have a Netter atlas on the side at all times! Don’t read Snell or BRS anymore, they are waste of time since you would forget them easily.

Physiology

BRS Physiology
A, 3 days
All you really need to read for physiology. Very concise, high-yield with useful illustrations and diagrams.

First Aid Physiology
A-, 1 day
I consider this book as BRS light. Still very useful and high-yield. The diagrams are top-notch.

Special Topics in Guyton’s Textbook of Medical Physiology
Read chapters on sport/exercise, space/high altitude, low altitude/diving, ageing, temperature and sleep physiology. These are topics not found on BRS and 1st aid but which are frequently tested.

Recommendations: Read BRS Physio first, followed by First Aid. Then on your second reading, make notes on your 1st aid book about parts in BRS physio that you think would come up in the exams and complement these with the appropriate material in First Aid. At this point, read also the special topics in Guyton’s.

Biochemistry

Digging up the Bones Biochemistry
A-, 1 day
This is a must-read since in about 110 pages it contains things you really have to know about biochemistry. Easy reading, high yield and very concise.

First Aid Biochemistry
A-, 1 day
A must read too. Contains very useful diagrams(especially about cholesterol) and mnemonics

Lippincott Biochemistry
A, 5-6 days
Relatively concise and easy to read. However, it takes time commitment, especially if plan to do a 2nd reading on it. Contains some boring topics like sphingolipids and the like which you really shouldn’t focus on. If you’ve read and highlighted this book during med school, it would be useful to you for the Med Boards. Lacks discussion on genetics and molecular biology techniques.

Hi-Yield Biochemistry
B+, 1-2 days
Some find this useful although I find it a little hard to absorb. Diagrams are presented left and right without the book telling you which you should focus on. If you’ve already read Digging up the Bones or Lippincott, you could skip this book.

Recommendations: If you have the time, read Lippincott followed by Digging up the Bones and 1st Aid. For your 2nd reading, just read Digging up the Bones and 1st Aid. If you really have no more time, or if you feel you couldn’t absorb Lippincott, you would survive with just DUB and 1st Aid – you would just have to read and reread them until you’ve mastered those two books.

Microbiology

Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple
A+, 4-5 days
A gem of a book! It’s the only review book that is not only concise, easy to absorb and hi-yield but actually fun to read. Thanks to this book, the Microbio exam was one of the easiest we have to answer. The antibiotics chapter is also useful for pharmacology.

1st Aid Microbio
A+, 1-2 days
This complements MMRS and it also has some information not found in it. A must-read!

Recommendations: Read MMRS first followed by 1st aid. On your second reading, while reading MMRS and with 1st aid on the side, make notes on useful information not found on 1st aid and put it in there to complement your readings. You should do this so that when you reread your 1st aid, you don’t have to do a 3rd reading of MMRS.

Pathology

1st Aid Patho
A, 2-3 days
The two best parts of the 1st Aid book are pathology and pharmacology. In about 70 pages, must-know topics in patho are presented in easy to absorb format with tons of useful mnemonics. Read also the Rapid Review part found on the back of the 1st Aid book! It’s very, very helpful, believe me.

BRS Pathology
B+, 3-4 days
Take notes on the first few chapters of the book (the ones dealing with cell pathology, inflammation and the like) and put this on your 1st Aid book. The rest of the book is also useful and concise and you should read them, but only so that you could put some more notes on your 1st Aid book.

Compton’s Review
C
In previous exams, questions were directly lifted from this book, but not in the 2004 and 2005 board exams. If you have the extra time, read this.
Recommendations: EAT 1st Aid. Then, read BRS and make notes on your 1st Aid book. Illustrations in Mama Robbins are also useful.

Pharmacology

Katzung’s Pharma Review
A, 1-2 weeks
It’s very thick, but the chapters are very short and the material is easy enough to absorb. The diagrams found in 1st Aid came from this. For those who want to excel in pharma, this is your book.

1st Aid Pharma
B+, 1-2 days
In previous pharma exams before 2005, you would have gotten by with this book. However, this year’s pharma exam was especially hard and so you really would have to read and master Katzung. However, this is still a must read since it makes some topics in pharmacology clearer and easier to absorb.

Pharma Recall
B+, 3-4 days
The question and answer makes this the relevant, must-know topics easy to absorb. Useful for the USMLE. Before the 2005 pharma exams, a combination of pharma recall and 1st Aid would have been all you need to ace the subject. Now, it is advisable to read and master Katzung.

Lippincott Pharmacology
C+
Very hard to absorb and to retain. It’s just a little shorter that Katzung but lengthier than Pharma Recall. If you’re going to read the other two books, skip this one.

Recommendations: Read and master Katzung, followed by 1st Aid.

Clinical Sciences

Internal Medicine

Hi-Yield Medicine
B+, 2-3 days
Short, concise, thorough. May surprise you in containing must know info about common diseases that you haven’t heard before.

Blue Prints Medicine
B, 3-4 days
Easy reading, short discussion. Most info contain stuff you already know

NMS Medicine
C+, 6-7 days
For the ob-c, this book is for you. The book contains so much info, which you will probably forget as time goes by. Questions at the end of each chapter allegedly come up in the board exams.

Recommendations: The internal medicine exam is multidisciplinary – questions are about subjects such as physio, pharma, microbio and patho. No single book would suffice to give you a good preparation for IM. It is recommended that you master one of the 3 books mentioned and stick with it. Hi-Yield is the best of the lot since it is the shortest and relatively complete. There is no need to read about treatment protocols, memorize dosages or know topics such as ECG, CXR interpretation, metabolic derangements or common formulas.

Pediatrics

Pea Brain
B, 1 day
Among the reviewers for pedia, this is the most hi-yield especially about congenital heart diseases and common illnesses such as dengue and tetanus.

Blueprints Pediatrics
B-, 3-4 days
Incomplete but easy to learn.

Del Mundo
B-, 2-3 days
Some people advised reading topics like breastfeeding, immunology and immunization on this book, however reading them is not a guarantee that they would come up on the board exams

NMS Pediatrics
C+, 4-5 days
Thorough but not hi-yield. Contains info that you would likely to forget as time goes by. However, the chapters on neonatology are particularly helpful.

Recommendations: don’t feel bad if there isn’t a reviewer that could adequately prepare you for the pedia exams. If you couldn’t find one, the others couldn’t find one either; still, about half of the examinees have to pass right? Actually, the exam questions are directly lifted from mama Nelson’s. Reading that book is impractical for the board exam. And no, the baby Nelson isn’t much help either. Instead, just read Peabrain, Blueprints, del Mundo and some topics on NMS. Then pray. Pray hard.

Surgery

Surgical Recall
B+, 4-5 days
Easy to absorb, delightful to read, and contains hi-yield topics not only for surgery but for the other subjects.

BRS – Surgical Specialties
B, 2-3 days
Contains info on ortho, ophtha, ENT, and surgical subspecialties which would come up on the exam. Some people read this as a security blanket.

NMS Surgery
C+, 6-7 days
For the ob-c people. Not as hi-yield as Surg Recall.

Blueprints Surgery
C, 3-4 days
Incomplete. Contains info that you already know before you read them. Don’t bother with this

Recommendations: the Surgery exam is the hardest in the Med Boards. Questions frequently deal with what is the best treatment/kind of surgery for a particular clinical scenario. Other questions deal with scoring like the Ranson’s criteria. It might be helpful to read on surgical clinical practice guidelines, especially on thyroid CA, breast CA and colorectal CA. However, Surg Recall is still your best bet, and it is also helpful for other subjects. Read BRS Surg Specialties also if you have the time. Don’t bother with NMS and Blueprints.

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Blueprints Obstetrics and Gynecology
A, 2-3 days
It’s all in here my friend. This book is enough for the ob-gyne exam. Don’t bother to read NMS anymore if you’re going to read this

NMS Obstetrics and Gynecology
B+, 5-6 days
An alternative to Blueprints. Shorter and easier to absorb and retain that other NMS books, however Blueprints is still better overall since it takes up less of your time and is more concise.

BRS Obstetrics and Gynecology
B+, 3-4 days
Some consider this the best book for the ob-gyne exam. This is another alternative to blueprints.

William’s Manual on Obstetrics and Gynecology – baby version
B, 6-7 days
Still a tad too long for review purposes. And the 400 pages it contains would only prepare you for ob; you have to read some other book for gyne.

Panlilio Physiologic Obstetrics
C, 2-3 days
Some recommend scanning through the chapters on normal labor and delivery. However other books already have a good discussion on this subject.

Recommendations: Reading any of these three books – Blueprints, BRS or NMS would help you greatly in the ob-gyne exam. However, Blueprints is your best bet. If you read one book, don’t read another – you’ll just be wasting time.

Legal Medicine and Jurisprudence

UPEC Legal Med, Ethics and Medical Jurisprudence Review Questions
A+, 1-2 days
Since none of the Members of the Board Examiners are lawyers, they just frequently lift questions from previous legal med exams and from Solis. The Legal Med exam is the easiest subject in the August 2005 Med Boards. Read and correct questions from this reviewer and you’ll do great.

Legal Med and Med Juris Summary
A+, 1-2 days
Read this along with UPEC and you’ll do great on the board exams. Don’t try to read its baby version called the Legal Med and Med Juris Notes.

Solis’ Medical Jurisprudence and Solis’ Legal Medicine
B+, 1-2 weeks
An overkill. Yes, if you master these two books you’ll probably get a very high grade on the exam, but the time it would take you to do so would affect your grade on others.

Recommendations: Read UPEC and Legal Med/Med Juris Summary. You still would be able to get a high grade by reading these two books. DON’T read the actual Solis books anymore except perhaps the topics on gunshot injuries and body changes during death. In the end, you’ll thank me for saving you a week or so.

Preventive Medicine

UPEC Preventive Medicine Review Questions
A+, 1-2 days
The examiners resort to using old questions about this subject year after year and the August 2005 exams were no different. Read and correct answers on this reviewer and you’ll do great

UE Notes, MCU Notes, UST Notes
B, 2-3 days
Easy to read, but only marginally helpful. Still, you have to read them. Just don’t obsess too much on these books – UPEC is still your best bet.

Philhealth Implementing Rules and Regulation
B, ½ day
Download the pdf file from the Philhealth website. There are around 5-6 questions regarding Philhealth in the Prev Med exam.

Hi-Yield Biostatistics
B-, ½ day
Really helpful for biostat, although some topics are still hard to understand despite reading this book. In the August 2005 exams, there are very few questions regarding biostat, and those that came up are easy enough to answer without this book.

DOH DOTS Manual, 1st aid Behavioral Science, Pretest Prev Med
D, 2-3 days
Don’t bother with these reviewers. They are a waste of time.

Recommendations: Read UPEC, UE/MCU/UST Notes and Philhealth IRR. If you still have the time, read Hi-Yield Biostat.
Thoughts on the August 2005 Board Exams
After all the pages you have read and reread, the prayers and good luck rituals that you have done and the multivitamins you religiously took during your review, come exam time, stock knowledge, testmanship and plain luck in guessing still determines how well you do. I’m not kidding, that is the reality.

Some exam rooms are airconditioned and quite comfortable, others are very humid and hot. Go to your venue a day before the exam so that you’ll know if you need to bring a fan or a jacket. Remember that you cannot go out of the room once the exam starts so attend to your CR needs before you take the exam.

A lot of questions on the exams are repeated again and again on the same exam. There are also a lot of typos and bad grammar. Be careful with those questions.

According to other examinees, the exams given by Dr. Jose Ramirez (JoRam) is notably difficult compared to others. The reason why our pharma exam is more difficult compared to previous years is that he allegedly made them.

Anatomy was relatively easy this year – the UPEC reviewers helped a lot. There was only one brachial plexus question(and a very easy one at that) and less than 5 extremity questions. The fascial layers, hernias and abdominal vasculature were favorite topics.

Physiology was kind of difficult – not much recall questions this time but more analysis type of questions were given. Do not just memorize the diagrams on your physio book – make sure you really understand them. Some recall questions are particularly hard – like the normal value of this and that.

The biochemistry exam was hard, but fair. Memorize the Citric Acid Cycle, Urea Cycle and the metabolism of DNA and RNA. Questions on lipids and carbohydrates were easy.

The Microbio exam was one of the easiest. Just read the MMRS and the 1st aid and you would have no problems with this exam.

A lot of examinees cursed the pharma exams. Most of the questions don’t focus on must-know topics. Imagine 10-15 questions on antineoplastics! And most of these questions were about specific antineoplatic regimens to use for particular cancers. There weren’t many questions on antibiotics, antivirals or antifungals. This year, one must really master Katzung to get a high grade on this subject.

The pathology exam was also easy and fair. Not much questions on genetic diseases or cancer. The exam covers a wide variety of topics.

The internal med exam was once again multi-disciplinary. You could even opt not to prepare for it at all – you’re knowledge on physio, pharma, patho and microbio would determine your grade in this subject.

The pedia exam once more lived up to its hype. After sometime, you would really feel uncomfortable with all the guessing you have to do. There weren’t any developmental milestone questions on our exam, but subjects such as neonatology, breastfeeding and infectious diseases were covered.

The surgery exam was the hardest. The terms and phrases were recognizable enough but the choices available would really confuse you. And there are a lot of questions that deal with scoring and classifications which you haven’t come across in any book even in med school. A lot of questions deal with treatment choices: surgery, chemo or radiation.

The ob-gyne exam was easy and fair. If you’ve read Blueprints thoroughly you would have no problem. And yes, you would have to memorize the staging of gyne cancers and not just cervical and endometrial CA but also the vulvar, ovarian and other cancers in the female genital tract that you don’t want to memorize. There are about 3-5 questions regarding those topics. Study also the indications for caesarian delivery, and topics such as placenta previa, abruption placenta, preeclampsia, gestational DM and myoma uteri. I’ve noticed that the examiners never ask questions regarding abortion, IVF or birth control – skip those chapters on Blueprints.

The legal med exam was the easiest. They just used previous exam questions, so make sure you have read your UPEC. Take note that their definition of rape is not the updated one. Most of the questions are common sense type of questions.

The prev med exam was also based on previous exams. Be careful with some computations you have to do for the biostat questions – they are kind of tricky. If you’ve read UPEC, you won’t have any problems with this exam.

The Big Picture

In August 2005, 1,471 out of 2,864 examinees passed the Med Boards – a 51% passing rate. UPCM Class 2005 had around a 96% passing rate. About 5 of our classmates didn’t pass. And these classmates are not the ones with the lowest ranks academically but are the ones in the middle.

Those who have taken the exam know that the Med Boards is not a good indicator of the medical knowledge one possesses, nor is it a predictor on whether or not one would be a good, competent and caring physician. Thus, those of us who have taken the exams never look down upon those who have flunked it. However, the problem is that the public (which includes our relatives, friends and lower classmen) mistakenly thinks otherwise – thus there is so much pressure to pass on your very first try. This despite the fact that one can flunk the exam even if one has good grades during med school and adequate preparation during the review.

The 3 months I have spent reviewing for the Med Boards is one of the most challenging times of my life. In the end, more than reading those countless books, your faith in God and your faith in yourself as a physician would determine whether or not you get those initials after your name – MD.

The author, Enrico Paolo C. Banzuela, MD, welcomes comments, questions and suggestions. Please email him at loroteyang@yahoo.com.

Acknowledgments: information regarding registration at the PRC is based on an email to our class e-group by Andre Gabriel of UPCM Class 2005 and on my own personal experience. Information regarding the review books for the Med Boards is based on the recommendations of the members of UPCM Class 2004, (Alex Drilon, Bea Concepcion and Wendy Sarmiento) friends and my own personal experience

6 Responses to “The Complete Guide to the Philippine Physician Licensure Examinations”

  1. Paul Bisnar Says:

    Its good for Dr. Benzuela to post this topic. Its about time to have this information in the web.

  2. Kiko Robles Says:

    Thank you so much, God bless

  3. karen hazel macatangay-lebrudo Says:

    thanks for this website, atleast this up lift my confident to take the boards this aug 2006. this gives moral support to those who are doubtful to take the exam….i wish and hope that i can get though to this stage of my choosen profession… thanks again.

  4. Dr. Christian B. Tan Says:

    I would like to thank Dr. Banzuela for his Guide to The Philippine Board Examinations. I sort of patterned my plan using this guide. It gave us (with my girlfriend) success in the August 2006 boards. Thanks a lot.

  5. Dr. Noel Laxamana Says:

    Just want to say a BIG thanks to Dr. Banzuela for posting his thoughts on last year’s exam. It served like a test grid, kept our sanity in looking for references, and gave a bird’s eyeview of the med boards. God bless all your efforts and Mabuhay ang Pilipinong Manggagamot!

  6. Dr J. Barredo Says:

    Thank you very much for the information. Although it was made 4 years ago, i think it would help :)

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