OKAP Review: Introduction

It's review season!  The OKAP exam and written board exam are coming soon, and to try and push out some useful reviews before the exam, I'm going to publish a series of articles covering some of the major concepts you should probably have mastered for the OKAP and for the written board exam.  Because the OKAP and written board exam cover similar topics, you'll probably find some overlap if you read both sets of articles.  However, there are some key differences, both in breadth of content and in depth of content, that will make these articles slightly different.  For example, you will not be tested over any topics in General Medicine or Fundamentals and Principles of Ophthalmology on the WQE.

I may be a bit too ambitious, but my hope is to have these articles published with enough time for those who are hoping to use this site to help study for the OKAP or WQE in March.  I know, my rate of publication hasn't been stellar this past year, but since these are all adaptations of previous material I made in residency, hopefully I won't have to do as much background research (typically each article takes me around 6-8 hours to research and assemble).

As a disclaimer, I am not in any way guaranteeing that you will see these topics on any tests!  I do not contribute any questions to any of the major tests, and even if I did, I would not be able to say if a question is likely going to be on a test or not.  I do think that there are some topics that are more "testable," and I will try to at least highlight some of the key features of those topics.

These articles are geared towards the exams taken by U.S. ophthalmology resident physicians and for U.S. ophthalmology board certification.  While I hope that the information will be useful for exams administered in other countries, I do not know the formats, nor the styles of questions asked on other tests.  I would greatly appreciate any feedback to help make these reviews and resources as helpful as possible!  If these reviews are worthwhile for people, I will put them into PowerPoint format to use as flashcards.

To get a sense of my rationale for choosing which topics to highlight, I went through my outlines and tried to choose topics based on one or more of the following criteria (hopefully I don't bore you all because I'm stating the obvious):

  • Common topics:  I think it's a fair bet to say that the AAO would like to make sure that we know the daily and common things we see in ophthalmology.
  • Fundamental concepts:  There are many basic facts that form the core minimum knowledge of the ophthalmologist.  Unfortunately, many of these just have to be memorized; but if you know them, these can be easy questions to answer on a test.
  • Pathognomonic findings:  I highlight a few topics because, while they may be rarer, they may have pathognomonic findings.  These make for easy test questions for simple recall.
  • Interdisciplinary topics:  It's my personal belief that tests like the OKAP love topics that have manifestations in multiple parts of the eye.  The more random parts of the eye that it affects, the more test questions that can be asked.
  • Systemic involvement:  I remember every year I took the OKAP there was always one or two tricky questions that involved some picture of a random body part and an obscure question about what eye findings I might expect to find, or there would be an eye lesion and the question would ask what systemic findings I might expect to find.  Since our specialty requires us to be able to not only understand eye disease but also recognize ocular manifestations of systemic disease, I believe that these topics are highly testable.
  • Life-threatening/sight-threatening disease:  Obviously these are "things you don't want to miss."  We used to joke in residency that these topics are in the "if you miss this you will fail your boards;" of course, the implication is that these can be absolutely devastating to your patients.  So even if the disease is rare, anything in which a delay in diagnosis may be fatal is likely to be tested.
  • Practice questions:  Obviously, I can't spit out any questions from the OKAP or board exams, but I can point out topics that I've seen in some of the practice questions that are out there.  While practice questions are also not completely indicative of what is actually going to be on the test, it should at least suggest what might be testable.

Originally, I was going to publish an article for each section of the OKAP (as detailed in the content outline made available by the AAO), detailing 15 different topics in each article.  However, the article got too long with just 1 topic!  So, I will split these articles into individual topic reviews.  I also decided not to limit the number of topics per section, in case there were more than 15 somewhat important topics to discuss.  If there are specific topics you'd like me to cover, let me know!