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J Surg Educ. 2013 Jan-Feb;70(1):68-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2012.07.005. Epub 2012 Aug 28.

Case based review questions, review sessions, and call schedule type enhance knowledge gains in a surgical clerkship.

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Department of Surgery, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso, Texas 79905, USA.



Medical students in surgical clerkships must gain surgical knowledge while doing clinical rotations. We developed a self-learning program, which is case based, the Case Review Question (CRQ) system. Our hypothesis was that students who used CRQs would score higher on the summative test, Surgery NBME (National Board of Medical Examiners).


The setting is a surgical clerkship in a Liaison Council for Medical Education (LCME) approved Medical School, with summative examination using the NBME shelf examination in Surgery. Each CRQ document is a series of 20 to 25 questions based on cases. The cases are a paragraph, with pertinent medical facts and extra facts as distracters. The students are encouraged to use these questions to guide study. Students must come to a review session to hear the answers and a discussion. We review the NBME Surgery shelf examination scores taken before and after this program was initiated, along with changes in rotation group size, call schedule type, and other changes.


CRQs, review sessions, and call schedule changes improved scores. NBME examination average rose from 77.12 to 82.01 (p = 0.004) after the CRQ program was initiated. Call schedule revision improved scores: intermittent call NBME score was 80.98, whereas night float schedule mean NBME was 84.66 (p < 0.001). During night float call, the CRQ program was already in effect, so that there is no non-CRQ program comparison group. Students scored higher in the second semester, throughout the study. First semester students scored a mean of 79.11, whereas second semester students scored 84.195 (p < 0.001). By the end of the study, there were no failures on the NBME examination, even in the first semester. The factors of presence of the CRQ program, review sessions, call schedule type, and which semester were all significant in a correlation matrix against NBME scores and in a regression analysis (p < 0.001).


The CRQ program of case-based self-study was associated with higher scores on the NBME shelf examination, as a summative test of medical knowledge in surgery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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