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Residents & Fellows Corner | Mar/Apr '14

The Okaps

The Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program (OKAP) test is given every spring during ophthalmology residency to evaluate ophthalmic knowledge, both basic science and clinical. It is a 250-question, computer-based, multiple-choice test designed to identify areas of strength and weakness so that residents can recognize where improvement is needed. The OKAPs also give residents a sense of how much they know compared with their peers in the same clinical year. The OKAPs can be quite stressful, and residents often spend a lot of time preparing for this test.

During my residency, a lot of emphasis was placed on doing well on the OKAPs. We had a fabulous lecture series during my first year of residency, during which the Basic and Clinical Science Course (BCSC) books were reviewed. This was supplemented throughout my residency with lectures on a wide range of topics given by different faculty members. With this comprehensive lecture series and independent study with review books and questions, I felt well prepared for the OKAPs.

At my current institution, we have developed a similar lecture series and also encourage independent study. I asked our residents, from all 3 years, to comment on their experience with OKAP preparation. Below are their responses:

How did you prepare for THE OKAPs?

I took notes during our lecture series and reviewed these prior to the OKAPs.

The first year, I read all of the BCSC books. As I went through the BCSC series, I put notes in the margins from associated lectures. My second and third years, I primarily relied on review books.

I used Review Questions in Ophthalmology: A Question and Answer Book, by Kenneth C. Chern, MD.

I used ophthoquestions.com, the online test question resource. I bought a 6-month membership leading up to the test. The explanations of the questions are very good. This was a great way to study.

I used Review of Ophthalmology, by William Trattler, MD; Peter Kaiser, MD; and Neil Friedman, MD. This is a basic review book.

I used The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Review Manual for Ophthalmology, by Veeral Sheth, MD; Marcus Marcet, MD; Paulpoj Chiranand, MD; and Harit Bhatt, MD.

What preparation strategy was the most helpful?

Review books were the most helpful.

Study questions (both ophthoquestions.com and the questions at the end of each BCSC book) were the most helpful.

The Chern question-and-answer book was the most helpful.

What will you do differently in the future to prepare for the OKAP test?

I will run through more questions and start studying earlier.

For next year, I will continue to use the online review questions and the Friedman book. I will also supplement with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Chern question books.

I will continue doing question sets and will review the same material as this year. I will also read more in-depth subspecialty textbooks for given topics to gain a better understanding of the material. 

Moving forward, I will review more images (particularly pathology slides).

As physicians, we take many tests throughout our careers. It is difficult to know how much weight to place on each of them. So, do the OKAPs actually matter? In fact, they do. They are an excellent way to prepare for the written boards. Thomas Oetting, MD, and colleagues found a significant correlation between passing the written boards and third-year OKAP scores. They found that “the best predictor for passing the American Board of Ophthalmology’s Written Qualifying Exam (WQE) is your performance on your third-year OKAP.”1 I actually received an identical score on my written boards as on my third-year OKAP test, and I prepared for both tests in a similar manner. My advice to residents of all years is to develop a method that works for you for OKAP preparation early in your residency. This typically involves a combination of attending lectures, reading the BCSC books and review books, and taking question sets. Doing well on the OKAPs correlates with doing well on the written boards and takes a lot of stress off the written board preparation process. 

1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Do the OKAPs matter? Young Ophthalmologists Newsletter. January 2012. Available at: www.aao.org/yo/newsletter/201201/index.cfm.

Questions in Ophthalmology: A Question and Answer Book, by Kenneth C. Chern, MD.

Review of Ophthalmology,by William Trattler, MD; Peter Kaiser, MD; and Neil Friedman, MD.

The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Review Manual for Ophthalmology, by Veeral S. Sheth, MD; Marcus M. Marcet, MD; Paulpoj Chiranand, MD; Harit K. Bhatt, MD; Jeffrey C. Lamkin, MD; and Rama D. Jager, MD.

Jessica Ciralsky, MD

Jessica Ciralsky, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, specializing in cornea/cataract/external disease. Dr. Ciralsky may be reached at (646) 962-2020;jbc9004@med.cornell.edu.