When commenting on this post, please keep your specific thoughts about the exam private and do not share publically. I have been advised by the ABGC that sharing information about the exam may be punishable by law and result in the revocation of one’s certification or right to sit for future exams.
There are a few hundred genetic counselors out there, including myself, who are on their last lap before the 200 ABGC approved questions that will determine if they are certifiably qualified to practice genetic counseling.
Apparently, none of us feel being a “master” is enough.
With this summer heat and pretest anxiety, many of us might be feeling like this guy did for 8 years – Am I really prepared for this? Do I know what I am doing? What will my legacy be in regards to this long endeavor?
I think this is a good time to remind ourselves of the utility and value of this exam. (And, of its intrinsic meaninglessness in the grand scheme of life.)
For those of you who do not know, this is the first year the ABGC is offering their own certifying exam. All genetic counselors currently certified in the last 10 years or so passed the ABMG general genetics exam and the genetic counseling subspecialty exam. Since the ABMG offers their exam every 2 years and the exam was not specifically designed for professional/clinical issues dealt with by genetic counselors, many counselors had difficulty obtaining the coveted “CGC”.
From what I understand, this has hindered legislation granting licenses to genetic counselors in many states as all proposed bills have suggested licenses be granted to those who are certified (See here for the NSGC discussion of certification versus licensure).
Licensure is a complex topic that should be further addressed here, but this is meant to be motivational (and I have to study!!!) – So here is a list of random exam-related items to consider:
1. If you received your masters in genetic counseling, MANY people believe you are qualified to be a genetic counselor. You might be the only person who is currently doubting this. And, you are too crazed with exam fever to be a reliable source on the matter.
2. This new exam (yes, I do feel like a knockout mouse) is based on the survey that was given to assess daily activities and skills of practicing genetic counselors and 868 genetic counselors responded. That is a large “n” ladies and gents – the items on the exam will likely (finally!) be fully reflective of what we are taught in graduate school and how we practice.
3. Which brings me to the next thing nagging me. Can we really rely on the anecdotal information about the ABMG exam we have received from colleagues and former teachers? Is hearing, “oh, the test is often cyto heavy” or “I couldn’t believe how many ART questions they asked that year!” really very instructive?
– As comfort, normative seeking creatures, we want to know we are “doing the right thing” as we force ourselves to study areas of genetics we know less about. We ask others and ourselves, “Should I focus on Thompson and Thompson? The UPitt review course? Memorize Smith’s? But, we ARE in uncharted ABGC territory – we do not know how to best prepare. But, BE CONFIDENT, they are going to ask questions about genetics. And you are likely to have read the answer at some point in your studying, regardless of your favorite source book.
4. Remember, the exam is supposedly designed to be FAIR – there are an allocated number of questions for different areas (check out the exam bulletin)
- Case prep and History
- Risk assessment and diagnosis
- Psychosocial assessment and support
- Ethical, legal, research, resources.
If you were an exam writer, you would imagine there are certain things you want to be sure every GC knows (carrier screening issues, testing minors, survivor guilt…) in each of these areas. You know this stuff!
5. When you finish the exam, you can do the following guilt free:
- Eat cookies, cheese, candy…(because you now have time to exercise)
- Take a vacation
- Get a pedicure
- Jump on your bed (I encourage you to do this before the exam too)
- Read ANY book you want
- Go out very, very late
- Play Pretty, Pretty Princess with your kids (or other people’s if it is not creepy)
6. When you find out you PASSED –
- You can give yourself as many gold stars as you want
- You will receive increased respect from colleagues and patients (and yourself)
- Maybe you will get a raise and/or promotion
- You will have increased job mobility
- Maybe you will open up a private GC practice
- You might have the option to be licensed
- You can throw out your graduate school notes!
7. If you find out FAILED (less likely to happen)
- You are still a MASTER and likely still have your job
- You can take the test again in 2010 (that is novel!)
- You will NOT be a guinea pig on the next exam and will be better informed
- You can apply for a new career – that is exciting too!
If anyone wants to post random disease factoids here or thoughts about the exam, please do.
However, keep it ethical. Do NOT share any information about the actual exam as it is in everyone’s interest to keep his/her exam experience private until the testing period closes.