Thoughts After Finishing The ABA Adult Cardiac Anesthesiology Exam

I just finished taking the first administration of the American Board of Anesthesiology’s (ABA) Adult Cardiac Anesthesiology board examination, and I had some thoughts to share. This is a stream of consciousness as I worked in the ICU overnight before heading to the testing center. I’m still in a daze. 😂

The exam structure was as follows:

  • Tutorial (10 minutes, optional)
  • 100 multiple choice questions (120 minutes)
  • Break (20 minutes, optional)
  • 100 multiple choice questions (120 minutes)

I was happy that the multiple-choice question stems were relatively short, with only three answer choices (A, B, and C) for each one. Some required interpreting pressure-volume loops, invasive monitor waveforms, echocardiography images, etc. Also, some of the trickier ones for me involved “… is the MOST likely…” where two answer choices seemed like good options.

Historically, when it comes to exams, I can’t stay highly focused for very long. I was already fatigued from the ICU, so I had to finish the exam quickly. I skipped the tutorial and break and completed both question sections in about 45 minutes each.

Despite my preparation, the exam didn’t focus on as much minutia as I predicted. In hindsight, what helped me prepare the most was creating much of my free, open-access medical education content and teaching residents/fellows in the OR and ICU settings. These tasks forced me to focus on interpreting clinical findings, consider common associations, and review the relevant anatomy, pathophysiology, and pharmacology inherent to being an adult cardiac anesthesiologist.

Furthermore, some of the exam content covered topics I discuss on CVICU rounds, and the more I think about it, I think many of the questions could be considered relevant to a patient’s ICU phase of care.

Here’s hoping I passed! Only 4-6 weeks of waiting to go.

1/16/2024 Addendum: I passed! 😃

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  1. Hi Rishi! Congratulations on passing the adult cardiac anesthesiology exam, especially as the first batch of testees!

    Did you find using Kaplans Cardiac Anesthesia and Augoustides and Kaplan’s Cardiac Anesthesia Review to be helpful for this exam or a waste of time? In hindsight, would you have done anything differently in preparation for this exam? Thank you for your advice.

    • At the time I took this exam, the Cardiac Anesthesia Review book was really the only “review” book (it’s just a question book), so I went through it. In hindsight, so much of the book was focused on irrelevant minutia whereas the exam was much more clinical. Really seemed like the authors were trying to beat everyone else to the market with a review book ($$$). Did it help me with a few questions? Probably. Do I think I spent way too much time on it? Absolutely. The book doesn’t follow the content online, the book formatting is ridiculously bad (although the digital one is better), etc. In hindsight, I would have gone through the content outline, asked myself where gaps in knowledge are, and brushed up on the topics on my own.

    • It’s ridiculous. They had actually posted the score reports on the ABA portal yesterday (Menu → Account Settings → Posted Documents) which some of my colleagues were able to access before they were taken down. Really disappointed with how the ABA has handled the rollout for this exam.


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