CBPS Exam Preparation

What to Expect on the Examinations

Exam Subject Matter

The first step to successful preparation for an ABFAS examination is to understand the topics or subject areas the exam covers. Exam Content webpages detail examination topics along with the relative weighting of each topic: Info for residents | Info for Board Qualification candidates.

Candidates should honestly assess their knowledge and experience against the exam content to determine their strengths and weaknesses and develop an appropriate study plan.   

Exam Structure

It is important to be familiar with the structure of the exam. The ABFAS website has details on the structure of each of the CBPS exams: Info for residents | Info for Board Qualification candidates.

Navigating the CBPS Exam

Here is the typical flow of a CBPS case:

  • The system presents patient condition, relevant medical history, images, and/or other pertinent information.
  • The candidate gathers additional information by selecting options from dropdown lists that relate to physical exam tasks, imaging, laboratory tests, and/or diagnostic procedures. As the candidate selects options, the system may display more information that could be helpful for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • The candidate arrives at a diagnosis and treatment plan. Follow-ups and/or an additional diagnosis may appear in the case.

Recommended Approach to the CBPS Examination

  • Consider all relevant aspects of patient management including:
    • case history
    • physical examination
    • imaging
    • labs
    • diagnostic procedures
    • diagnosis
    • treatment
    • follow-up diagnoses and treatments as needed
  • All procedure decisions should be based on clinical indications.
  • Physical examination and patient work-ups are as important as diagnosis and treatment.
  • When collecting patient information, balance thoroughness with efficiency and quality versus quantity. 
  • Select only information specific to the problem presented.
  • Do not take too much time on any one point or decision.

Earning Score Points

  • Candidates earn score points by making selections specifically relevant to the management of the case.
  • Routine preoperative evaluations that are not specific to the case do not typically earn score points.
  • There are no penalties for making irrelevant, but harmless, selections.
  • There are penalties for making selections that are harmful to or unsafe for the patient.  
  • Multiple selections that elicit the same information will not result in penalty or additional credit.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Jumping to a Diagnosis and Treatment  

One of the most common mistakes candidates make on the CBPS exam is jumping to a diagnosis and moving to treatment without providing evidence that the diagnosis and treatment were selected in a thoughtful manner. For example, seeing an image of a patient with a bunion and stating, “I’m going to take an X-ray and then do this procedure” would be a mistake. In that case, ABFAS would not be able to assume an appropriate problem-focused physical examination was performed. Candidates must demonstrate their plan by selecting the physical examination options that relate specifically to the problem presented and/or support the determination of a diagnosis and treatment plan, where applicable.

Providing a Surgical Work-up

Working up the patient to prepare the patient for surgery is not the purpose of the examination. Rather, the goal is to develop a diagnosis and a treatment plan that is pertinent to the case itself. Candidates should concentrate on the case-specific information presented to determine if any additional evidence is necessary for the diagnosis and treatment of the case. It is important to focus on the management of the case, not the surgical work-up.

The Shotgun Approach

Some candidates use a “shotgun” approach where they make additional selections beyond what may be prudent for the case because they are uncertain or want to maximize score points. This approach is a serious mistake because it may result in a selection that can cause harm to the patient resulting in a penalty where candidates will lose points. 

CBPS Practice Exam

  • ABFAS strongly encourages candidates to carefully read all the material and watch each video before taking the practice examination. All of this should be done well in advance of exam day.
  • The CBPS practice exam functions exactly like the real CBPS examination and is available to candidates eligible to take CBPS examinations.  
  • Candidates can retake the practice exam an unlimited number of times.
  • After taking the practice exam, refer to the CBPS Practice Exam Answer Key for selections that earn score credit.

To see the answer key button, log in with your ABFAS username and password using the "Login" button at the top of the webpage. Password assistance is available on the login page, if needed.