Top Tips for Preparing for the Board Certification in Geriatrics Exam

JANUARY 21, 2018
I took the exam to become a Certified Geriatric Pharmacist in 2014, and actually since writing for Pharmacy Times one of the most common emails I receive from readers is to ask about how to prepare for the exam.

While the content might have changed somewhat now that the Board of Pharmacy Specialties has integrated it into their line of credentialing, I think the following tips will still help in preparing for this exam. It is not necessary to purchase expensive review courses; in fact, I didn’t purchase anything and I did well on it. Most importantly–and I think this is the number one reason to take the exam to become a CGP (now called a BCGP)–I learned a lot from preparing for the exam.

In fact, while I am always pushing myself to read and learn more that will help me in practice, preparing for the exam was probably the fastest rate I had learned since pharmacy school. Having the exam as a goal gave me something tangible to reach for while I did it. I can undoubtedly say that I am a more well-rounded, better pharmacist because of preparing for the exam. Of note, these tips are my personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Board of Pharmacy Specialties or the Commission for the Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy.
   
Now, here are some of my top tips for preparing:

1.       Give yourself plenty of time to study: Don’t try to rush into the test within a month or 2 and take it. One, even if you pass, you might ‘prove’ your knowledge to others but you will not end up learning much in the process, which as I mentioned is the best part of pursuing the credential. Two, there is a good chance you will either not do well on the test or could even fail, which is a waste of your time and money. I gave myself a good 6 months or so to study; that way I could go at a nice, steady pace while taking into account the fact that I am still working full time. It also gave me plenty of time to go back and review topics multiple times so that it was committed to long-term memory, which is ultimately the goal.

2.       Pay attention to the topic list: At the time I took the exam, CCGP provided a list of potential topics. BPS seems to provide one for all of their credentials as well. Study this! It is the bread and butter of your reading. I actually printed it off and went through each topic, one by one, and used a check mark as I finished studying for each topic. To get review materials on each topic, I used resources that were available to me as a preceptor and for free online. This included Lexi-Comp (for medication specifics, like adverse effects, renal dosing, and special concerns in the geriatric population) as well as DynaMed and UpToDate (for general topic discussions, such as heart failure or hypertension). I also reviewed specific guidelines when available, such as ATP-4, AHA heart failure guidelines, GOLD guidelines, and ADA guidelines. They are some of the best free resources available. The American Psychiatric Association has great treatment guidelines that include plenty of specifics on medications and I don’t think are well known among pharmacists, but I highly recommend looking at them. I spent some time with their guidelines on bipolar disorder in particular and learned a lot for practice and for the exam. For statistics, check out the Minitab blog and search for topics of interest; also, there is a great little book on medical statistics called Medical Statistics at a Glance that has roughly 2-page sections on nearly every statistical concept you would need to understand to interpret trial data.

3.       Study to your weaknesses: I talked a little about this point more generally in a recent article on obtaining proficiency, but there will definitely be topics on the list that you are already very familiar with. If you are already very comfortable with the treatment of hypertension, then brush up on it but focus on something you know very little about. For me, since I am a community pharmacist, the topics I had to spend more time on included hyponatremia, diabetic ketoacidosis, and parenteral nutrition, as examples. 

4.       Take the practice test, AFTER you feel ready: I don’t think the practice test will be as useful prior to studying for the real thing, but once you feel ready it gives you a good chance to see what the test will actually look like. Another great benefit is that it gives you the correct answers, lets you know how many you got right, and gives you an analysis of your weak and strong spots so you can brush up on those topics you thought you knew better than you actually did. 

5.       Read over the test guide: This will just give you general information on how many questions it is, how long the test lasts, etc. For obvious reasons you should be familiar with this prior to going into the exam.
If you follow the above steps, you can do well on the geriatric board exam! Best of luck.
                  


Alex Evans, PharmD, BCGP
Alex Evans, PharmD, BCGP
Alex Evans, PharmD, CGP, works in community pharmacy in Jacksonville, Florida, and is preceptor at the University of Florida and Florida AM University. He graduated from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro with a BS in Biology and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. He has worked in both the community and long-term care settings. He can be reached at alex.evans.pharmd@gmail.com
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