Shelf exams are the exams that you take during 3rd-year after completing your core rotations. You have shelf exams in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry, obstetrics & gynecology, emergency medicine (optional) and osteopathic medicine (if you’re an osteopathic medical student). These exams are standardized exams (they never stop). For osteopathic students, the shelf exam question styles are very similar to COMLEX 2 (our board exam). The toughest part about them, however, is the length. They are composed of 125 questions with no scheduled breaks. The COMLEX exam is 400 questions, but it is broken up into sets of 50 and you get a break every 2 sets. This set up makes it so much more manageable for me.
Studying for the shelf exam is not really standardized like studying for boards was. Not everyone uses the same resources or studies in the same way. I personally watched Online Med Ed videos and did practice questions. That’s it. The awesome thing about 3rd-year is a lot of your learning comes from your actual hands-on rotation. You still have to study because you might not see certain things that you’ll be tested on, but for the most part, I saw a lot of what I was tested on. It is SO much more fun to learn this way. And it definitely sticks a lot better.