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Conquering the Dermatology Board Exam: Tips From Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD


Chovatiya acknowledged the common sentiment among residents who, despite dedicating significant time to studying and working during residency, may feel unprepared.

As dermatology residents gear up for the challenge of the board exam, the process can often feel overwhelming. The stakes are high, the material is vast, and the pressure to perform can be intense. Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD, clinical associate professor at the Rosalind Franklin University Medical School, and founder and director of the Center for Medical Dermatology and Immunology Research in Chicago, Illinois, shared invaluable insights on how residents can conquer the board exam with confidence and success during the 2024 American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Meeting in San Diego, California, March 8-12.1

"You know, when it comes to thinking about the dermatology boards, half of the challenge is just getting out of your own head," Chovatiya said in an interview with Dermatology Times. He acknowledged the common sentiment among residents who, despite dedicating significant time to studying and working during residency, may feel unprepared. His advice? Take a step back, take a deep breath, and recognize that you'velikely learned more than you think.

Chovatiya drew an analogy to a card catalog and the decimal system, emphasizing the importance of organizing information for quick access. He recommended thinking about modules and diseases in groups rather than as individual entities, facilitating a more organized thought process. "Make your thought process very organized so you can instantly transit between inflammatory, neoplasm, infectious, and go down that route," he advised.

Repetition is another key strategy in Chovatiya's arsenal for board exam success. Acknowledging the esoteric nature of the material, he emphasized the need to practice repeatedly. Once the general organizational scheme is in place, consistent repetition helps solidify the knowledge and ensures quick and accurate recall during the exam.2

For those seeking a more structured approach, Chovatiya highlighted the value of courses and practice sessions at dermatology meetings year-round. He noted the difficulty in simulating an actual testing environment but underscored the benefits of taking a test with individuals providing rapid-fire feedback on correct and incorrect answers. This experience helps bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and the application required in the exam.

In the midst of the bustling atmosphere of the AAD meeting, Chovatiya expressed his enthusiasm for the evolving landscape of dermatology. His favorite part lies in the advancements in therapies for immunologic and inflammatory diseases. He reflects on the significant progress made in this area, from sessions that were once sparse to now being overflowing with discussions on groundbreaking therapies.

"What excites me the most is the fact that we're no longer just talking about topical steroids over and over again," he concluded.“Instead, the dermatology community now boasts a range of targeted therapeutic options, marking a significant shift in the space's future.”

Chovatiya will also present in the sessions "Atopic Dermatitis” on Saturday, March 9, and “Itch Tales: Looking Beyond Atopic Dermatitis” on Monday, March 11.

Do you have any tips for residents to conquer their board exams? We’d love to hear from you! Email DTEditor@mmhgroup.com.


  1. Chovatiya R. Brofenbrener R, Chen S, et al. Conquer the boards: core exam & review. Presented at: 2024 American Academy of Dermatology Meeting; March 8-12, 2024; San Diego, CA
  2. Swan Sein A, Dathatri S, Bates TA. Twelve tips on guiding preparation for both high-stakes exams and long-term learning. Med Teach. 2021 May;43(5):518-523. doi: 10.1080/0142159X.2020.1828570. Epub 2020 Oct 8. PMID: 33032481.
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