Does cramming work? Impact of National Web-Based Thoracic Surgery Curriculum login frequency on thoracic surgery in-training exam performance

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Web-based curricula provide login data that can be advantageously used to characterize and analyze study habits. We sought to compare thoracic surgical trainee In-Training Examination percentiles with regard to their study habits (ie, cramming), as characterized by curriculum login frequency to the national Web-based Thoracic Surgery Curriculum. Furthermore, we then aimed to characterize the curriculum login frequency of trainees as stratified by their performance on the In-Training Examination and their improvement on the In-Training Examination over subsequent years.


We performed a retrospective review of trainees who accessed the curriculum before the 2014 In-Training Examination, with curriculum login data collected from site analytics. Scores were compared between trainees who crammed (≥30% increase in logins in the month before the In-Training Examination) and those who did not. Trainees were stratified on the basis of 2014 In-Training Examination percentile and improvement in percentile from 2013 to 2014 into high, medium, and low scorers and improvers.


Of 256 trainees who took the 2014 In-Training Examination, 63 (25%) met criteria as crammers. Crammers increased total study sessions immediately before the In-Training Examination (P < .001), but without impact on 2014 In-Training Examination percentile (P = .995) or year-to-year improvement (P = .234). Stratification by In-Training Examination percentile demonstrated that highest scoring trainees used the curriculum more frequently in the final month than medium-range scorers (P = .039). When stratified by extent of year-to-year improvement, those who improved the most accessed the curriculum significantly more often in the last month compared with baseline (P = .040). Moreover, those with greatest improvement logged in more in the final month than those with least improvement (P = .006).


Increasing the frequency of study periods on the national Web-based thoracic surgery curriculum before the In-Training Examination may have a unique benefit to trainees who initially score low to allow them to significantly improve their subsequent year In-Training Examination performance.

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