Preparing for the Examination of Added Competence in Emergency Medicine
Written and oral examination
The Examination of Added Competence in Emergency Medicine is comprised of two components: a written examination and an oral examination. The content to be assessed in this examination is drawn from the Priority Topics in Emergency Medicine and the CAEP Ultrasound guidelines.
To help prepare for the exam:
- Examination of Special Competence in Emergency Medicine Short-Answer Management Problems (SAMPs): The Committee on Examinations – Emergency Medicine authorized the release of short-answer management problems (SAMPs) used on previous examinations to help candidates prepare for the written Candidates should be aware that these SAMPs are from previous examinations and may not reflect current clinical practice.
- The Canadian Library of Family Medicine (CLFM) has compiled a list of resources including conference, books, journals and Internet sites that help candidates keep up-to-date with developments in emergency medicine and to create a home study plan.
It’s straightforward to study for the examination at home. You can create an individual program of continuing professional development to fit your schedule. There are many ways of keeping up-to-day with the knowledge and skills of emergency medicine. A few options are listed here for your consideration. The CFPC only endorses educational programs accredited for Mainpro+® credits.
A number of annual scientific meetings take place in Canada and abroad where related examination issues are discussed. Mainpro+ certified courses are listed on the continuing professional development (CPD) events calendar.
Family Medicine Forum (FMF)
Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) CPD courses
Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) Annual Emergency Medicine for rural hospitals
Books, manuals, multimedia
Several comprehensive emergency medicine textbooks, board examination guides, and manuals are available. Prices listed are approximate.
- Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Provider (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) in-person courses, e-learning courses and textbooks from https://canadianheart.ca/virtual-acls-program/
- Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) manuals available at courses, and from the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.
- Howes D, Pillow T, Tupesis J, Ahn J et al. First Aid for the Emergency Medicine Oral Boards: An insider’s guide. Second edition. McGraw Hill Medical; 2018
- Walls R, Hockberger R, Gausche-Hill M, Erickson T, Wilcox S. Rosen’s Emergency medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. Tenth edition. Elseveir; 2022
- Ma OJ, Mateer JR, Reardon RF, Byars DV, Knapp BJ, Laudenback AP. Ma and Mateer’s Emergency Ultrasound. Fourth edition. McGraw Hill; 2021
- Olszynski P, Kim D, Chenkin J, Rang L. The core emergency ultrasound curriculum project: A report from the Curriculum Working Group of the CAEP Emergency Ultrasound Committee. CJEM. 2018 Mar;20(2):176-182.
- Dr. Carol Rivers’ Preparing for the Written Board Exam in Emergency Medicine (Volumes I & II and flash cards). Ohio American College of Emergency Physicians. Tenth edition; 2021.
- Schaider JJ, Hayden SR, Wolfe RE. Rosen & Barkin’s 5-Minute Emergency Medicine Consult. Sixth edition. Lippincott Williams & Williams; 2019
- Shah BR, Mahajan P, Amodio J, Lucchesi M. Atlas of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Third edition. McGraw-Hill Education; 2019
- Tenenbein M, Macia CG, Sharieff GQ, Yamamoto LG, Schafermeyer R. Strange and Schafermeyer’s Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Fifth edition. McGraw-Hill Education; 2019
- Tintinalli JE, Ma OJ, Yealy DM, Meckler GD, Stapczynski JS, Cline DM, Thomas SH. Emergency medicine: A comprehensive study guide. Ninth edition. McGraw-Hill Education; 2020
- Cydulka RK, Fitch MT, Joing SA, Wang VJ, Cline DM MA J. Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine Manual. Eighth edition. McGraw-Hill Education; 2018
- Academic Emergency Medicine (AEM), official monthly publication of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) (online and print available). Wiley-Blackwell.
- Annals of Emergency Medicine, an International Journal, on behalf of the American College of Emergency Physicians (online and print available). Elsevier.
- Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine (CJEM/JCMU), official journal of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (published six times/year; articles less than one year old restricted to Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) members and subscribers).
- Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America, quarterly from Elsevier Health Sciences Division (online and print available).
Here are emergency medicine sites that offer continuing professional development (CPD) listings and content, news, and other information:
Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP)
American College of Emergency Physicians
Medscape: articles on emergency medicine, published by WebMD.
Canadian Library of Family Medicine: the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s (CFPC’s) library services; CFPC members can request free literature searches and full text articles. For more information, contact the library:
Canadian Library of Family Medicine
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
2630 Skymark Avenue
Mississauga, ON L4W 5A4
Sample Structured Oral Video
The structured oral component of the examination will be composed of four 12-minute stations. Candidates will be assessed by four different examiners on four different topics. The four oral exam stations will be delivered virtually. Candidates can sit the examination at a place of their choosing (for example, their home or work environment). Examination centres are no longer available, nor are candidates required to attend one to complete the virtual oral exam.
At the beginning of each oral, the examiner will give you a written clinical scenario containing information about the patient presented as if you are just about to go see that patient. You should read the written scenario carefully out loud, after which the timer will be started. After that time, you may start writing out memory aids or patient assessment rubrics. The examiner will conduct your oral exam and score simultaneously as you proceed through the case. The examiner will prompt you through the exam to allow for efficient use of time.
This examination is different from the Simulated Office Oral component of the Certification Examination in Family Medicine where the examiner plays the role of the patient. You do not need to act as you would in a regular doctor-patient interaction. The examiner will facilitate your progress through the case. Ask the examiner for the information you feel is important to determine how to care for this patient.
The examiner will provide you with answers to all questions about history, physical exams, investigations, consults, or any other relevant inquiry. The examiner will occasionally direct or redirect you to cover certain essential aspects of the case. Should the examiner say a certain aspect of the case is normal or non-contributory, you should accept this and move on to the next steps of your evaluation or management.
Marks for PROCESS of caring for patients
This is an examination of your medical PROCESS of caring for patients who present to the Emergency Department. You are being assessed on how you manage the patient, not just if you get the right diagnosis at the end. There are many points for identifying various facts that are used to arrive at a sound differential diagnosis and management plan, and much less for the specific diagnosis itself.
Try to verbalize as much of your thought process as possible. Summarize periodically. You may take notes as you proceed, perhaps to remember an item to follow up, but since time is limited, consider using your time to verbally communicate with the examiner about the patient scenario. There are no points given for notes written on your paper. Carefully describe the actions you are taking. Remember, the examiner can only score you on the things you actually verbalize.
Avoid a cookbook approach and instead follow lines of questioning, physical assessments and investigations that are tailored to the case at hand. In this examination, a good history is most essential, and the relevant physical exam and logical differential diagnosis are also paramount. Any further investigations and management are secondary to a solid assessment that reflects a good foundation in the overall process of care for emergency medicine. There are no negative points for wrong answers.
In the cases presented to you, there will usually be nurses to assist you in the emergency department (ED), as well as the services of your hospital. You may delegate certain activities to other members of your team. Be very specific in the orders and interventions you require (e.g., “CT scan of the chest” is not the same as “CT pulmonary angiogram”). Monitor the ABCs and vital signs in an ongoing fashion as necessary to get a feel for the progression of each case. Ask for the results of your interventions and investigations when appropriate.
You may be shown some actual copies of test results of your investigations and then be asked for your interpretation of what is presented to do. Please do so carefully, but succinctly. Certain results may be normal. Most scenarios are practice-based and don’t focus on extremely rare or occult problems. If the final diagnosis is uncommon or rare, the key points are for how you get to the diagnosis, not necessarily for the management of the specific diagnosis. When listing your differential diagnoses, be complete but concise; mention the things you should be considering in this patient, at this time.
Be decisive in the way you conduct your evaluations and establish your setting so that you can gather the best information in the most efficient manner.
Make certain to be direct and clear in your disposition of each case, ensuring each patient has a clearly articulated and transparent care plan that covers all the essentials and is well presented to your examiner. Ensure that each patient has a comprehensive plan that provides continuity of care, be it in-patient or as an out-patient. Remember to include family members or caretakers as well as primary care health professionals.
Interaction with others during the exam
The examiner is not allowed to give you any feedback on your performance. However, he or she will work with you during the exam to provide all the information necessary to manage each situation optimally.
You will be expected to be silent during the intervals between the oral examinations. Do not discuss the content of the oral examinations with other candidates, before, after or during the examination. Experience has shown that prior knowledge of the clinical content or case diagnoses of oral examinations has resulted in poorer performances than might otherwise have been expected. You will be best served in preparing for this oral examination by exploring a case-based approach with practice scenarios that reflect a similar process and structure.
Short-answer management problems (SAMPs)
The SAMP component is computer based and can be taken in person at a Prometric Testing centre across Canada or remotely at a location of your choosing using Prometric’s remote proctor software, ProProctor.
Once the applications have been approved, approximately four to six weeks prior to the date of the SAMPs, candidates will receive an email from the CFPC with information on how and when to self-schedule an in-person or virtual seat on Prometric’s web portal. When the Prometric web portal opens, you can select either an in-person or virtual test seat on a day and time of your choosing. Exam appointment times fill up on a first come, first-serve basis. Each testing appointment is 7.5 hours in length, which includes time for administrative procedures, two three-hour testing windows, and a one-hour optional break. Candidates should plan to arrive at their testing site 30 minutes prior to their appointment to allow for the check-in process.
If you selected to write the SAMP at a Prometric test centre, please watch this video on what to expect on test day.
Follow the link entitled “What to expect” for a description of the registration process that occurs in all Prometric administered testing centers.
If you selected to write the SAMP virtually through ProProctor, please watch this video on what to expect on test day.
This short-answer management problem (SAMP) examination is intended to measure a candidate’s knowledge and problem-solving skills in the context of a clinical situation.
Candidates will receive basic information about the presentation of the patient and a series of questions will follow each scenario.
The video demonstration is designed to provide an orientation to the functionality and features of the Prometric testing interface candidates will use on exam day.
For the most part, each question will require a single word, short phrase or short list as a response. Where appropriate, the number of desired responses will be indicated for each question. No credit will be given for responses which exceed the number of requested responses.
The Committee on Examinations – Emergency Medicine has authorized the release of some SAMPs from previous examinations to help candidates understand the format and prepare for the exam. The sample questions available here are from previous examinations and may not reflect current clinical practice.
As they work through the problems, it is imperative that candidates follow the directions carefully so that they receive full credit for responses. The examination is very clear about the manner in which candidates are expected to list or write responses. Deviation from instructions can result in lower scores.
Note that for each case, the setting of practice will be described if relevant
Understand most questions can be answered in 10 words or less
Submit only the number of answers required (i.e., if asked to provide three responses and five are submitted, only the first three will be scored)
If directed to mention drugs, include dosages
Give details about procedures only if directed to do so
For each SAMP, the setting is an Emergency Department with tertiary-care capability, unless the setting is otherwise described.
When answering questions in this examination please read the question carefully and provide only the information that is requested.
You can answer most questions in ten words or less.
Where appropriate, the number of desired responses will be indicated for each question. The corresponding number of answer fields will be provided.
Write only one answer in each field. Subsequent answers in the same field will not be considered. No credit will be given for responses which exceed the number of requested responses.
When listing medications, the use of generic names or trade names will be accepted.
When providing values or measures only Systeme Internationale (SI) units will be accepted.
Avoid abbreviations which are not commonly used, and which may not be clear to an examiner.
If your answer to a question is “none”, please type “none”. Do not leave the answer box empty.
When the phrase “Be Specific” is added to the end of a question, include ample detail. Provide pertinent descriptions of tests or investigations (e.g., CT with contrast re: pulmonary embolism is different from CT with contrast re: aortic dissection; abdominal ultrasound is different from ultrasound guided paracentesis), and include medication doses and routes.
While there may be other acceptable answers, these sample answers demonstrate the correct way to answer SAMPs. Candidates should use these cases to become familiar with the examination format. Contact the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFCP) with any questions or concerns about SAMPs.
What to expect
Examination of Added Competence in Emergency Medicine Short Answer Management Problems (SAMPs): an example of sample answers acceptable to the Committee on Examinations – Emergency Medicine
SAMP Software Tutorial