Why test recalls should not be considered cheating

I was appalled recently by the coverage of radiology “test recalls” by CNN, amplified by Dr. Gary Becker of the American Board of Radiology (ABR). For decades, residents have studied for their rites of passage Board examinations at the end of residencies. Radiology being no exception, I vividly remember spending innumerable hours with my co-residents, heads buried in books, papers and other study guides, to ready ourselves for the magic moments of test-taking. Never once did we feel that any of that excruciating time spent was “cheating.”

The public’s perception of radiologists has been unfairly diminished by the recently published media report. The fact that the ABR has latched onto the issue as a topic of serious import is understandable, as a testing body, though disturbing, as it elevates study guide material to the level of cheating. “Recalls,” if my memory serves, were simply study guides comprised of regurgitated salient facts based on information they studied leading up to and including the board examinations. These techniques form the basis of such well-known programs as Kaplan and BARBRI.

In contradistinction to the popular perception of cheating, “recalls” were in no way the same or even similar to the sordid test-stealing that we have all read about, where a student sneaks into the teacher’s drawer, copies the test and distributes it to friends before the test.

Who determined that “recalls” are a form of cheating? Are we to say that all studying not sanctioned by reviewing a published text is cheating? Is it legitimate to point to a particular type of study guide and eliminate it as a reasonable way to learn the material? Why is a published text more “ethical” to use than a document containing just the “bold-faced items?”

I maintain that “recalls” help students to learn the material that was originally intended for them to learn by their attending physicians, professors and other educators. The fact that some people may not appreciate their benefit should not have led the ABR to denounce such forms of learning as “cheating.” Such a false determination and judgment has diminished us all.

Paul Dorio is an interventional radiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, Paul J Dorio, MD.

Submit a guest post and be heard on social media’s leading physician voice.

View 6 Comments >