Do I Need To Memorize Clinical Trials For the BCPS Exam?

I get a lot of questions on all the board certification exams and while this recent question was specific to the BCPS exam, my answer applies to all of the BPS exams, the NAPLEX exam, and the BCMTMS exam. I cover many of those frequently asked questions about the 2023 board exams in the posts found on this page. The question: “Do I need to memorize clinical trials for the BCPS exam?

Let’s breakdown that question a little further into two questions.

  1. Do I specifically need to know the name of the study and the specific outcomes? Or rephrased, are you likely to be quizzed on the name of a study?
  2. Will you have to know and apply information from clinical literature?

Question 1: Are you likely to be quizzed on the name of the study?

While I can’t say it is impossible that the BCPS exam or any other exam might ask that question, it is not something that I spent time studying and I would not recommend that you spend your time memorizing the name of the trial and its corresponding outcomes.

You are UNLIKELY to see a question like this:

Patients were randomly assigned to receive either amlodipine 2.5 to 10 mg daily or lisinopril 10 to 40 mg daily versus the comparator of chlorthalidone (podcast episode) 12.5 to 25 mg daily. The primary outcomes were combined fatal CHD events or nonfatal myocardial infarction. Outcomes were analyzed by intention-to-treat. Secondary outcomes were all-cause mortality, stroke, combined CHD and CVD events. The authors found no difference in the primary outcome or all-cause mortality between the treatment groups. As for secondary outcomes, thiazide-type diuretics were superior in preventing one or more major CVD events. Name that trial?





This is the ALLHAT trial, just FYI!

Question 2: Will you have to apply information from important clinical trials?

This is a resounding yes. For example, if you are given a choice between an ACE inhibitor and an ARNI in a heart failure case, the latest guidelines based upon the PARADIGM-HF trial and other supporting information supports the selection of an ARNI over an ACE Inhibitor (unless there is a compelling indication in the case not to use one, (i.e. cost, intolerance, etc.).

All guidelines use clinical literature to develop their best practices. Inevitably, those guidelines will represent what the data from individual clinical trials tells us and this is the most important thing to memorize for the BCPS exam. Being able to name the trial that corresponds to the outcome that was discovered is not essential in my humble opinion. It’s great if you know that, but I don’t think you are going to fail your BCPS exam because you didn’t know the name of a specific trial. If you focus on the guidelines, and understand that there is data to support a medicaiton selection, that is going to be good enough in the overwhelming majority of cases.

Bottom Line

You’ll probably have some clinical trial names memorized or at least be able to recognize them, but I would NOT be stressed if you don’t have them memorized. You need to focus your attention on why you would select a given medication in a clinical situation.

Eric Christianson, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP

If you are interested in study materials for any of the following board exams, follow the links below!

BCPS Study Materials

BCACP Study Materials

BCGP Study Materials

BCMTMS Study Materials

NAPLEX Study Materials


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Written By Eric Christianson

April 16, 2023

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