European Board of Ophthalmology Online Exam: My Experience
Atanas Bogoev M.D., FEBO
Ever since I was a medical student and doing my Ophthalmology clinical rotations I noticed some of the teaching doctors had an additional “FEBO” after their names. Although I did not know what that meant at the time, I was sure to notice that those were the ones who always had a little bit of extra motivation. They were inspiring and looked at everything from a different angle.
Once I started my residency I learned about the ophthalmology societies and the European Board of Ophthalmology, as well as the annual EBO Exams.
Years have passed, COVID came, the exams were put on pause. Fortunately, in 2021 we got the great news that again we can attend this prestigious exam and demonstrate our knowledge of eyecare. The only difference now was it was entirely online.
I attended the EBO Exam on 19 November 2021. Now I am sharing with you my tips and tricks for approaching, preparing, and taking the exam.
EBO Exam eligibility
You must be in the final year of ophthalmology residency or own an ophthalmology specialist diploma to attend. In addition, you must be from one of the European countries eligible to sit the EBO exam.
Check the requirements and the full list of eligible countries here:
EBO Exam preparation
Before you start, you need to know the rules of the game. Luckily, everything you need is written in detail on the EBO website: EBOD Exams
Make sure you don’t miss the application deadline!
Nothing is worse than feeling confident and wanting to attend the exam, but missing it due to a late application. The places are limited and fill up pretty quickly so do not hesitate. I personally signed up as soon as the application window opened.
Start preparing early and make a plan for when and what you are going to study! - I just can't stress this enough.
Take a good look at the exam syllabus: Syllabus & Recommended Reading
I personally had about 4 months to create a plan and prepare for my exam. I have taken my ophthalmology board exam this year as well as ICO Basics and Optics Exam, which certainly helped me a lot.
I would certainly advise you to try and pack all of those exams as close together as possible, as intensively preparing for one of them naturally helps universally for all. I would personally advise you to start preparing for this exam more intensely 4-6 months prior to the exam date on top of your already good ophthalmology knowledge.
Recently EBO shared the Instructions for the online exam on their website: Instructions & Rules for Online EBO Exams
EBO Exam Literature and resources
Using reliable exam resources is extremely important! I personally used the following literature for my exam preparation:
AAO BCSC (Basic and Clinical Science Course); The Wills Eye Manual 8th edition (Dr. Kalla Gervasio, Dr. Travis Peck); Clinical Ophthalmology: A Systematic Approach ( Brad Bowling and Jack J. Kanski); Oxford Handbook of Ophthalmology (by Dr. Louise Bye); Basic Sciences in Ophthalmology: A Self Assessment Text; ProVision: Ophthalmic MCQs, Series 5 by Stephen Russell, Edward J. Rockwood MD Review of Ophthalmology (by William B. Trattler, Peter K. Kaiser, Neil J. Friedman) MCQs for FRCOphth and ICO Basic Sciences Examinations (by Dr. Sameer Trikha); MCQs in Ophthalmology (by Deepa Kapoor); Basic sciences MCQs - Success in MRCOphth (by Prof. Chua); - Free PDF Clinical Optics 3rd Edition (by Andrew Elkington); Self-assessment in Optic and Refraction (by Prof. Chua) - Free PDF Multiple choice question books (by Dr. D.Easty and Dr. John Ferris);
Additional MCQ and clinical cases online resources:
This Bayer-sponsored website will help you get to know the format of the EBO exam and will give you a format mix of MCQs and Clinical cases, similar to the EBO Exam. It gives you the ability to do a "dry run" before you attend the actual exam. I highly recommend it!
The AAO gives you the amazing opportunity to test your clinical knowledge. This self-assessment module is exclusive to AAO members.
It is great that after answering the questions, you receive immediate additional information and, recommendations for additional study.
OphthoQuestions is a great tool for preparing for various exams in Ophthalmology. The question bank is large and the answer descriptions are very detailed and up to date.
You can check out a free demo here: https://bit.ly/OphthoQuestions-DEMO
There are certain landmark Ophthalmology Clinical Trials that you should study in addition to all of the literature mentioned above. The amazing team at Eyeguru has assembled a list of all major clinical trials in ophthalmology, an easy-to-understand and learn table. Try to get used to solving Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), especially in the last month leading to the exam. Attending the exam before solving MCQs is like planning to attend a chess tournament with only extensive knowledge of the rules, but never having played in the first place.
EBO Exam Structure:
Before you start your exam, you will go through a very detailed verification progress. The software that the EBO used was ProctorExam, there is always someone watching and can assist you if you have any technical questions.
Example video: ProctorExam demo for candidates
Written exam (MCQ) - 40 % of your grade
The MCQ Exam is 40% of your total grade. You need at least 60% correct answers to pass this exam (and this pass grade is different and is calculated by subtracting 1 standard deviation from the average score of the EBO exam).
In this part of the examination you will need to answer 52 multiple choice questions /5 Statements each - a total of 260 answers required/ with True, False or Don't Know.
Have in mind:
A correct answer is awarded 1 point An incorrect (or empty) answer will be penalized 0.5 points Don’t Know’ is not awarded or penalized, and so attracts a score of 0 points
From a strategic standpoint it makes no sense to leave blank answers, as you always get 0 points, you can be relatively aggressive with your assumptions and doubts as the penalty is only 0,5 points and the correct answer is 1.
My rule is that If I assume that more than 33% of my assumptions will be right, I proceed and answer with True and False. Otherwise, it is better to answer Don't Know.
The EBO advises you not to choose the ‘don’t know’ option more than 40 times (15% of all answers) as this may significantly reduce your chances to pass. I personally left marked 13/260 Answers with "Don't know", all of them asked something supper specific fact for an ophthalmic drug or a rare ophthalmic disease.
Clinical cases - 60 % of your total grade
The EBO Exam has a clinical case part which has 8 separate cases from various topics in ophthalmology, each with several questions assigned to different aspects of the case - Anterior segment image, fundus Photo, Fluorescein Angiography, OCT, MRI, etc.
The clinical case examination consists of the following major topics in ophthalmology:
2 cases of Optics, Refraction, Neuro / pediatric ophthalmology, Strabismus 2 cases of Cornea, External / Orbit and Adnexa 2 cases of Glaucoma / Cataract, Refractive 2 cases of Retina / Uveitis
Here the EBO officials give us a clear example of their clinical case question format:
Source: EBO Clinical Case Format Example
The answers in your clinical cases need to be very short and to the point. You have only 100 characters available for each answer.
(Have in mind my the last two sentences were 131 characters)
When answering the clinical cases I couldn't go back and correct my answers, I could only proceed forward (by clicking next), so be cautious when answering and take your time.
Make yourself familiar with EBO’s Exam Tutorial: Exam tutorial
EBO: During the exam
Follow the universal tips when solving the MCQs - Education Corner's MCQs Article
Exactly like a surgeon during surgery, you need to make an ’’intraoperative’’ decision when and how often to answer I don't know. It is all about strategy and balance.
Do not get discouraged if the questions seem too hard, if they are hard for you, they are probably hard for everyone. After all, this is a statistical exam, and the mean score of everyone attending plays a great role.
Do not underestimate the time to answer the exam questions.
EBO: After the exam
Congratulations, you are a true WINNER for signing up and attending this exam! Good job!
Now we have to wait for the results. I got mine exactly 2 weeks after the exam date.
Make sure to spread the word and share your experience - on social media. I am so happy to live in a world where organizations like the European Board of Ophthalmology (EBO) help to raise the education level of ophthalmology knowledge standards in Europe.
Don't forget to encourage and share your experience with your exam preparation.
Good luck to all of you who are planning to attend the next EBO Exam! You got this!
EBO examinations e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (they are very responsive and happy to help you with your questions)
-Atanas Bogoev, M.D., FEBO