MD Program

Contact the PBA Program

1216 MERF
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2600
Phone:(319) 384-3027
Fax: (319) 335-8643

  • Exam Basics

    Students participate in one exam in five clerkships: Ambulatory Practice Module (APM), Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/Gyn), Psychiatry (Psych), Pediatrics (Peds), and Surgery, as well as the Physician Assistant (PA) Program. The aim of these examinations is to provide learners opportunities for focused practice, clinical feedback, patient-centered feedback, and an opportunity for remediation prior to the end of each primary care clerkship. 

    Exam dates and times are established by the clerkships, and occur during the last half of the clerkships. The exam times are set a year in advance and are not flexible. During an exam, a student will have between 2 and 4 encounters with Standardized Patients (SPs), depending on the size of the clerkship and its exam. Because of the complex nature of the exam, the exam will start at the posted time. If a student is delayed in reaching the test site, they will be admitted on arrival but any lost time cannot be made up.

    Each encounter lasts 15 minutes and is followed by a 10 minute "interstation activity" session. During the interstation session, a student might be asked to complete a written assignment (such as a clinical note), might complete a series of questions about conditions within the differential diagnosis, or could receive feedback from a faculty member who observed the encounter. Students are required to arrive 20 minutes prior to the start of the exam and stay 15 minutes after the completion of the exam.

    Please look below to see the current PBA exam schedule.                          

    Clerkship                         Date                                      

    APM                                 June 21, 2013

                                                 September 20, 2013

                                                 December 13, 2013

                                                 March 28, 2014

                                                 June 20, 2014

    OB/Gyn                          June 20, 2013 

                                                 August 8, 2013           

                                                 September 19, 2013

                                                 October 31, 2013   

                                                  December 12, 2013

                                                  February 13, 2014

                                                  March 27, 2014

                                                  May 8, 2014

                                                  June 19, 2014


    Psychiatry                     June 13, 2012      

                                                  July 18, 2013         

                                                 August 15, 2013

                                                 September 12, 2013

                                                 October 10, 2013

                                                 November 7, 2013

                                                 December 5, 2013

                                                 January 23, 2014

                                                 February 20, 2014

                                                 March 20, 2014

                                                 April 17, 2014

                                                 June 12, 2014                                        

     Pediatrics                   May 10, 2013

                                                June 21, 2013

                                                August 9, 2013

                                                 September 20, 2013                                               

                                                November 1, 2013

                                                 December 13, 2013

                                                 February 7, 2014

                                                 March 14, 2014

                                                 May 9, 2014

                                                 June 20, 2014

    Surgery                         May 3, 2013 

                                                June 14, 2013

                                                 August 2, 2013

                                                 September 13, 2013

                                                 October 25, 2013

                                                 December 6 2013

                                                 February 7 20143

                                                 March 21 2014

                                                 May 2 2014

                                                 June 13 2014

      PA Program                Aug 13, 2013 (PA1s) 

                                                 September 18, 2013

                                                 December 16, 2013

                                                 March 28 2014

    Tips on How to Do Well on Your PBA Encounters

    1. Always read the patient summary page carefully. It contains information about the patient’s problem, the tasks you need to accomplish in the 15 minute encounter, and the role you are being asked to take on. It is wise to read it a second time just to be sure.

    2. In taking a patient’s history you want to collect useful information about the chief complaint. One way to guide your history taking is to use the “OLD CARTS” mnemonic:
    a. Onset
    b. Location & radiation
    c. Duration
    d. Character
    e. Aggravating/associated factors
    f. Relieving factors
    g. Temporal factors/course
    h. Severity

    3. Try to come up with a reasonable differential diagnosis early in the encounter. In fact, you are encouraged to look at the patient’s chief complaint before meeting the patient and jot down 5 to 7 diseases which could be responsible. While taking the patient’s history you should ask questions that will help you sort out the diseases in your differential.

    4. When performing your physical exam ask yourself how the information you are collecting will help you care for the patient. If you can’t come up with a good reason for doing a specific part of the PE it might not be worth your time to do the maneuver.

    5. Towards the end of our encounter with the patient, it is a good idea to share with the patient what you think is going on, what you plan to do next, and what the patient can anticipate will happen depending on whether they follow through with your suggestions.

    6. Use good communication skills while you interview the patient. This means starting information gathering with open-ended questions, asking concise and understandable questions, using smooth transition statements during the encounter, voicing empathy, summarizing the information back to the patient, and pacing the encounter skillfully so that the patient does not feel rushed or that there is too much silence. Your non-verbal skills are also important in communicating a professional demeanor to the patient.