January 13th, 2012
04:28 PM ET

Exclusive: Doctors cheated on exams

By Scott Zamost, Drew Griffin and Azadeh Ansari, CNN

Programming note: "Prescription for Cheating" will air on "CNN Presents" this Saturday and Sunday, January 14 and 15, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET on CNN.

(CNN) - For years, doctors around the country taking an exam to become board certified in radiology have cheated by memorizing test questions, creating sophisticated banks of what are known as "recalls," a CNN investigation has found.

The recall exams are meticulously compiled by radiology residents, who write down the questions after taking the test, in radiology programs around the country, including some of the most prestigious programs in the U.S.

"It's been going on a long time, I know, but I can't give you a date," said Dr. Gary Becker, executive director of the American Board of Radiology (ABR), which oversees the exam that certifies radiologists.

Asked if this were considered cheating, Becker told CNN, "We would call it cheating, and our exam security policy would call it cheating, yes."

Radiology residents must sign a document agreeing not to share test material, but a CNN investigation shows the document is widely ignored. Dozens of radiology residents interviewed by CNN said that they promised before taking the written test to memorize certain questions and write them down immediately after the test along with fellow residents.


Filed under: After High School • Cheating
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Andrew

    From reading the headline, I was expecting an article about cheating patients. Well if looking at old exams or questions that other former students have taken is cheating then the whole academic system is in trouble. If Becker knew about it for so long, why not change the questions every time? Some teachers, who want to recycle old test questions, usually don't hand back old exams for this explicit purpose. They also tend to write new questions on every exam. Unless the same test is given out across the country and people on the East coast phone back the questions and answers to people taking the same test in a later time zone, then its not cheating.

    January 27, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  2. Anne

    And what do Kaplan, Sylvan and other test prep companies use to prepare their students for the SAT, ACT, LSAT, GRE and AP exams? They use previous tests and practice tests that use questions from previous years tests. That is what they use in their "prep" courses. This is not cheating, it is studying past exams to learn material from them and to practice test- taking strategies. I am married to a Radiologist and I can tell you that using previous test questions to study from, isn't what prepares them for their written or oral boards. The quality of their residency and fellowship programs, where they recieve hands-on, monitored learning experience from attending physicans plays a big part in preparing them for the boards. My husband would shut himself in his room and study from text books, journals, etc. every night through a year of internship, 3 years of residency and a year of Fellowship. Between working in the hospital and studying he put in at least 95 – 100 hours a week, every year during his 5 years of training. Dr. Becker has an ax to grind and CNN should have investigated his motives before airing such nonsense.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  3. Terry M Hudson MD, Radiologist

    I agree with the comment above, except that the Board has tried to make the exam more relevant. Everyone has used the "recalls" to study for at least 30 years, and I am not aware that the Board has emphasized that they consider this "cheating." We think of it as a study tool. You can't memorize hundreds of questions; residents review and discuss the "recalls" and look up information that they are not clear about. Dr. Becker is trying to cover himself from criticism by hanging radiology residents out to dry. He should be ashamed of himself.

    January 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  4. Mita Majmundar, M.D.

    It is not cheating; it is a creative way of getting around a test, the questions of which are irrelevant to the pracitce of Diagnostic Radiology. This test is, in no way, an accurate measure of the competency of a Radiology resident. The Oral examination is a much better yardstick for that purpose.

    January 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm |