Archive Of Standardized Exam Questions: Absence Seizure


This page is dedicated to organizing various examples of standardized exam questions whose answer is absence seizure. While this may seem a odd practice, it is useful to see multiple examples of how absence seizure will be characterized on standardized exams (namely the boards and the shelf exams). This page is not meant to be used as a traditional question bank (as all of the answers will be the same), however seeing the classic “test” characterization for a topic is quite valuable.


When it comes to standardized exams, each topic has its own “code” marked by key buzzwords, lab findings, clues, etc. If you are well versed in this code you will be able to more quickly identify the condition that is being discussed, and get the right answer on the exam you are taking. Below is the “code” for absence seizure

  • Blank staring episodes: may be confused with ADHD
  • 3 Hz spike and wave discharge will be observed on EEG

Question # 1

A 6 year old female is brought to the pediatric clinic by her parents because her teacher has noticed that she stares blankly into space for several seconds at a time. During these episodes she does not respond to any questions or commands. A physical examination is unremarkable. An EEG is performed and shows 1-3 second bursts of a 3/sec spike and wave activity. There are no abnormal limb movements during these bursts. What is the likely diagnosis in this patient?

Explanation # 1

Blank staring episodes + 3 Hz spike and wave pattern on EEG = absence seizure

Question # 2


Explanation # 2



Many questions on standardized exams go beyond simply recognizing the underlying topic. Often there are specific testable facts regarding some aspect of the topic’s pathophysiology/management/clinical implications that are commonly asked. Some of these are listed below:



Page Updated: 04.23.2017