Abstract Background The collective study habits of 1 group of residents involved in educationally distinct periods of time in a community-based general surgery residency program were evaluated. Methods American Board of Surgery In-Training Exam (ABSITE) score results of 31 residents were calculated during 3 distinctive educational time periods: resident independent, self-directed study; resident-directed study with weekly systematic textbook reviews; and faculty-directed study with additional formal basic science and clinical lectures. Results Aggregate higher scores were observed when ABSITE results for the directed study period were compared with those observed during the independent study period in mid-level resident years (postgraduate year [PGY] 2 to 4). Conclusions With limited faculty resources, community-based surgery residency programs have more challenges in opportunities for resident acquisition of cognitive knowledge and subsequent quantitative improvement in ABSITE scores. This study demonstrated a successful methodology particularly in the face of mandated limitation of weekly resident work hours and diminishing allocated education resources.