17 Tips to Master the NBEO Part One

I took my NBEO part one on March 20th and 21st, a 14 hour test that spanned 2 days, each day held two, 3.5 hour sessions. I started studying for the test in December, but only about one day per week for a few hours. By the time February came around I would study 3 of 7 days per week for 10-12 hours a day. By the time March came around I was studying 5 of 7 days a week for 10-12 hours per day.  Two weeks before the test I was studying 7 of 7 days per week for 8-14 hours per day.

In total I probably studied for 200+ hours, and thats probably underestimated. It was pretty terrible, I honestly hated it and it made the OAT seem like a walk in the park. As bad as it was it’s the smartest I have ever been in my life thus far. I learned so much when studying and it was totally worth it. Plus I am glad that this test is hard because “if it was easy, everyone would do optometry.”

But I weathered the storm, and 2 months later I got my scores bad and found out that I passed this 500 question test by 60 questions… What a great feeling….

So here is 16 tips of advice that may give you that edge for the NBEO Part One. Also, feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below. Keep in my students cannot just answer ANYTHING you ask because there is an ethics policy we must adhere too. Ask and answer questions at your own discretion. 

1) I used the KMK guide and my class notes as my main study sources. The biggest source of knowledge was my 3 years of optometry school.

2) I used Optoprep online, Visual Perception: A Clinical Orientationby Shwartz and Clinical Anatomy and Physiology of the Visual System by Lee Ann Remington as my secondary sources. These books are great even after optometry school.

3) By far my biggest tip is do well in class throughout your 3 years in optometry school. Pay close attention and ask questions about things you don’t understand. My overall experience in optometry school gave me the tools I needed to problem solve and reason my way through questions on the test. Obviously, the questions on NBEO Part I are not going to be found in study guides.  However, they were related to content that I remembered being taught throughout school.

4) The majority of the questions are clinically oriented, so understand knowledge based on a clinical situation.

5) Bottom line is that you have to study, there is absolutely no way around this but to put the time in, wash rinse repeat! Seriously, be disciplined, don’t waste your time trying to find an easy way out, just go study, yes that means now.

6) You should be thankful that the NBEO is difficult, it is the last limiting step that makes sure only the best of the best can go on to become an OD.

7) I learned so much after studying for the NBEO, especially in ophthalmic optics and systemic disease. I am at the top of my game now and so will you when you are done.

8) I would take time to understand some basic vision therapy/binocular vision concepts. Not training techniques but more so diagnostic concepts surrounding accommodation and vergence.

9) The NBEO part one costs $625… Make sure you pass the first time!

10) Make sure you find time to hit the gym or do something you like while studying. I was always against it because I felt I needed more study time, but after I would get back from the gym I would feel a million times better.

11) Doing good on the NBEO part one is 75% intelligence and 25% mental endurance. You need to stay positive, your health needs to be top notch.

12) It’s never to early to start studying pharmacology.

13) Try to see and hear about as many patient cases as possible. When you handle a patient with a certain diagnosis and treatment you will never forget it, but read it in a text book and it’s very hard to retain it. For example I knew lots about 3rd nerve Palsies and myasthenia gravis all because I had a patient with it. Studying it in a textbook would never have been the same.

14) The optics is basic, nothing too crazy and it’s all clinically relevant for the most part. Understand ophthalmic optics well, bifocals and progressives are important to understand for the test.

15) Most of all you need to keep positive. You will get really discouraged during your study time and it will feel like you’re having a nervous breakdown. Everyone goes through this! Just stay cool and get it done! If it was easy everyone would do it! So stop complaining, man/woman up and go get it done!!!!

16) Sitting for the test is no problem at all! Two 3.5 hour sessions for two days is like a walk in the park.  You will be putting in 12 hour days with ease so sitting for 3.5 hours feels like nothing.

17) My last and most important tip is this: You need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt you will pass this test. You need to be so insanely confident without a shred of doubt in your mind. You must burn all bridges and thoughts of failure and not accept any of that as a possibility. Write on your mirror “I am going to dominate the NBEO”, you really need to be sure of yourself and really confident. I can’t stress how important this is and how this is the key to success. No one ever taught us this stuff in school but trust me, it’s not some spiritual gimmick, this is the real deal, people who truly believe in themselves obtain that which they desire.

Feel free to ask questions any questions and I will do my best to provide advice. Just let me know in the comments section below. Please keep in mind the NBEO ethics policy when asking questions.

Good luck on the NBEO.
-Matt Geller


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