Most optometry students take the National Board Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) Part 1 (of 3 total) Applied Basic Sciences in March toward the end of their third year. Boards prep is typically a time of high stress for optometry students due to the pressure of wanting to pass, cost of the test, and fatigue that results from endless studying. Luckily, preparation does not just have to begin in the immediate months before the test. There are ways to help prepare yourself starting your very first semester of optometry school:
1. Study Hard. It seems obvious, but studying and understanding the topics you are being taught during your first three years is the best way to begin boards prep. Each piece of information you already understand and know going into boards prep time will make your life one step easier. Repetition is key, and therefore having already studied each topic multiple times will make it easier to recall information and get those questions correct!
2. Get Organized. You will thank yourself later for keeping your computer and/or paper notes organized throughout school. It is hard to know what you will and will not need later on to look back at, so consider getting a small filing cabinet or tote to keep books, notes, and old quizzes in to review at a later time. At the end of each semester, look through your things and file away by class. Do the same on your computer. Keep your notes organized by year and course to easily find them later (and don’t forget to periodically back them up on a hard drive!).
3. Learn your own study habits. Studying in professional school is nothing like studying as an undergraduate. You will find your rhythm through the first few semesters and refine it over your didactic years. Do you like study groups or quizzing someone one-on-one? Do you need to be in silence? Or listening to music? Would you rather be tucked away in a room alone? Knowing how you study best will prepare you to study efficiently on important topics when you get into the thick of studying for boards. Find what works for you and stick with it!
4. Sign up for a free daily boards question. You don’t have to be in your third year to begin getting example questions emailed to you. These start preparing you to think critically while reviewing topics that are on the Exam Content Matrix. An added bonus is getting exposure to the various forms of questions that you will see during the test.
5. Talk to those who have been through it. National boards are intimidating but luckily you are probably already friends with one of the greatest resources you could have – other optometry students who have been through it. They have experienced studying for and taking the test and can give encouragement that it can be done!