I finished my last final on Monday (ugh…glaucoma) before driving 18 hours through the night from Houston to Iowa. I left my dogs on a farm in Iowa with family and then flew out to California to spend Christmas with more family. Long story short, I’m tired of exams, tired of traveling, and all I want to do is relax and eat home-cooked meals (tamales…yum).
As you can imagine, studying for boards is the last thing I want to be doing. On a scale from 1-10, I would say my level of preparedness is probably a 4. However, it is absolutely necessary to utilize the holiday break to continue (or more likely, barely starting) to study for the NBEO Part 1 exam in mid-March. For those of you who like structure in your lives, I compiled a list of tips I believe will be helpful in helping you study for boards.
- First and foremost, have a plan. Whether it be reviewing old school notes, reading through KMK material, or taking practice tests, you should make a schedule with set goals with deadlines. Your goals should be ambitious but realistic. Avoid setting the bar too high to prevent stress or disappointment if you underperform. On the other hand, setting low expectations can lead to being unprepared and cramming a lot of study material into a short amount of time before the actual exam. My goal is to watch board prep videos online before January 1st. By February 1st, I plan on reading the KMK board prep material one time through. After that, I will take practice tests, study flashcards, and review more heavily tested material again (Ocular Anatomy, Ocular Disease, etc.). For my schedule, these are challenging and ambitious goals, but ones that I know I can accomplish.
- Set aside dedicated time. This is a tough one. It’s difficult to leave your family in the living room when you’re all watching TV, or staying home when they want to go shopping. No one likes to be the odd one out. However, as optometry students, we make hundreds of sacrifices throughout our four years of school, and finding time to study over the holiday break is no different.
Set a reminder in your phone or calendar and make it a habit to carve out some time to study every day. I set my alarm to wake up early and get my studying out of the way in the morning because that’s what works for me.
- Make study guides. I don’t know about you, but there are some things that I can’t seem to remember for the life of me. Are Busacca nodules the ones on the pupil border or are those Koeppe nodules? What’s the triad of Reiter’s Syndrome (Reactive Arthritis) again? Making study guides has helped me solidify knowledge and factoids I struggled with previously. As I look through study material, I highlight information I feel is more important and write it down on a separate sheet of paper for the occasional review. Additionally, I have been able to retain a great deal of information by remembering mnemonics (they’re also great for a brief pre-exam study sesh).
By the way, I remember that Koeppe nodules are on the pupillary border because Koeppe has a ‘p’ like pupil but Busacca doesn’t. The triad for Reiter’s Syndrome (now more appropriately referred to as Reactive Arthritis) is (1) conjunctivitis and/or anterior uveitis, (2) urethritis, and (3) arthritis. Remember, “Mr. Reiter can’t  see, can’t  pee, and can’t  climb a tree!”
- Study good material. It would be miserable to study all of your class notes from the classes we have taken so far. It would be an inefficient use of our time and it wouldn’t help us focus on topics more heavily tested on boards. I highly recommend looking into study materials offered by KMK, OptoPrep, and/or the NBEO. My favorite aspect of KMK is that it offers structure and organization to your studying. OptoPrep and the NBEO website have great practice questions to test your knowledge.
Everyone has his or her preferred style of studying. This list is non-exhaustive but offers some tips and resources I believe can help you make the most of your board preparation. Remember to get a good night’s rest the day before test day and PLEASE stay off social media. Have the discipline to make studying every day a habit and it will soon become routine. I’m sure if you all set your mind to it you’ll be met with passing scores! Best of luck to y’all and happy holidays!