Dr. Paul Heeg, the author of this article, took the NBEO Part III in 2009. Although his tips and advice are still relevant, keep in mind that the NBEO has changed to a single testing center. You can find for information on that testing center here.
It’s almost that time of your optometric career! The time to strut your stuff for the NBEO part III board examination in North Carolina. Unlike when I took the part III board examination, there is only one site in which the examination is administrated. Most students according to a recent survey prefer that NBEO test Part III stays at local testing sites (1). Unfortunately, decisions were made in objection to many students’ desires. However, at this point, you should focus your energy in strutting off your stuff when its crunch time in North Carolina. In the following article, I will discuss both tips that helped me tremendously in taking the exam and things that I wish I prepared a bit better for before the examination.
An optometry professor once said to me that Part I and II of the boards were the most difficult. He however said that a trained monkey could pass Part III. This statement helped me out tremendously in preparing for Part III as I hope it helps you. Let us sit back and think for a moment, what other tests do you get the answers to before taking the test? Part III is that way. Be sure that you download all the guidelines from the NBEO website. They are a God send! (Click here for all the guidelines) Just make sure you practice them and be able to recite them on the fly. I know, I know, it is your fourth year and you have hit that wall of “enough with the dull ache of mindless practicing” but believe me, it will help! Just like other tests, you need to perform it in a way that is coherent and customized for the examiners. I know that you know your stuff, otherwise, you would have never made it out of the first three years of optometry school but knowing the procedures vs. taking it the order and way the NBEO wants are two different animals. I knew people that knew their stuff that performed poorly!
Be sure to follow your time closely! Make sure that while you practice you know where you need to be at the proper time interval. For example, if you are at the refraction station and you are still performing retinoscopy 20 minutes through the time allotted… speed it up because you are in serious danger in losing a ton of easy points.
In addition to this, do not be intimidated by the proctors. As much as they try to be impartial, just like in life, you will pick up vibes from the proctors. Some you will want to throw your retinoscope at and others you will want to befriend. My suggestion is just to pretend they are not there, remember that all important “monkey checklist” that you have downloaded and hit every mark like a champ. How do you do that? Practice, practice and practice it future ODs! Practice it until you recite those procedures in your sleep.
Let’s see if you can be the first 4th year to get that all coveted perfect score! Lastly, try not to be nervous. I remember when I was inserting punctual plugs, I was so nervous, my forceps would drop the collagen implant every time I approached my patient’s puncta. I have no idea to this day why I was so nervous… it was like I had a petit mal seizure with my wrist every time I approached the patient. That is why my suggestion is to put the gravity of the situation back at your home school and kick some NBEO butt in North Carolina. Have fun with it!
Please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions. One terrific idea would be to put a practice schedule together with your classmates… also, make deals with first and second years. Say, “I’ll sit for your retinoscopy and refraction if you can sit for my gonio, tono and DFE.” Make it sound exciting and maybe you’ll be able to snag a few poor souls into your brilliant scheme.
All the best my fellow future doctors! Gear up and prepare for an awesome profession!
Doctor Paul T. Heeg
1. Website polling, n=69 https://www.optometrystudents.com/nbeo-clinical-skills-examination/