Twas the month before Part I

I Got Through Part 1 of the NBEO

And so can you


We have all taken a ton of tests throughout high school, college, and optometry school; but the biggest one, the test of mythical proportions, is Part 1 of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO). I took the test in March 2018 and passed so I thought I would share some insight, tips and tricks, and what I did to prepare.

What are the Parts of NBEO?

Taking notes, optometry, optometry school, part 1, boardsTo become licensed as an optometrist in the United States, you must graduate from optometry school and pass all three parts of the NBEO. Part 1 is the Applied Basic Science (ABS) examination and is usually taken in the spring of your third year of optometry school. Part 2 is Patient Assessment and Management (PAM), along with Treatment and Management of Ocular Disease (TMOD), and is usually taken in December of your fourth year. Part 3 is Clinical Skills, which may or may not include injections*, and can be taken anytime after August of your fourth year. *Check with your state’s board and scope of practice to see whether you need to pass the Injections examination.

Study Materials for Boards

In addition to the two main prep programs (KMK and OptoPrep) that work with students who are taking NBEO Part I, it is recommended to refer to your class notes and focus on where your weak areas are. For those who are weak in the field of physiology and anatomy, Adler’s Physiology of the Eye and Remington’s Clinical Anatomy and Physiology of the Visual System, are two excellent books to reference. For those that need an additional hand with optics, Keating’s Geometrical, Physical, and Visual Optics is also an excellent book.

Three Months Before Boards

At the direction of upperclassmen, I got the KMK series for Parts 1 and 2. The series include live lectures at the school for two separate weekends, along with extensive online resources and the infamous KMK prep books. For Part 1, there are two huge textbooks that were full of notes and highlighting by the time the test came around. Over my Christmas break, I skimmed through the books and videos at double speed to get myself ready for full-on studying once I got back from the break. In addition to KMK, other classmates used OptoPrep’s 90 day schedule breakdown and their supplemental materials online for some added questions.

A month before boards

The recommendation from KMK was to review all videos before the first of two live lecture weekends. Personally, the live lectures helped me the most because the instructors encouraged the students while going over concepts in a way that kept us involved. I made it my mission to study for a minimum two hours every day during the school week, and eight hours each day on the weekend. I hit my goals, and even went over some days.  It seemed crazy at the time, but it made a big difference for me. 

Two weeks before boards

Spring break was a few weeks before boards for my school. Rather than going home or going on a trip, I chose to stay for Spring Break and study which involved more KMK questions/flashcards and some OptoPrep questions. Although it seemed mostly to be studying, I did do some stress relieving things, like going to the fancy grocery store to try new recipes (study fuel, right?) and getting a coffee at my favorite coffee shop each morning rather than using my Keurig.

One Week Before Boards

KMK and OptoPrep have practice tests available so you can prepare for the types of questions that you may see on the test. The tests are half the length of the official examination. I took the tests and took time to review the questions I missed and review those topics that I had trouble with. I kept up my two hours a day on the school week and eight hours on the weekend, but had more motivation and determination to focus and power through it. 

One day before boardsStudy, boards, part 1, nbeo, optometry

The day before boards, I studied for part of the day, then took some time to relax and recharge. I decided that I would benefit more from some down time rather than reviewing glaucoma drugs for the millionth time. Preparing for the test had been a marathon, not a sprint, and I felt confident with the work that I had done.

For my study break, I went to the zoo to get a change of scenery and see the animals. My favorite animals are elephants, and I was front and center to see them when it was feeding time. I also got to see the pandas, who are delightfully lazy in their habitat. It was the perfect relaxation! 

The day of boards

Finally, the day came. The night before, I packed my boards bag, got my lunch ready, and set out my outfit. I prayed with my roommate and got on my way. I had my KMK books and a binder of study sheets in my car, but didn’t look at them on my lunch break. For my lunch break, I ended up sitting on my car reading BuzzFeed articles to clear my head between test sessions. After the test was over, I went to church. I was so exhausted after that test that when I got home I went straight to bed!

Real Talk

Studying for boards is the ultimate challenge. Willpower and motivation will be tested more than anything else. I found that I only had a certain amount of willpower and energy through the boards study process and had to choose what was important for me. You will notice a decline in energy so I would take breaks between school and studying where I would have dinner, read some BuzzFeed articles, have a cup of tea and two pieces of chocolate before studying. If you feel like your willpower is declining then trying surrounding yourself with people who support you. For me it was my church, my faith is very important to me and my church family helped me through so much during optometry school. It was even more meaningful when I was Confirmed at the Easter Vigil the weekend after boards.

The Results

Everyone says that you remember where you were when you found out boards results, and that’s definitely the case. The day boards results came out, me and my brother were driving back from New York to Tennessee after visiting family. I got the text that scores were posted, and immediately checked. After all my hard work, I passed! It had been a long road, and definitely not a fun road, but I made it through.

My Recommendations

There’s a ton of information out there about the test and the items on the test. It’s the other stuff, like endurance, self-motivation, and determination, that you can’t learn from a textbook. Come up with a plan that works for you, and stick to it. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Understand that if you don’t pass the first time, there are more chances to take the test during your fourth year. Here at, we believe in you, and we believe that a PASS is coming your way!

Please note that OptometryStudents is NOT affiliated with either KMK, OptoPrep, or the National Board of Examiners in Optometry.

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