Not sure where to start? Feeling overwhelmed?
These ideas for board exam preparation will help you get going and stay on track. A few may surprise you:
- Start with one or two topics that are relatively easy for you, to reinforce what you know, gauge your self-awareness, and boost your confidence. This approach sets a foundation for success as you move forward.
- Then move to a topic you are less confident about, but one that is a primary focus of the examination. Improving your ability in a major topic area can make a big difference in your board exam performance. Check your board’s blueprint to determine your next topic:
- Study for shorter stints more often. People who study more frequently tend to perform better than those who study less frequently, even if their total study time is the same or less.
- Vary your study setting. Varying the setting appears to boost neural connections. If you find yourself studying on the train, in the kitchen, or at the soccer field, you might be doing yourself a favor!
- It’s okay to have fun. Find a board review study aid that you like, and you will be more likely to use it. Some newer online solutions are actually fun to use. (Shameless plug: We happen to be partial to NEJM Knowledge+.)
- Focus on the application of knowledge in diagnosis and treatment for typical and important conditions — rather than relying on your memorization of random facts. Knowledge application is the mainstay of both certification exams and your practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at answering questions and improving patient care.
- Actively engage with the material as you study. When working with a question bank, you’ll remember more if you select diagnostic and treatment strategies yourself before looking at the available answers. Review the feedback even if you answer correctly.
- Don’t be distracted by what others are doing or have done. Choose a reputable source that uses a learning approach that keeps you engaged.
- Everyone needs moral support. Find a colleague or friend from residency who is on the same exam timetable. Get in touch. Then choose the same study tool, trade board review study tips, and help keep each other on track. Or consider starting or joining a board review study group.
- Shortly into your preparation and again closer to the test, challenge yourself with a practice exam that mimic the test environment and gives you a comparative score. (NEJM Knowledge+ Board Review includes two timed practice exams with patient vignette questions just like the ones you’ll encounter on the exam. These practice tests will simulate the board exam experience and help you sharpen your test-taking strategies, practice answering questions efficiently and correctly within time limits, and gain the confidence you need to be successful.)
We know you know this, but stress and an unfamiliar situation can cause even the most organized person to get off-track. So just in case… as your test date approaches, don’t overlook these proven best practices for exam day:
- Plan to arrive at least a half hour early at the testing center.
- Recheck the time, directions, and parking accommodations in advance.
- Review the requirements for sitting for the exam well in advance to ensure you are fully prepared. For example, testing centers usually require two forms of identification.
- Sleep! Getting full nights of sleep in the days before the test will serve you far better than using the time for last-minute cramming. Even better, put studying aside the day before the test and do something you enjoy.
More Board Review Resources
Looking for more ways to increase the effectiveness of your board review? Check out the resources below for additional information on effective board prep and the latest in learning science and research.