Studying for big exams can be nothing but boring. Especially after a long day, sitting down and trying to retain information can be the toughest thing you have to do. Even though I don’t have many “life hacks” on how to reduce study time, I can tell you how I made my days more interesting when I was studying for boards and other exams.
I would like to begin by saying that I really put in the work with standard study materials, such as lecture notes and textbooks. However, those were not my favorite things to read when I was drained from a long day of studies and lectures. This is probably the toughest part of the board prep journey: learning how to prioritize studying specifics for class vs. reviewing for boards. Though studying for classes and boards go hand-in-hand, it’s easy to argue that they require different methods of studying.
In the previous blog post, I briefly touched on using Optoprep resources and not necessarily practice questions to get a head start on studying for boards. This was critical in my board prep journey and has helped me in clinical practice. As much as you may think you might not be a visual learner, looking at photos always helps! Skimming through PowerPix and PowerPages really helped me learn and retain information when I was already tired of reading things over and over again. I also liked to refer to them when I was out and about running errands and had extra time to briefly review.
My next tip for making things interesting was controversial but worked for me. Even though you have to use a lot of discretion when you do this, googling topics from the boards outline can bring up cool articles and photos of things you need to study. I personally liked to search for images, though I would vet the source for credibility before reading any information. This helped me recognize different presentations of certain topics, mainly eye diseases. Though I still continue to read relevant articles on review websites, reading up-to-date articles and discussing with my classmates and preceptors really helped make the learning process much more enjoyable and easier than just reading a textbook.
My last tip is to get a marker board. Though you may think you don't have space for one more thing, it's nice to have one at least the size of your desk. First of all, it mimics the marker and laminated sheet of paper you are allowed to use during NBEO®. Secondly, when drawing things out or writing things down over and over again, dry erase is much more efficient and eco-friendly than using countless sheets of paper. For me, it was the repetition and drawing that helped me remember certain structures. There’s something about drawing things or writing things and muscle memory that just doesn't compare to only reading powerpoints over and over. Plus, doodling in color can also become a method of stress reduction. So whether it’s just a laminated sheet of paper or an actual whiteboard, get some level of practice because that’s what you're going to be using during NBEO® Part 1 and Part 2. Getting used to this one little detail can help you stay more focused during the examination.
Though I don't consider any of my tips to be novel to any extent, I hope you’re able to take these little pearls and apply them to your study schedule. My biggest tip would be to start early and get creative!
~ Dr. Amadian