I did not know a single person without some level of anxiety right before NBEO® Part 1. In fact, the anxiety grew more and more each week, as the exam date got closer. Simply knowing that stakes were so high and the uncertainty around whether you’re doing things right can really create a struggle while studying, especially on the tail end closer to the exam date. However, I did find that so many students were not using this foolproof method of lowering test-taking anxiety.
Now, it’s important to mention that Computer-Based Testing (CBT) has been on the rise within the past few years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with so many different platforms, formats, and time limits, it’s natural to become overwhelmed and anxious about the uncertainty. I found that the best way to boost my confidence was to mimic the testing environment at home while studying. While this sounds like common sense, you’d be surprised how many students were not doing it!
I started doing this about two months before NBEO® Part 1, once a week on the weekends. I made sure that I had gone through all of the material at least once before being put on the spot without resources or glancing at notes. When preparing to take timed practice exams from home, I made sure to mimic NBEO® test-taking conditions. This meant putting my phone away (in another room), removing all study materials and anything distracting from my desk, and preparing a small whiteboard with a dry erase marker. I even made sure blinds and doors were closed!
The first few sessions were tough and boring, to say the least. I remember getting frustrated as I got through half of the timed examination wanting to give up, mainly because I felt like I wasn’t prepared enough to answer the questions yet. I felt discouraged every time I would come across a question and didn’t know the answer, and it really seemed like it wasn't getting any better week after week. In fact, the worst part was knowing exactly where I would look up the answer but not being able to do it. I had the urge to get up and open textbooks, but I didn’t. I had to wait until all of my answers were submitted at the end of the exam to write down topics that I felt I needed to work on. Then, I made sure to review that list along with explanations before I had to take the next timed exam.
Learning to recall is a very underrated skill. Though many people recognize the importance, it’s easy to overlook. Though going through questions with immediate explanations can be helpful, that is not the way the NBEO® exams are formatted. Recalling under pressure, especially when you don't want to or have a million other things to do, will continue to build your knowledge base and confidence, rather than teach you to memorize. Though it may seem tedious to set up everything and take a few hours to just focus on timed exams, it will definitely be worth it in the end! Studying for boards is similar to training for a marathon; with each bit of practice, you’ll be closer and closer to the finish line.
~ Dr. Amadian