I. STUDY SKILLS
Give yourself a LONG time to study. For many people, six to eight months of intense preparation will be required to study for this exam. You must decide if you can do it in a shorter period, or if you will require more time.
- Manage your study time efficiently. Unless you manage your time, you will be in a management-by-crisis mode, and will be regularly panicked. Panic, guilt and a sense of inadequacy are feelings that will use up precious hours and will sap your energy.
- Effective memorization involves reviewing the data THREE times. The first review should be quick, superficial, and involve underlining. The second involves studying the data, and taking notes of points that are especially crucial. The third involves testing yourself and reviewing what you have forgotten.
- Make sure that the schedule you make leaves time for this.
- Develop a schedule that is effective for YOU. No sense studying when it is efficient for others. Ask yourself the following questions: When am I most alert? How long can I study before I need a break? What would make me feel better during the breaks? Then, plan a schedule and STICK TO IT.
(Generally, studying for more than one hour without a break is counterproductive.)
- No procrastination: Know your own delaying tactics. For example, "I'll get this phone call out of the way. Then I'll be free to study uninterrupted"; or "I'll feel calmer if my environment is neat. I need to straighten up."
- Make associations. Ask yourself, "Have I ever seen a patient with this problem? Am I ever likely to? In what context might this occur?"
- Make it gratifying. Ask yourself how each area relates to patients you have seen, and envision yourself becoming a better doctor. Ask yourself, "Should I have treated Mrs. X differently? Would the outcome have been more satisfactory?"
- Find texts that are easy and logical to follow. This is not the time to be delving into an area in depth. That will distract you, and waste your time.
- Pay attention to board eligible topics and to diseases that are topical (for example, AIDS, tuberculosis, lipid disorders).
- Study the uncommon manifestations of common diseases (e.g. polycythemia in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and the common manifestations of uncommon diseases (e.g. the triad of liver and kidney and CNS involvement in leptospirosis).
II. GENERAL POINTS
- Speak to yourself with respect. Positive self-talk can make a great deal of difference in how you function during the study period, as well as during the test itself. Remember, you worked hard to get here, and you deserve to be treated with dignity and positive praise, by yourself, as well as by others.
- Treat yourself as a professional. Studying is hard. It will be more gratifying if you see it as helping you to prepare for your professional life.
- Relax! When you are studying, study. But when you are not, relax and do something entirely different.
- Think positively. Think of all the ways you are improving your life while you study. You're warding off Alzheimer's! You're improving your ability to manage complex tasks! (Find your own ways that this work is helping you.)
III. DURING THE EXAM
- Minimize consuming caffeine to improve your endurance. You won't want too much caffeine in your system during the exam. (Precious moments are wasted with each trip to the restroom.)
- Don't rush. Adequate time has been allowed for you to read and answer the questions.
- Monitor your time. Make sure you are at least halfway through the exam when half of the time has elapsed.
- Answer the questions in order. Frequently a later question about a case presentation will help you answer an earlier one.
- Try not to skip questions, although the program has a screen that lets you know what you 'flagged' or 'skipped' so if there is time at the end, you can go back.
- Don't assume anything that isn't stated in the question (i.e.: a college coed is diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, no mention is made in the history that the coed consumed alcohol. Don't assume that the coed does!)
- Mark the confusing questions. When a question is confusing look for the important points in the question, and then, if you still don't understand it, flag it so that you can find it later.
- Read the final sentence. When there is a long question, read the final sentence several times, so that you know exactly what is being asked.
- Avoid answers with absolute or very restrictive words such as "always", "never", or "must".
- Approach questions as "real-life" encounters with patients.
- If you are using more than a couple of minutes to answer a question, chances are you're on the wrong path.
- If you truly have no idea how to answer a question, can't exclude any choices, then always choose the same letter for the answer (i.e.: always B or C). Remember, you will rarely be completely lost in a question.
- There are no "trick" questions.
- NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP BEFORE THE TEST.
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