Friday, July 20, 2012

Tips in taking the medical board exams

For incoming physicians and future colleagues, the medical board exam is just right around the corner.   I  could still remember how the mere thought of taking a licensure exam sent jitters down my spine and how it created knots in my insides -- not really as pleasant or as exciting as having butterflies in the stomach. 

      However, taking the board exams is the only way to go.  Years of burning the midnight candle while studying in medical school would all be put to waste if we don't brave to take the boards to earn the license to practice the profession.

     So for the future doctors, let's get it on and have this over and done with.  Here are some tips I want to share. 

1.  Don't spread yourself thinly.  On this side of the planet, there is no definite list of recommended review materials, but we are hoarded with a list of materials, from books, to old testpapers, to transcribed lectures of review instructors.  Please resist the temptation to read everything.   Ask previous board takers and board passers, which materials most of them read and which ones they found to be helpful to them when they took the exam.

        Mastering one or two review books for a certain subject is already enough quota, and reading more than that would be spreading yourself thinly.  You don't want to be in a situation wherein you have read 3 or 4 books for let's say, Physiology, but when asked a very basic question on the subject, you can't come up with a definite answer. That could be distressing. 

           Another helpful tip would be to take time to read old testpapers.  Trust me, this is really helpful. A number of doctors could testify that there are some 'recycled' questions in the board exam.  

        You can either do your testpaper review a week or two before the exams, or allot one whole day for reviewing testpapers.  I did the latter during my review for the medical boards.  My friends and I agreed to meet up one afternoon and we reviewed each question and corresponding answer.  Do not also forget to answer the review questions at the end of each chapter of your review books.  That would also serve as a gauge of what stuck in your mind after reading.  Besides, our brain is stimulated to think when we try to answer questions. 

2.   Study at your own pace.  Reviewees usually have the urge to compare their progress with other reviewees, and sometimes this could create some kind of panic or insecurity even, especially if the others already read more books than you did.  There is actually nothing wrong with asking your fellow reviewers what book and subject they are currently working on and how many books they have finished.  However, you should remember that each reviewee, you included, has his or her own comfortable pace in studying.  So know your pace, and study at your own pace.  It is all actually a matter of how strong your foundation of  medical knowledge is, and not how many books you have read or how fast you have read your books.  

3.  Know your peak hours of performance.  There you go, I know you know what I mean.

4.  Do not deprive yourself.  Another important advice.  Do not ever deprive yourself.  When you need to sleep, when your face is about to fall on the page, go get some shut-eye.  A twenty-minute power nap could do wonders.  Aside from giving your brain some time to rest, it also gives time for memory consolidation.  After that, you're perked up and ready to take on another round of review.

             If you're hungry, stuff yourself up, but not too much though or else, blood would be shunted to the splanchnic circulation, making you sleepy.  Don't deprive yourself of the food you are craving for, or the food that you have always loved to eat.  Your brain, which is your best armamentarium for the boards, needs all the glucose it can get anyway.

             Lastly, find time to relax and unwind.  My favorite tag line for this would be, study hard but party harder.  We all need to unwind so we can have ourselves recharged and ready again to take on anything.  

5.  Pray and claim it. Lastly, but definitely not the least, do not underestimate the power of prayer. All our efforts would be to no avail if we do not give glory to the guy above who is the architect of all things, the course of our lives included.  Thank Him for getting you through everyday since medical school, (and through that brain smashing, heart breaking,  nerve-wrecking internship), and ask for guidance for the upcoming board exams.  Claim your victory as early as now and thank Him for it.   

That's about it, soon-to-be doctors.  Good luck, and all the best!



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