It has been a long time since my last post, and that is mostly due to the fact that I had been in the process of finishing my Masters degree in under 12 months and was beginning to prepare to sit for my board certification exam! While I am currently going through the whole ordeal of studying for a large board exam, I figured now is one of the best times to explain and discuss my current process!
To be brief, I am sitting for a board exam that is only offered during 4 months out of the year. The application process can be long, and involves submitting multiple documents that must be reviewed prior to being able to schedule your exam date, including transcripts showing proof of a Masters degree in the area of study and forms from fieldwork experience that show that 1500 hours have been completed.
Everyone goes through their own personal preference of a timeline in regards to when they are eligible to sit and when they will actually schedule their exam. For me, my degree was conferred in mid December, I had all of my paperwork submitted on December 29th, my application was approved January 14th, and I am sitting for my exam at the end of February. In general, this is a pretty quick turnaround with everything and some don’t feel comfortable sitting for an exam that close to when they completed their degree. That is totally okay! My experience is different from others and everyone has their own preferences (and I do not blame anyone for not wanting to pay the hefty exam fee before they are ready!) and you know what works for you in regards to studying. With that being said, I am simply sharing with you my study process and recommendations that I have, so what I share may not work for you, and thats completely fine!
Tip #1: Find Your Baseline
To do this for my particular exam, I took a mock exam. This was set up fairly similarly to how the board exam will be and provides a general idea of areas of strengths and weaknesses. This is a great way to figure out where to start with your studying and if you should dedicate more time to one area over another! I am unsure of other board exams, but for the exam I am taking, we have a task list and when the exams are scored, they are grouped by task list items to help you know which areas you are more fluent in and which ones may be your weaknesses. Mock exams are set up the same way, with a similar number of questions per task list item as the actual exam. Some prefer to do a mock exam in a similar environment as they will be taking the real exam, such as doing it all in one sitting and setting the same time limit as the actual exam will have. Do what is most comfortable for you! I personally started my mock exam, then took a break for dinner, and returned back to it afterwards. From the time I started until the time I finished, I still had not used up the amount of time that the actual exam limits you to, and that was with me taking a large break for dinner! This definitely put me at ease a little bit, knowing that I may not have read the questions as thoroughly since I finished at such a quick pace.
Tip #2: Gather Your Primary Study Materials
Everyone has their preference of the main study materials they will be using. For me, it will be a textbook that is pretty much like the bible to our field of study and I also purchased an additional study manual. While I will have a few additional resources I will be utilizing throughout my time studying, these will be the main books I use. With that in mind, I found a task list that lists the sections and page numbers of my two resources and where I can find information on each task list item. This is how I will begin to create my study schedule, as this information helps me know how large of a section of material I will need to cover in each resource.
Tip #3: Create a Schedule
After taking my mock exam and scoring it, I looked at the task list and looked where I missed more questions. I had a print out of the task list and starred each one that I missed so when I created my schedule I knew which items I should spend more days on versus others. I then printed out a calendar template for the months that are between now and when I will sit for my exam (for me this is just January and February). For me personally, I made my schedule in order of task list items, starting at A. Using the mock exam scores, I made sure to include extra study days for larger task list items and for items that I scored lower on. I also made sure to schedule in a few “brain break” days where I was not going to study at all and I included a few other days to complete another mock exam so I could track my progress as I was studying. I have included the website where I got my printable calendars (my current version of excel only allowed me to make a calendar through 2017) and I have included some pictures of what my calendars look like filled out!
Website for Free Printable 2020 Calendars: https://www.vertex42.com/calendars/printable-calendars.html
Tip #4: Find Your Study Space
Find a place for you to study that is going to be optimal for retention of the information. Some people study best in silence, some like to listen to music. Some people like to sit upright at a table and chair, similar to how you will be set up at the testing center. Some people like to study on the bed or some place that they feel comfortable. Try to eliminate what will be distractions for you (for me, that would include my husband and my dog) and try to create an ideal study environment that allows you to easily access all of the study materials you may need (being able to write on index cards, near an outlet for your computer, etc.). Sometimes it helps to change up your study space after a while. I know when I feel like I am struggling to concentrate, I like to go out to study to a Starbucks or Panera. I also like that this allows me to get outside a bit when I feel like I am stuck studying for the majority of the week.
Tip #5: Determine the Best Study Times for You
Maybe you’re a night owl and do your best at the later hours of the day. Maybe you function best in the morning and you would rather wake up early to get in a few extra study hours. Determine what is the best learning time for you and when you are the most focused. I like to use my appointment planner to schedule in my time to study so I have that time blocked off specifically to knock out some study hours. This also gives me a visual of how many hours I have dedicated to studying, where I can squeeze in extra time if I want to, and it helps me make sure that I have some down time in my day as well! Below is a link to the appointment planner that I use and love!
Tip #6: Put in the Effort!
Now that you have your schedule and everything ready to go, it is your responsibility to follow through! If there is no follow through, there will not be results. Stick to your timeline and the schedule you put in place for yourself, put in the necessary hours (my prep materials suggest 15-20 hours each week of studying) and put forth the effort to succeed! You cannot succeed without doing your part- the test isn’t going to pass itself!
I hope you guys found some of these tips to be helpful for you if you are planning to take a board exam at any point in the near or far off future! If you have any other tips that you have personally found to be successful for you, feel free to leave them in the comments or to send me a message!