Tips for NBEO Part 1

10:30 PM

For those that don't know, I have a wonderful sister who I stole the idea of going to optometry school from.  She is fixing to take National Boards Part 1 next week.  By the way, I know it is extremely southern to say "fixing to" but I am doing it anyway.  It seems like decades since I sat down for the grueling Part 1 marathon, but it was really only 2 years ago.  I'm not going to remember it any better in the future, so here is my top advice for student doctors.

1) Study.                                                    

KMK has great online features to aid studying as well!
No, really.  It is kind of "common" knowledge in the optometry world that you need to study for Part 1 for about 3 months.  This test is going to challenge you with questions over EVERY subject you have had in school thus far, and on some things you probably have never heard of.   I didn't get the KMK study guide, but I had a lot of friends that did and I ended up being very jealous.  If you are super motivated, you can just use all the notes from all the classes you have ever taken as a study guide.  Or you can drop a couple of hundred dollars for a KMK guide to have it all streamlined with memorization tips and practice questions in one place.  It is worth your money, as much as a spendthrift like me hates to admit it.

2) Focus on high percentage topics
That means don't spend a ton of time on topics like contact lenses and binocular vision that are less represented on the test.  If you have had these classes recently, and you see that the topics aren't covered with a lot of test questions in the topic breakdown, you can spend the least amount of time studying for these.  Prioritize and study smarter, not harder.  The contact lens cases I had were very straightforward, so don't worry about having to perform crazy calculations.

3) There will be questions that you have NO idea what the answer is.
You may find yourself saying, "I never learned anything about that in class!"  This is normal, and I guarantee that everyone in the room with you is thinking the same thing!  Don't let it worry you; you aren't going to know the answer to every question.  That is why it is multiple choice.  Regardless of what the NBEO thought my year, I didn't have a class that told me the appropriate decade of life to recommend a flu shot.  So I just made a guess, and moved on.

4) 1 Week Before the Test
Truth: I have ray traced exactly 0 times since NBEO Part 1.  
Work math problems.  Optics and contact lens calculations will be on the test, so don't miss easy problems like converting to plus cylinder because you aren't fresh on your formulas or math facts.  If you haven't thought about math in a while, it is good to run through some sample problems to brush up your skills.  The test is timed, so thinking fast is important.  If it takes you 10 minutes to work a math problem, things might get hairy on test day.  On optics problems, some people would rather do a quick ray trace than rely on straight memorization, so if you feel confident in your ray tracing skills it can save a lot of brain space for other formulas and lists.

5) The Night Before the Test
Don't try to flip through your entire KMK book again!  My best advice is to go through lists, formulas, and mnemonic devices.  Hit the big, high volume material.  Optics formulas were the thing I drilled most the night before.  I recommend writing the most common ones on a sheet of paper, and looking at that paper repeatedly until you can picture it with your eyes closed.  When you are allowed to start the test, some people prefer to jot down quickly all the formulas floating in their brain before they even read question one.  Hey, if it helps, go right ahead.

6) Time is not your friend
Don't mull over a question; skip the one you are struggling with, star it, and move on.  If you have time at the end of the session, go back and ponder your starred questions again.  If they are calling time and you don't have an opportunity to reread your marked questions, you can at least bubble in a random answer on your skipped ones.  Getting through the test is very important!  Don't get stuck and miss answering questions you could easily have gotten right if you had had enough time to answer them.

7) Don't try to compare your answers afterwards
It will drive you mad!  People love to discuss, but if you are one of those people that gets worried easily, skip the student circles that invariably form after tests.  If you don't answer the questions the same as your friends, it doesn't mean you failed.  You will NEVER know who got what questions right, so don't worry about it.


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