Tips for passing board exams: Preparation
By K. Jeffery Miller, DC, DABCO
National and state board examinations are a major concern for chiropractic students because you must pass them to put your doctor of chiropractic degree to work.
Tip 1: Check your motivation level. Hopefully, motivation is not a problem. A diploma is of little use after graduation if boards are not passed.
Still, you have to decide how bad you want to get through the exams. This will determine your study habits. It will also affect the number of times each exam has to be taken.
Tip 2: Start early. Waiting until the last minute to study is not a good idea, so start preparing early! A study by Palmer College of Chiropractic a few years ago showed the most consistent factor in board success was the student’s grade point average (GPA).
So even if you think your grades won’t affect your ability to practice as a chiropractor, they could play a role in your ability to pass the board exam.
So how do you get started?
• Maintain good notes for each subject.
• Once each class is complete, place the notes in groups based on the board testing categories.
• Serious study should begin with organizing materials and memorization of the basics. Once this foundation is laid, the finishing touches will be easy.
Foundation materials are the components of chiropractic you will be responsible for throughout the course of your career.
The finishing touches are the information that is less pertinent in the long term, and lends itself to short-term memorization.
Tip 3: The basics. It’s important to become familiar with the correct terminology for a subject. While this may sound boring, studying glossaries for each subject can be a big help.
Familiarization with the terminology of a subject makes reading about the subject more productive. If an unfamiliar word still pops up, it should be investigated to further enhance understanding.
Many questions on a multiple choice test are definition based. The definition is provided and the student has to select the correct term or the term is provided and the student has to select the correct definition.
Studying glossaries improves your odds for getting the right answer on these questions.
Other important tips to consider:
• Study current materials. Some students will use older versions of required text books. This isn’t recommended. Boards have recommended reading and text lists
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• Look at different points of view. Never depend on a single source for information unless it has been
identified as the only testable material.
When studying the foot for example, see what Hoppenfeld, Evans, Magee, and Turek have to say. The similarities among the sources provide repetition to enhance learning, and the subtle differences often show up as board questions.
• Utilize study aids. Take advantage of study guides, flashcards, reviews, condensed materials, and other aids designed specifically for studying. These items are especially good if you are not an organized person. If you are organized, these materials help you spend more time studying instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.
• Look into taking a review course. The effectiveness of review courses is debated, but one thing that can be said for sure is once the student signs up and pays for the class, he or she is likely to attend and will be engaged in the study process. It doesn't hurt anyone to hear the material again.
One word of caution — stay away from courses that are based solely of the memorization of previous board questions.
While the object is to pass, you should pass because you actually know the materials.
• Read the pretest instructions. Applications for board examinations usually come with instructions and
information about the test. Read them!
Don’t be confused on test day because you did not spend the time to become familiar with the test format, rules, and schedule.
• Talk to others. Talk to people who have recently taken the examination. Ask what gave them difficulties, what went well, and what they would do differently if given the chance.
K. Jeffrey Miller, DC, DABCO, is an associate director of education and research for Foot Levelers Inc. He worked in private practice for 17 years, published more than 100 articles in 30 publications, and authored six books.