I know I’m biased in favor of board review courses to help you prepare for board certification exams. After all, I started the Beat The Boards! courses and continue to present many lectures at several of them. Despite this, I think I can convince you of the wisdom of getting a board prep course, even if it’s last minute.
Reason # 1: There Is No Downside to Getting a Board Review Course
At least when it comes to the Beat the Boards! courses, they all have a better-than-money-back pass guarantee. This means that if someone purchases a board prep course and does not pass their board exam, they receive three things – 1) 100% of their tuition, 2) an additional 10%, and 3) a free board review course subscription renewal.
And this guarantee holds no matter what, even if you purchase the course with two weeks or two days to go before your exam.
Reason #2: Getting a Board Review Course Is All Upside
Of course, if you get a board prep course with limited time before the exam, you will, by definition, have limited time to devote to your studies. The amount you’re able to devote depends on how much time at work you have to put in and how much additional time you need to devote to family and other obligations.
Even given this, there might be opportunities to temporarily pare back on your non-board prep obligations, at least until after the exam. For example, you can tell your kids that for the next week or two you will be less available to them. This might even turn into an opportunity for them to become more independent. For example, maybe it’s time they made their own cereal or scrambled their own eggs. Maybe they can even learn to use the washer and dryer – but now I’m just talking crazy. And, in terms of work, perhaps taking some personal days is an option. Perhaps, you can have a colleague who can cover calls for you as you reciprocate covering their calls after your exam is over.
But even if you have no option to free up additional time, for the time remaining before the exam you can hunker down and get some real studying done. When you know it’s temporary, you can put up with a lot.
Of course, you can spend a lot of time telling yourself, “Oh, I wish I started sooner,” or “I’m overwhelmed,” or “I’ll never get through all this material.”
Steps to take if you feel overwhelmed while prepping for the boards
First, take a deep breath. Beating yourself up over not doing something in the past is counterproductive. You really can’t go back and change those facts. It happened. You wish you had acted differently and planned better. But you didn’t and you now can’t undo it. The more time you spend relitigating these past decisions and actions, the less time you have to do the only thing that now has a chance of making a difference and that is studying! And studying effectively and efficiently.
A second reason to not beat yourself up for the past is that you are the only “resource” you have. When you’re beating yourself up, you’re beating up the person who is now trying to take a board exam and needs all the time and attention available to prepare for it. Your great hope to pass the exam is you. So, don’t make it any harder on yourself.
Next, accept the fact that you may indeed not get through all the exam material. If it’s any consolation, most exam candidates wish they studied more and started earlier too.
But your focus should not be on everything you WON’T have time to study but should instead be on all the material you WILL have time to study. You’re starting from your current baseline and for every minute you spend preparing, you’re incrementally increasing your chances of passing the exam (and reducing your chances of failing it).
Why take this more positive approach? Because it is more likely to keep you focused and motivated, and ultimately, more likely to lead to more and better preparation. Focus and motivation maintained through a proactive, optimistic stance should not be minimized.
Next, focus on the big topics on your exam. Check your exam blueprint – it’s available from the board website and separated by board course here. Some topics may account for 13% of all the exam questions while other topics may account for 1-2%. And, often, these “small” topics are not at all small in terms of the amount and complexity of the knowledge you need to know about them but instead are small in terms of the number of questions on the exam related to them. Some topics you’ll just have to let go. And that’s OK. If you need help deciding what to study and how much time to devote to it, you can use our free EXACT Exam Prep accelerator tool to help you create a customized study schedule.
Next, choose a study method that is both effective and efficient. I’m not saying that no other board prep approaches other than Beat The Boards! courses are effective. What I am saying is that the Beat The Boards! courses are both effective and efficient, and highly so. To be effective means increasing your chances of passing your exam. And efficient means focusing only on the content that is high yield while excluding any content that is irrelevant to exam prep, which a board review course from Beat the Boards! does.
Let me give you an example of a study method that is effective but highly inefficient. It is reading a textbook in your specialty. That textbook may include the great majority of the content tested on your exam but that textbook, often coming in at 1000-2000 pages, includes mostly irrelevant information, content that is not on the test nor, in many cases, even testable. So, effectiveness without efficiency is a poor choice, especially if you have very limited time.
Other features of Beat The Boards! board review courses that make them efficient is that they include both audio-visual and audio-only lectures. Not only are the lectures designed to present only high-yield information, but they can be listened to as you drive, do chores, or workout. Also, all Beat The Boards! Courses include practice tests and Question Banks. Again, not only is a QBank an efficient way to learn exam-relevant information but it can be snuck into many other activities. You can do a practice exam question or two or three here and some other ones there. For example, as you eat a sandwich for lunch, you can read and answer board-reflective questions, review your answers, and read the detailed explanations. You can sneak in a few more questions when a patient is running late or take a few minutes before you leave the office. It all adds up, incrementally but inexorably.
If you’re reading this, it probably means you’re in a hurry to start your studies and get as much done as possible. So, I’ll end here.
Here’s a link to the Better-Than-Money-Back guaranteed, high-yield, and efficient Beat The Boards! page that lists all our board review courses. And remember: studying with Beat The Boards! is all upside with no downside.
All the best on your exam. May the force be with you!
Jack Krasuski, MD