I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to review for exams. What is the number one thing you can do to prepare for your exams?
This answer really depends one thing: how much time do you have?
Now, the majority of people asking have a long time before they take their boards. So, I’m going to use that as the basis for this answer.
The number one piece of advice I can offer, whether it’s prepping for the boards or on becoming a better clinician is:
Study something every single day.
Don’t let one day go by where you don’t study or review something. Now, this might sound scary at first. How are you supposed to constantly do this for months or years on end? Well, it’s not as hard as you think.
How do you cook everyday? How do you watch tv everyday? How do you go to class or to the clinic everyday?
You just do it.
See, once you turn something into a habit, then it really doesn’t take any work. Just like you would read the morning paper, you would do the same with medicine.
It doesn’t have to be for hours. It can be 10 min or 60 min. That’s not what’s important. The important thing here is that you are training yourself to think medicine on a daily basis.
The two main objections I get are: I don’t have time or I can’t study on the weekends – I’ll just make up for it Monday.
You don’t have time? Everyone has time. How bad do you want it?
Sleep an hour less. Watch an hour less of tv. Don’t go to the movies. There is time. You just have to prioritize your time.
“Making it up” on Monday is not the point. The point is to do this on a daily basis.
See, taking the information in smaller chunks allows for increased retention and comprehension.
When students are reviewing for their exams, they treat it like undergrad, and cram. Cramming is a horrible way of approaching medicine.
As a physician assistant, you are expected to see patients and “fix” their problems. Cramming might help you get a few extra points to pass the exam, but will it help you diagnose and treat actual patients?
You have to approach your medical exam as if you were approaching a patient. You have to take advantage of the time you are in school – so please, take it seriously. If you see a patient and aren’t sure what to do you can always ask your preceptor. After you graduate, there is no preceptor. You’re it.
If you don’t know what to do, and you’re the only provider on call, then what? The last thing you want to do is to stand in front of your patient and not know what to do. That’s a horrible feeling. You’re patients are there because they trust you. They are there for help.
So, how do you review for your physician assistant exams?
Study every single day. Make it a priority.