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3 hacks to ace your next exam


Exams can be daunting and are often a psychological burden for students. I often find that it’s not a lack of information – but rather a lack of test taking knowledge.

I mean, you’ve been studying 6-8 hours (in between seeing patients) a day. We know you’ve put in the work. Sure, students often times aren’t using their time as efficiently as they could be – but we’ll tackle that problem another day.

Today, I want to focus on the exam. The questions that will leave you questioning your intelligence and self worth …

Believe me, I get it. I was once in your shoes.

There have been multiple times where I have left the classroom wondering what in the world just happened. Even now, 4 years after graduation – I still cringe thinking about the first set of exams placed in front of me at the start of PA school.

I had never failed anything before that day. But, there’s always a first for everything, right? These failures only make us wiser – so, here are some strategies that have helped me get through these tough times:

1. Pace yourself
Students often times get sucked into a problem and forget they have an entire exam in front of them. They (we) spend too much time wanting to answer the question before moving on. But, guess what? Every question is worth the same – so isn’t it logical that you spend the same amount of time on all questions?

You need to figure out how many questions there are and then figure out how much time you have. Divide the exam into sections (4-6) depending on the size of your exam. Each section should be completed in the amount of time which you have allotted for yourself.

Make sure you schedule it out so you have 10 minutes left after it’s all said and done. This will give you time to go back to those questions you had to skip.

2. Don’t jump around
Answer every question in order. If you find yourself spending too much time on a certain question – then mark it and come back to it with the 10 minutes you have given yourself at the end of the exam.

3. There’s always ONE correct answer
I know, I know. It seems like every answer is correct. But, it’s just not true. Often times one of the answer is only partly true and/or only true under certain circumstances. In other words, maybe there’s a contraindication you are overlooking.

Remember, your professors and the boards aren’t there to trick you. They wantyou to be successful. Often times we over complicate things. We feel as if the answer is too obvious and then psych ourselves out. Usually, the most obvious answer is the correct answer.

If all else fails, go with your gut. Sure, there’s not science to back this up. But, I’m a firm believer in trusting yourself. You might subconsciously know one is wrong (or right). Trust your instincts and move on.


Those were three hacks which have helped me get through PA school. There is obviously a lot more that goes into successful test taking, but this is a good base.

If you have a second, I’d love to hear some strategies which have helped you. Leave a comment below 🙂

Talk soon.