Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Three Golden Letters

I've recently been asked a lot for tips on taking the board examinations for Medical Technology. And, being the eloquent speaker that I am, I just give them a smile. I find it difficult to answer questions like that because my methods may not work well for everyone. But here are some things that I think might help those who are currently preparing to take the examinations.

Preparation for boards.
1. ON BOOKS. Stick to the ones you've read. There's a reason it's called a review.
I've had people come up and ask me what books they should read for the boards and I always tell them to just go with the ones they've used during their classes. This is mostly because I rely more on notes given by my trusted instructors but also because books give information in bulks that can be too hard to digest at first reading. So, it will be better to stick to the ones you're familiar with.

2. ON NOTES. Make your own. If you don't have enough time, then own the notes given you.
I've seen some really studious people make their own notes. Then, with each reading, they make outlines of their outlines, until all the information they need has been summarized in little cue cards. It takes a lot of time but you can't doubt that they're just a level ahead of those who rely on notes written by other people. But, if you don't have enough time to do this or maybe you're just too lazy, it's okay. All you need to do is to own those notes. Understand the topics. Don't just memorize. Memorization can only take you so far. And, add your own little side notes- things that you think might be important. If the mnemonics don't work for you, make your own. If the arrangement of topics don't work for you, rearrange them. Just, you know, own those notes.
But if you want to review during the break just before exams, you might still want to make some notes. Just pick a few topics that you feel you need to refresh just before the exam and keep them handy. Or, do what others do, and bring your stack of notes and flip through them like crazy just before the exam. Just a warning, this might overwhelm you and lead to mental block.

3. ON CAFFEINE. Drinking coffee is not the only way to stay awake.
I drink coffee. A lot. And, if you're not prone to palpitations or hyperacidity or GERD, there's no problem. But for people like me, finding an alternative is advisable. Besides, drinking coffee may give you a spurt of energy for a few hours but it drains you after a while, too, leading to a lot of unnecessary naps. If that's not bad enough, you could develop a sort of dependence on coffee. Imagine having to drink coffee during the examination proper just so you wouldn't doze off while answering your exam. Where would you even find coffee in the examination site? And just how many times do you want to disturb your thought process just because you need to go pee? That is, if you're lucky enough to be assigned a room with its own comfort room. If not, how uncomfortable would it be to answer an exam when all your body can think of is relieving itself?
Alternatives: Apples, Exercise (Joan Watson of Elementary did squats through med school), Sufficient sleep

4. ON SLEEPING HABITS. Your body's biological clock needs to be trained, too.
You should be as aware of your circadian rhythm as you are of all those parasites. You need to think of the schedule you'll be following during the exam proper and train your mind to be sharp and fully functional by the time you'll be taking your first examination. This means you need to follow a regular sleeping schedule. You also need to start waking up early, around the time you need to be up for the exam proper. I understand that a lot of people are fond of staying up late and cramming but this is something you should do at least two weeks before your scheduled exam.

5. ON NERVES. To me, the board exam is more a test of nerves than of knowledge.
Don't let your anxiety get the better of you. But, at the same time, don't let overconfidence fool you. You are your own best judge. Be honest with yourself, are you ready? If not, then keep reviewing. Some people don't study during the last few days before the exam proper. They take this time to try to relax. It works for some people, but for others, it's more productive to just keep on reviewing. You know yourself, so decide which one would suit you better. Just, don't sell yourself short. You spent years studying those topics. You already know everything that's going to be on the exam, you just need to dig deep and remember those things.

6. ON SITE VISITS. Familiarize yourself with the room that will decide how your next year will play out.
Check where your room is. Make sure your name is on the list posted by the door. Check the temperature. Will you be needing a jacket? Check where the rest rooms are. You'll need it, trust me. Check the route to your test location. How much time do you need to get there? What time do you need to be up? How will you get there? It's important that you're not late for the exams but you shouldn't be too early either. If you're the type who gets easily influenced by other people, you might want to avoid getting to the test site too early, 15 minutes early is good time. Because if you're there early, the tendency is you'll be there with other nervous examinees who keep digging in their bags for notes, or who keep pacing, or who keep going to the CR. Don't give them the opportunity to make you any more nervous than you already are.

7. ON SELF. Take care of yourself. You need your body and mind to be at their prime.
This means you need to eat healthy and get sufficient sleep. Don't skip meals just so you have more time to read. Don't deprive yourself of sleep just so you can cram a few more books in your head.

8. ON PRAYING. It always feels reassuring to know you have someone backing you up.
Pray. Not just to pass but to be able to focus well during review, to be able to retain what you've reviewed, and to be able to remember all the theories and principles that you grudgingly learned in the last few years.

During the examination proper.
1. SLEEP. Give yourself plenty of rest before the big day.
Don't stay up the whole night studying only for you to be too sleep-deprived to understand the questions your reading through bleary eyes the next day.

2. PRAY. Not just after the exam but before and during it.
Pray for inner peace, for wisdom, for understanding, and for access to the knowledge I'm sure is just sitting in your brain.

3. TAKE YOUR TIME. Don't rush. Finishing first doesn't mean you get more answers right.
You have two hours for each exam. Maximize your time.

4. SHADE WELL. Not too dark. Not too light.
They say you see a kind of sheen when you've shaded the circles enough. But, don't be so heavy with your pencil. Just in case you need to change your answer. I know, I know. You should be sure of your answers before shading them. But, just in case.
And bring some spare pencils too. Or a sharpener, at least.

5. BRING MEDS. Be prepared for everything.
You never know what'll happen so just bring everything. You should have medicine for fever, headache, hyperacidity, menstrual cramps.

6. HAVE FOOD ON HAND. Your brain uses up a lot of glucose when in use.
The classic food advised for exams is dark chocolate. But I say, anything works so long as it's easy to eat and is not disturbingly noisy. You'll be allowed to bring in food during the exams and while you might not think you'll need it, it's still better to know that you have that chocolate bar to munch on just in case you get hungry during those two long hours. Just make sure it's not the kind of food that will distract you from the exam. Or that, you know, it's not the kind that will drip sauce or spread crumbs all over your answer sheet.
Also, if you're having your food delivered or catered by someone during the exam, it's always smarter to still have some food in your bag. Like some bread or cookies, maybe. Because delays happen.
Just be armed with food, food, food. And water. Because there's nothing more difficult than having to sit for an exam on an empty stomach.

7. KEEP MOVING FORWARD. You have plenty of time to mourn over your answers after finishing all the exams.
Don't be that guy who can't stop checking his notes for the answers to the last exam. You have six exams to sit for. Keep moving forward. You can't let your mistakes from the last exam keep you distracted during the next ones. You have three full days to lament yourself when all the exams have been answered and done with.

Waiting for the verdict.
1. GO OUT AND CELEBRATE. No matter what the results are, if you know you've given your best then you deserve to give yourself a reward. Go meet with friends or shop or just eat a lot. And, it's okay to make a rule not to talk about anything board-related. Just enjoy. The three days will be a little less excruciating this way.
Or, if you're not the type to go out, just tell me and I'll give you a list of all the KDrama you might have missed out on during your review.

Now. Here's the most important thing. I believe in the power of the tongue. Give it enough faith and conviction, and I believe that words can be very powerful. So claim it. Claim it out loud. If you're serious with your review, then I already believe that you're an RMT. So should you.

Just one last thing. I know that a lot of you are nervous. And, you've heard a lot of things that you should do during and after the exams to ensure a pass. And, I won't judge you if you choose to do them. But, here's the thing. I believe in God and I acknowledge that I am where I am because of Him. And, I think that would feel more rewarding than having to think that you passed just because you broke your exam pencil in two after the exams or that you shook your chair hard and you walked out your exam room without looking back. Just saying. To each his own, right?
Needless to say, I won't be sharpening any pencils for any examinee this February. But I will be praying for all of you.

Study hard and God bless, RMTs!

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