Over the past few weeks, I’ve mentioned on my blog and Instagram that I’ve been studying for the NBCE board exams. I took Part I this past Saturday, and so now I am one step closer to licensure (though there are quite a few more steps to go…haha!) I’m excited, relieved, and looking forward to all that the coming years will bring.
For those of you who don’t know, the boards have changed since last year. The testing sessions available this January were the first to offer the new format of the exam, which is reduced in length from the previous version. I never took the old test, so I can’t go into detail about how the two exams are different. However, since the test is so new, I wanted to share my experience for my fellow future docs who are looking for a heads up about the new test!
Registering for the Exam
I registered for Part I through an online portal provided by NBCE. The Portal is different from the one previously used, which was not something I initially knew. Many of my classmates and I applied for registration on the old portal, which delayed us in registering for our exams on the day that the registration opened up.
Prior to registering for Part I, we also needed authorization from our school’s registrar. They complete this on a separate portal, but the request for approval needs to be submitted through the NBCE student portal. Basically this is done by entering your contact information, school name, student ID number, and graduation date. Once the registrar approves the request, you can finish registration.
In order to make your registration flow as smoothly as possible, I recommend taking the following steps
- Create an account on the new NBCE Portal
- Submit the request for authorization from your school
- Complete the exam application
- Submit payment ($685 for Part I)
- Choose a location/date/time
You’ll receive a couple confirmation emails and a screen will pop up showing confirmation as well. I highly recommend saving all these emails as well as screenshots of the confirmation pages for your records.
Exam Day & Format
My exam was scheduled for 7:30 am, and we were required to arrive at 6:45 am for check-in. Most of the examinees, including myself, arrived at 6:30 am or earlier, so we finished check in early, and I started my exam at 6:55 am.
Check-in consisted of filling out a check-in form, having information from our driver’s licenses copied down, being swabbed by a metal detector wand, and having our pockets/glasses/shoes examined for devices. After we each were checked, a proctor walked us individually to a computer station, entered some information from our ID and their records into the portal, and then our exam started. We each therefore started the test at a slightly different time. The first people to check in were the first to start.
At our computer station, we also were provided with a blue, laminated, dry-erase sheet and fine point dry-erase marker to use as scratch paper. The marker was almost as finely tipped as a pen and worked out great for writing notes.
When the exam started, it had to download individually onto the screen, which took about 10 minutes. To channel my nervous energy from waiting, I drew out the brachial plexus on my dry-erase board so I didn’t have to try to recall it during the test.
When the tutorial finished, the first section of the exam started. Part I consists of 6 sections, organized into 3 domains, with an optional break following completion of each of the first two domains. Here was the breakdown of the test:
- Domain 1
- General Anatomy
- Spinal Anatomy
- Optional 15-minute break
- Domain 2
- Optional 15-minute break
- Domain 3
Each section consisted of 50 multiple-choice questions, with 42 minutes allotted for completion.
I personally did not utilize the full time period for any of the exam sections. My exam started at 6:55 am, and I finished at 9:18 am, having used one 15 minute break. (I declined the first break, but took the second one.)
Preparing for the Exam
In full disclosure, the majority of my exam preparation came from my school’s curriculum. If I had not put in the required time and effort to learn the material the first time through, I would not have succeeded on the exam. The amount of material is insane, so it’s important to work hard the first year and a half to have quality learning. My “studying” consisted mostly of “Oh yeah, I remember that, but forgot the details” sort of thing. Studying for boards was reviewing, not learning.
Materials I used that were helpful:
- Chiro Essentials (I read through this book in its entirety over the course of 3 weeks, dedicating about 4 hours per day)
- Irene Gold (I read through this book over the course of the 7 days preceding my exam) *This was, by far, the most beneficial in terms of exam topics, though my class notes and Chiro Essentials provided the foundation I needed for this resource to be the most useful. Almost every question was covered in this book, and some of the practice questions were almost identical.
- Netter’s Atlas of Anatomy, 3rd edition
How to Study
- 3 Months Before: read through Chiro Essentials. Familiarize yourself with foreign concepts
- 2 Months Before: study neuroanatomy and medical microbiology in depth. These two topics have the bulk of material diversity with the least amount of crossover to other topics.
- 1 Month Before: read through Irene Gold, and highlight areas you struggle with.
- 1 Week Before: read through your highlighted sections of Irene Gold, and ensure familiarity.
- 1 Day Before: chill out, eat a healthy dinner, and get a lot of sleep. A clear mind will be your best friend.
- In general, for studying, use quizlet! The questions on the exam are not complicated; the most difficult part of the exam is the volume of information.