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Dreaded board exams — they loom over you throughout your time in dental and hygiene school. They’re the culmination of all your hard work to date... and ultimately, they determine your future.
The best thing to do? Prepare, prepare, prepare — and make sure you stay sane — for the big moment. We asked a few quip ambassadors, Rubbiya Charania DMD, MBS, Sindey Gonzalez RDH, and Valia Sammarco RDH, BSDH for their advice for staying on track with studying. Not surprisingly — they all mentioned making time for a little self-care, so you’re not pulling your hair out come exam time.
Be honest — how early did you start the studying process?
"I began studying two months in advance, with vigorous and diligent studying in the month prior to the exam." -Dr. Rubbiya
"I started about six months in advance, just to be on the safe side. I was able to cover material without overexerting myself." -Sidney
If you had a secret study habit you could share, what would it be?
"The best study habit I formed was to verbalize the knowledge I was taking in. I would talk out whatever subject or concept it was that I was trying to understand, either with myself as if I was speaking with someone, or with a colleague. This helps reinforce the knowledge you've read. If you can teach it to someone, chances are you understand it well! Also, when it comes to memorizing, repetition is everything!" -Dr. Rubbiya
"I studied for boards like it was a marathon! I studied a little bit of a material a few times a week over the course of about 4-6 months before. I went to a board review seminar 3 months before my national board, which included a book that became my "bible" if you will. I used an app on my phone (Andy RDH), that I reviewed during my free time, usually before bed. It became a habit, like checking Instagram before bed!" -Vaila
It’s so easy to get distracted — how do you stay focused during those stressful moments when studying?
"The key to staying focused for me was being realistic and not overly ambitious about how much I could get done in a set amount of time. We tend to overestimate how productive we can be, and when those 'deadlines' aren't met, our anxiety heightens. It's important to give yourself an adequate amount of time so as to not rush or ‘cram’. Give yourself an opportunity for breaks in between to provide balance and an opportunity to diffuse stress - for me this meant something as simple as watching a favorite show or taking a walk somewhere!" -Dr. Rubbiya
Burnout is real. Did you set limits for how long you studied?
"I learned to just become more intune with my body and give myself the chance to take a step away from the books. I came back to them when my mind was ready. If I was studying in bed and I felt like I was falling asleep, sometimes I would let my body just nap and get the rest it needed. Studying for boards is literally a marathon and the body is under a lot of stress, it’s important to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs." -Vaila
"Be honest with yourself- you know when you're tired. If you are going on coffee number three, it's time to step away. My outlet was comedies, I'd watch a stand-up comedy special for 30-45 minutes, then go right back to studying with an upbeat spirit." -Sidney
How did your preparation methods change as the exams got closer?
"It is important to be efficient about studying in the months prior so that the week of your exam isn't overwhelming. I spent the week of the exam answering practice questions and doing practice tests, but it is important to keep the studying the day before the exam light so that you don't go into the exam burnt out. You want to go in with the right mindset, so find something that relaxes you whether it’s talking with a friend, watching tv or even meditating!" -Dr. Rubbiya
Did you bring with you to your boards to help you stay focused throughout the day?
"I didn't bring anything with me. Best tip: the break they give you, use it. Slow and steady wins the race, you don't want to burn yourself out." -Sidney
"The day of my boards I brought a bottle of water and some granola bars. During my breaks I tried to stay well hydrated and had a wholesome snack to keep me going! We sometimes get so occupied with the tasks in front of us that we forget how important it is to stay hydrated - be sure to keep a bottle with you the day of the exam!" -Dr. Rubbiya