Overcoming Your Fear of the Surgery Board Written Exam

If you’re scheduled to take the written Surgery Board Exam in the near future, you may be feeling understandably nervous. After all, this exam will be used by the American Board of Surgery to assess your ability to solve problems and apply reasoning while under pressure. Still, one of the best things you can do for yourself prior to the exam is to let go of any fears or anxiety you may have about the test itself.

Of course, you may be thinking that’s a lot easier said than done. Read on to explore some tips for overcoming your fear of the Surgery Board Exam.

Know What to Expect

The best way to reduce anxiety on test day is to do your research and understand what to expect. Specifically, you should be aware that the exam is:

  • Eight hours in length
  • Comprised of about 300 multiple-choice questions
  • Focused on general surgical principles and applied science

A great way to get a true feel for what to expect is to employ the use of a board review, such as one from Board Vitals. Aside from actually taking the exam itself, this is the best way to experience a representation of likely exam questions and receive constructive feedback.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Make sure that you do everything in your power to get enough sleep on the night before the exam. Studies have shown that getting an adequate amount of sleep (which, for most people, is around eight hours) can help to decrease test-taking anxiety and improve chances of success on tests.
If you tend to experience trouble falling asleep on nights before big tests, consider exercising before bed; going for a run, for example, will not only help you clear your mind but will help tire you out as well. You may also consider taking a non-habit-forming sleep aid, such as a melatonin supplement, to promote a sound night of sleep on the night before the exam.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

If you end up feeling rushed on the day of your exam, you’re more likely to feel stressed out and therefore more likely to experience anxiety over taking your test. Consider waking up a little earlier than you’re used to on the day of your exam so that you have plenty of time to get to the testing facility. Showing up early is a lot better than showing up late, after all.

Don’t Cram the Night Before

Many people facing the Surgery Board Exam will feel the need to pull an all-nighter studying the day before. Unfortunately, studies have actually shown that “cramming” before an exam tends to result in poorer scores. By cramming the night before, not only are you depriving yourself of the sleep you need, but you’ll also be trying to cram too much information into your brain at once. As a result, you’ll likely have a hard time retaining any of it.

Don’t Show Up on an Empty Stomach

Even if you wake up so nervous that you don’t have an appetite on the day of your exam, it’s important to eat a balanced, nutritious meal before you leave the house. After all, the vitamins and nutrients found in food are important in keeping your mind sharp. And since you’ll be asked questions that you’re required to respond to quickly, you’ll need to be as sharp as possible.

A word of caution, though: if you’re the type of person who gets anxious or agitated when you eat/drink sugar or caffeine, try to avoid these kinds of foods and beverages on the day of your exam. The last thing you want is to feel jittery and on-edge when you walk into the testing facility.

While there’s no denying that the Surgery Board Exams are vital to your career and should be taken seriously, it’s also important to not let your anxiety over the text to consume your thoughts. As long as you take the time to prepare, study, and review, you’ll be sure to do your best come exam day.

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