If you’re scheduled to take the General Surgery Board Exam in the near future, you may be feeling understandably nervous. While this is an important exam, it is important that you remain calm as you prepare for the surgery boards. 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.
How can you relax before taking your board exam? Here are some tips to help you overcome your fear of test day.
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 General Surgery Qualifying Exam is:
- Eight hours in length (five, 90-minute sessions)
- Comprised of about 300 multiple-choice questions
- Focused on general surgical principles and applied science
- Patient Care: 80%
- Abdomen: 12%
- Alimentary Tract: 15%
- Endoscopy: 2%
- Breast: 7%
- Endocrine: 5%
- Skin and Soft Tissue: 2%
- Surgical Critical Care: 10%
- Trauma: 8%
- Vascular: 7%
- Transplantation: 2%
- Thoracic Surgery: 2%
- Pediatric Surgery: 2%
- Head and Neck: 2%
- Surgical Specialties: 4%
- Surgical/Medical Knowledge 20%
- Applied Science: 13%
- Preoperative Evaluation and Perioperative Care: 2%
- Miscellaneous Topics: 5%
- Patient Care: 80%
A great way to get a true feel for what to expect is with practice Surgery test questions. Because you can’t actually take the exam itself before test day, using board review questions is the best way to experience a representation of question formats, and receive constructive feedback on strong and weak points.
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.
Don’t Cram the Night Before
Many people facing the surgery boards will feel the need to pull an all-nighter studying the day before. The truth is, by the night before test day, you can’t really add to your overall knowledge. In fact, studies show 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.
What about coffee? 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.
Looking for more resources for the surgery boards? Check out these blog posts from BoardVitals: