In the upcoming days, you’re about to take a very important exam – your board license exam. It’s common to feel anxious and nervous and there are many others in the same position as you. You may even feel like your mind is overwhelmed with material but also with thoughts about the PT exam itself – ultimately being able to pass.
At the Prometric Center
When at the Prometric Center, the anticipation before checking in and the unknown of the exam can produce butterflies in the stomach and the mind racing in all different directions. While waiting to get checked in for your exam and looking around at the others could even make you more nervous as they also portray nervousness of their own. The hurry-up feeling may come on to get this exam over with already.
Once you are escorted into the room and shown your station. You can then sit down in front of your computer. Before even getting started, your heart may be racing, your palms sweating, maybe even your teeth clenching. Unconsciously, you may experience your leg shaking or maybe the fingers are tapping on the table (annoying the person next to you) as you stare at the screen before you.
This is it — a do or die (sort of) situation. But it’s JUST a PT exam! OK, a very important exam; the exam that determines whether you will be licensed or not. However, it’s not JUST a regular PT exam. It’s an exam that’s going to test you in many different aspects and right now it’s about how quickly you can get into the zone to focus.
Inner Mind Dialogue
There’s going to be chatter in your mind, a brief moment (or maybe the whole time) of “OMG!” and panic. There’s also the “I got this” attitude — the confidence of being able to handle any question presented to you. The “I may not know everything but I know enough” and be able to choose the best answer. At any given moment, a complicated question may pop up on your screen and the automatic of “Holy sh*t!” may come into your mind of “What do I do with this information?!” But you’ll be ok — trust me, you’ll be fine — as long as you are able to focus back on the question at hand.
But here’s the key to this PT exam, you want to get into the zone as fast as possible. What this means is to be ready and treat this more like a game than a PT exam. You want to treat the question as a patient. So, imagine you are sitting in front of the patient and they present their “problem” question to you — it’s up to you to choose their MOST appropriate treatment.
Getting into the Zone
Before starting your exam, clear your mind and if needed, crack your neck and knuckles to release tension. Take a moment before starting the tutorial and channel your energy into visualizing how you want to be able to answer the upcoming questions. Think of how you want the perfect question that you can answer with ease. That you will be able to see that you can handle any type of questions and eliminating answers are easy. There’s no second guessing or self-doubting as all the information is there. Now, begin with gusto and confidence.
Approaching the Questions
As each new patient question comes onto the screen, tell yourself you know enough to be able to help them. Actively listen to them by giving them your full attention, don’t interject with your own thoughts and assumptions. And don’t panic when what the patient presents to you is in your weaker areas — just take what you can and help them the best you can. When you have questions that you are strong on, don’t rush through them; however, take what you can in stride and smile that you are able to truly help.
Regardless, of the length of the question, the goal is the same — to choose the best answer. When a long case scenario is shown, the tendency is to feel overwhelmed especially when there are a lot of numbers, list of symptoms or examination results (MMT, ROM, special tests); however, the goal should be at this moment in time, to narrow down what you need to know and then begin elimination of unnecessary answers (or even the information presented in the question).
When a short case scenario is presented, you may feel there’s not enough information there! However, there’s enough for you to get by and choose an answer. This is the time to not fall into the trap of adding information or inserting your experience on the topic. Take the question at face value and don’t overthink the answers.
Choosing Your Answers
After reading the question, take each answer as an option. Know that there’s only 1 correct answer and it’s up to you to pick the best treatment answer. Prioritize and think about safety. Remember, when part of the answer is not true, don’t make it true — eliminate and use the strikethrough feature.
When doubting your answers, ALWAYS stick with your gut answer. This instinctual choice of yours, the majority of the time will be the correct answer. However, this is not the time to talk yourself out of an answer. Only change an answer when you know it’s absolutely not true. Otherwise, leave it. Most points are lost by doing this — so (tip!) — don’t do it! Pick and move on. This will also save you a lot of time.
After you have chosen an answer and before you click “Next,” let go of that question (patient). Don’t allow your mind to be clouded when seeing the next patient scenario. Give them your full attention — if that means closing your eyes for a brief second, do so. It’s hard to choose the right treatment when your mind is full and thinking about previous questions or when distracted by the time. Stay focused and you’ll be able to answer better and maybe even get a higher score.
It’s normal to feel anxious at the beginning (ok, maybe even in the middle and at the end of the PT exam); however, when you are able to quickly focus on what’s in front of you and begin to get into a rhythm of looking at your patients, you’ll seem to flow better. In a sense, you’ll get into a groove of being able to answer without losing focus and answering the questions will become easier. Essentially, allow your brain to work unconsciously and let muscle memory to kick in.
When getting tripped up, just take a moment, take a deep breath and refocus. Close your eyes, perform progressive muscle relaxation exercises, roll your head, do some ankle pumps and then jump straight back in. You’ll want to get into a place where you feel comfortable being able to take care of your patients and when you do, this very important exam becomes less like an exam and more like a game. Capture that feeling and you’ll walk out with confidence rather than worry about your exam score for a week.
Being proactive is key and here are just some wisdom pearls before you go into your PT exam. So, from now until your PT exam date, what’s your plan of action to get into the zone?