I chose to take the boards exactly two weeks after graduating. This allowed ample time to relax without feeling like I was cramming. I also created a schedule equipped with taking a few practice exams.
In total, I studied somewhere between 3-5 hours per day. I studied using my own study guides, PowerPoints we were provided during our last review week, outlines from SMARTYPANCE (very helpful, highly recommend), PANCE Prep Pearls, and A Comprehensive Review for the Certification and Recertification Examinations for Physician Assistants. Each day, I did ~50 questions related to the specific subjects I studied (using Rosh Review and Smarty PANCE), as well as ~30-50 general, comprehensive questions. Smarty PANCE breaks down and provides questions related to specific topics, so it was easy to choose from those in relations to what I had studied that day.
I spent more time studying the subjects that were high yield and took up the majority of the test, i.e. cardiology, pulm, GI. So each of those had a dedicated day. And then I broke down the rest and studied 2 topics per day. I would write down notes in a giant notebook, and then re-read them throughout the day / at night before going to bed.
For practice exams, I used the Rosh Review high yield 300 questions (there are two of them. I bought one and a friend bought another and we switched – each $20). They aren’t very in depth but it allowed me to quickly go through questions and then go back to the concepts I was struggling with. I also took a practice test using Smarty PANCE which came with the membership.
Okay, here’s the breakdown for studying:
- Day 1 and 2 after graduation: relaxation. I truly couldn’t get myself to study. So I gave myself this time off to just let it all soak in.
- Day 3: cardiology
- Day 4: pulmonology
- Day 5: GI + practice exam
- Day 6: ortho + endocrine
- Day 7: GYN + GU
- Day 8: neuro + psych
- Day 9: ENT + hematology
- Day 10: practice exam
- Day 11: derm + ID
- Day 12: rheumatology + review
- Day 13: review + practice exam
- Day 14: relax and prepare / pack food for PANCE!
- Study with others! It REALLY helped to study with friends. Just having people blurt out random facts makes you remember it far easier.
- I exercised most days and took walks throughout the day and night. Taking breaks was absolutely essential to marathon studying like this.
- I focused on good nutrition as well, avoiding processed carbs and sugars as much as possible and instead reaching for things high in protein, good fats, fruits and veggies. And lots of water / minimal alcohol.
- Prioritize sleep! Especially during the days leading up the exam. It’s just impossible to solidify so much information when you’re tossing and turning all night. Hence avoiding alcohol for the majority of my study days.
- Meditate and breathe! I listened to podcast a night before the exam about the power of breathing exercise. There was a woman who did deep breathing before asked to do push-ups. Her baseline was 30 push-ups and after oxygenating she was able to do 47 without exerting any extra effort!!! And I loved that idea. We can get through hugely arduous tasks (like sitting for a 6 hour exam) if we just remember to BREATHE DEEPLY AND FULLY.
- Know that you’ve got this. You’ve done the countless exams, the EORs, you are prepared!