I decided to wait until after I completed all of my Level II Fieldwork experiences to start studying for the Board Exam. I wanted to take in all the hands on experience as I am a visual learner and did not want anything to take away from all of the wonderful learning experiences and opportunities that I was being presented with. I think that was very important to me. Once I completed my fieldwork, I took a vacation to give myself a break. I had completed two years of schooling and my brain needed a break before diving into studying.
My Timeline and Study Plan
I had collaborated with one of my professors to set a timeline for studying. I studied for seven weeks. My school paid for the AOTA Exam Prep for each student so I printed out all the PDFs (17 sections total). She had me take a practice exam BEFORE I even began studying to establish a baseline. The AOTA practice exams let you know your weakest areas by Subject and Domain. This really helped me when developing my plan and timeline, as I knew there were certain areas that would require more time than others. I gave myself two days per topic and I studied for about four hours each day, six days a week.
I tried to schedule the biggest topics (i.e. Peds, Mental Health) for the beginning of the week and would plan on ending the lighter topics at the end of the week. Some PDFs are longer than others so just be prepared. I made a spreadsheet with the dates I was doing which topic, how many pages the PDF was and how many practice questions there were on the topic.
Being that there were 17 sections, I had extra time beginning at the end of week six, which I used for reviewing my weakest topics. I also used OT Miri’s videos with the corresponding topics and it was great for me as I was able to take all of the information I read and visualize it in a way that made it much easier for me to understand. I would take the AOTA practice exams by section. I usually would study Day 1 (using PDFs and filling in the blanks with either Therapy Ed or my textbooks) and the morning of Day 2, I would take the AOTA practice exam (the untimed one). I would review ALL the rationales, regardless of if I got the question right or wrong. If I got it wrong I would copy and paste the question and answers/rationales into a word document. I also did this to ones I got right that I felt that I guessed on or just wanted to review. I would spend the other two hours to review the rationales and made sure I understood the question and answers and why one was right and the others were wrong. I broke the question down into where in the process are you, what is the diagnosis, what is the question asking, etc. I think reading the sentence BEFORE the question mark was very important.
Some days I did very well on the exams, some days I did not. I wasn’t going to let a number get me down. I just knew that I would need to review that topic again so I put it back onto my spreadsheet.
Week 7 was all review and taking a full, timed, practice test. I did it while simulating the test environment as much as I could (sitting at a desk, with headphones, taking breaks if I needed them, all while the clock ticked down). The clock on the actual exam is MUCH LESS daunting than this one was in my opinion.
The AOTA PDFs, Therapy Ed, OT Miri videos, The OT Quick Reference Guide, and my school textbooks were the most helpful resources. I know you are most likely on this page because you have seen at least one of Miri’s videos – I watched EVERY single one and took notes. I watched some of them two or three times each, especially in my last review week.
My Best Piece of Advice
READ THE QUESTION AND BREAK IT DOWN. Think of the setting, where they are in the process, and also, read the sentence before the question mark twice. Try and watch your time but do not obsess over it. If you are halfway done and see you have ample time left, get up, use the bathroom, stretch, go to your locker and get some water. Eat breakfast that contains brain food (I am not a typical breakfast eater but knew I would not get through without a good breakfast). DO NOT study the day before or day of exam. Do something fun and relaxing. I got a massage and watched funny movies the day before my exam. Do not overthink the question that is being asked. DO NOT change your answer unless you have a very good reason. Your gut reaction is usually right. I can’t even tell you how many times I changed my answer on my practice exams from wrong to right because I wasn’t sticking with my gut. This will get easier to do, I promise.
I was very anxious on the day of my test, got a migraine, was sweating, had to wait in the waiting room with other students pacing around and tapping their feet – don’t let it get to you. Be confident, but not overconfident.
I wrote encouraging words on my wipe board in the room and even wrote my name and COTA next to it for encouragement.
I also would suggest a lightweight sweater or sweatshirt as the room I was in was chilly. Leave extra time to get to and check into the Prometrics Center. My email confirmation said to arrive 30 minutes early, but the day before they called me to confirm and said to arrive 45 minutes early. I started late due to the overflow at check in. Take some slow deep breaths. I left my exam feeling like I failed but I am happy to say I passed on my first try. Also, try and take your exam the three days before the score date as I waited eight days and it was the longest 8 days of my life!
When you Leave the Test Center, Treat Yourself
Do something fun, indulge in a special treat (I had a milkshake). Do something for yourself because you just completed a huge step in your future goal. No matter what the outcome is, you know the material, you got this far, just hold your head up high, take a deep breath and just tell yourself you can do this. I know everybody learns and studies differently and I hope this will help some of you and if you read this entire document, kudos to you! Good Luck to you all!