Hello all! I am so excited to share that I am officially an OTR! I wanted to share with you some of my study habits (both bad and good), study plan, timeline, and tips for passing the boards. Let me first start off by saying that this was the most difficult test I’ve ever taken. BUT, don’t let that discourage you. I’m a TERRIBLE test taker and am very good at procrastinating. With these tips on what to do and what not to do I’m sure you will do great!
So I graduated December 2017. I was ready and determined to get down to work studying as soon as I took off that cap and gown. However, I soon found out that I liked having NOTHING to do… no school and no fieldwork. See, Occupational Therapy is a second career for me. I am 34 years old and originally studied computer science but soon found out after getting out in the workforce that I very much disliked staring at a computer screen 10 hours a day and dealing with people who were only concerned with the ol’ mighty dollar. I stumbled upon OT shortly after a couple colleges in the area began offering it and began looking more into it. It was everything I wanted in a career! I wanted to make a difference in the lives of individuals.You see, we’re only on this world for a short time and money certainly isn’t everything. I wanted to make a difference.
Okay, back to my original train of thought… I thought I’d take a couple weeks off to just relax and found that I’d add another day on to relax even more and so on and so forth found myself getting in a rut. I knew I needed to study and I had purchased study materials months before and even looked at some pdfs, but I was losing my discipline and it was difficult to get it back. It’s not that I didn’t want to become an OTR, it is after all, a dream of mine. But, I was becoming nervous about this test and thought I’d just push studying aside and everything would somehow work out.
I knew I wanted to test as soon as NBCOT received transcripts and all of that. I just had to set aside 15-30 minutes at first and really start pushing myself towards goals and into a routine. Soon, those 15 minutes turned into 2-3 hours of studying per day. I admit, the average I’d study for these past 4 weeks or so was approximately 1-2 hours a day. I have a family, 2 young kids and I knew that when they got out of school I wanted to be able to spend time with them so I made sure to get my studying in before late afternoon when they got home. Keep in mind I was a good GRAD student but just an average undergrad student when it came to GPA, test-taking abilities and so on.
I was starting to worry I wasn’t studying enough. If you look at online forums, facebook, etc. you’ll see some people study for 8+ hours a day. I was envious, but there was absolutely no way I could retain that much information and I just couldn’t do that to my family.
“It’s not the quantity of hours you put into studying but the quality.”
Prep Materials and Study Plan
I stacked all my books onto my breakfast table… Pedretti, William & Spackman, ped OT books, adult OT books, neuro. It was a nice looking pile. Sure looked impressive! However, aside from looking at Pedretti, they just sat there. I DID study all of the AOTA exam PDFs and took all 1200 questions of their practice exams. This helped me the most. I could take a 20 question exam and then look at what domain or what area I was weak in. I’d then look through the pdfs of my weaker areas, watch OT MIRI videos (Very crucial IMO), and take an exam in that area until I had a “good” score. After all 1200 questions were taken and several 20,50, 100, 170 question tests were taken, I ended up with an average of 80-90%. Granted my score would be lower, but due to some repeats it boosted my score…. and my confidence.
I didn’t take many CST practice simulations because I felt confident in these, much more than the multiple choice questions. But they are very important as you know there are 3 clinical simulation scenarios and 170 multiple choice for the OTR exam.
I walked into the test site shaking. There were probably 5 other people taking their respective exams and I utilized the soundproof headphones they offered due to all the clicking, shuffling of feet and the fact that the prometric site was next to a busy interstate. I watched the tutorials for the first time there. They’re short and I used breathing exercises to relax as it was difficult to focus. The nice difference between the practice exams and the actual exam is that you can highlight important information or you can cross out answers. This helped me tremendously. I would often end up with 2 answers that sounded very much alike and would mark them to come back to later. That strategy might not work for everyone but it helped me make sure I could get through all the questions in the allotted time. I finished the test with about 40 minutes left and went back to check my marked questions. I did change a quarter or so of my marked answers but went with my gut on the rest and I’m glad I did.
I do believe that somewhere unconsciously you’ve probably know the answer based on what you learned and I think if you’re able to remain calm and focused enough, it’ll help.
After the Exam
I walked out of there almost certain I had failed as this was the most difficult test I’ve taken before. I started doubting my path and became frustrated and a bit upset. I took my exam on the 26th of January and wouldn’t find out results until the 7th of February. It seemed like forever!!! One day I would be certain I failed but the next day I felt a bit more optimistic. I tried to look up answers to the questions I remembered but I was unable to remember more than a handful of questions due to the stress I’m sure.
Today, I found out I passed and a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I am extremely proud to call myself an OTR and will always have a passion for this field and strive to be the best OT I can be everyday!