BOARDS. If you ever want to be a sonographer, they are a battle you have to conquer!
Whether it’s taking the SPI (Sonography Principles and Instrumentation), an ARDMS exam like OBGYN or ABD, or the RVT, these tests can seem awfully daunting. I, for one, have always been a terrible test-taker. I have to study for HOURS to get – maybeeeee – a B. I can know the material like the back of my hand, do a presentation on it, write about it, even probably teach somebody else it… but when a test gets handed to me, my stomach drops and I go blank every. time.
I can honestly say it is BECAUSE of these board exams and trying SO many different methods of studying that I have FINALLY learned what works best for me! Boy, do I wish I knew how to study like this in high school. Because I have learned how to study, I have thankfully been able to pass every board I’ve taken on the first try (praise Him!). I truly believe study methods are not a ‘one size fits all’, or even a one size fits most, for that matter. I think everyone has what works best for them. But nonetheless, I’ve rounded up my biggest study tips to encourage and (hopefully) help you on this journey of becoming a licensed sonographer!
My Study Tips
Understand the CONCEPTS → With these board exams, you will never be able to pass by merely memorizing facts. You have to understand things conceptually. This is ESPECIALLY true for the SPI. For example, you need to understand why frame rate increases with decreasing imaging depth – not just memorize that it does. The board exam may take the simplest question and word it using the most sophisticated vocabulary, ask it backwards, etc. So it is vital that you understand the concepts, not just memorize them. Make sure that if you come across a topic, pathology, or process of some type, and you do not understand how it works in the bigger picture, GOOGLE it, Youtube it, or research it further. Do something to get the information you need to understand it conceptually.
Re-write it in your own words → This is probably my #1 way of learning things. Whenever I wouldn’t understand the process of something, I would re-write it in my own words and basically “dumb it down” for myself to understand conceptually. I would basically take a whole section on any given topic I was having trouble understanding and find a way to describe it in different words. Then, I would read over it to myself. This helped information stick.
Read multiple different authors to see it explained differently → I think this is super important. It can be discouraging to open up a Davies book and feel like you have NO idea what is being talked about. In my opinion, Davies is a great book to prepare you for the questions on the test once you already understand the material. But personally, I found it difficult to learn for the first time from Davies books. I love books by Edelman & Penny for when I’m just starting out and learning the information. They are great authors that really present concepts in an understandable way for new grads / first time learners. Once I feel like I have understood the material, I go to Davies for the tougher quizzes & prep.
Prioritize studying → There were so many times I missed out on social events because I needed to study, and that sucked. When I studied for my SPI, I was doing it during the holidays. I remember being at my family’s annual weekend trip to Big Bear and waking up early for a few hours before going out snowboarding. I studied on my birthday. I studied New Years Eve until 10, went to a friend’s house to watch the ball drop, then came back home to get enough sleep to study again in the morning. I was very protective over my study time and did not compromise it for other things. I don’t say this to toot my own horn, but to tell you that doing this worked for me. Your study book is second to your Bible, but nothing else besides that! It wont be this way forever, but for now, be disciplined and make studying your top priority.
Take breaks – let it sink in → This may not be applicable to everyone, but I personally cannot study in periods longer than 30 minutes without taking break. I stop retaining and my eyes just kinda start to glaze over the words I’m reading and my mind is thinking about something else. I set a timer, silence my cell phone & put it away, & focus solely on the information in front of me for 30 minutes. Then, when the timer finishes, I get up, stretch, check my phone, take a quick 5 minute break, and go back to work again afterwards. This has greatly helped me retain information while still making the most of my time.
Reward yourself → This goes hand in hand with taking breaks. Rewarding yourself with a 5 minute break after studying for 30 minutes is important. On a bigger scale, it’s important to reward yourself with a day off when you’ve spent the last 3 in the corner of a coffee shop studying. Let that information sink in. Reward yourself for your studying!
Mock exams will save your life → As I said with studying different authors, trying multiple different mock exams really solidified the information for me. Furthermore, I have taken multiple board exams and been like, “HOLY CRAP! I had a question just like this on a practice test! I know this!” from studying so many of them. Mock exams will prepare you for the real deal. Do them!
Address your fears – What are you MOST scared of seeing on the exam? What chapter / topic has been the most difficult for you? What are the things you still don’t feel like you 100% get? Make a list and go down it one by one and research / study those things. Address what you’re scared of and study it until you understand it.
The day before, the night before, the day of
The day before the exam: Again, we’re all different. However, the best advice that was ever given to me regarding board exams was from my (now) colleague. She told me the day before the test to not pick up/open my book ONCE. What!? That can’t be right. But it is. Look at it this way – if you don’t know it by the day before your test, you’re not gonna learn it. You have SO MUCH information racked up in your head, there is no more room to cram. Step away from your books for the entire day. Give your brain a break. Board exams are LONG and mentally exhausting. Remember taking SAT’s in high school and just walking out and feeling like you were brain dead? Yeah. A board is just like that. You need to save every last bit of mental energy. So the day before the exam — go to lunch with a friend, go to work, go lay on a beach, do something, but do not study.
The night before the exam: Just like they always told us in high school, get plenty of sleep the night before! Go to bed early. Relax. DON’T STUDY. Get out your ID and any forms you need to bring with you to the testing center. Have them ready for the morning.
The morning of the exam: It’s test day! You did it! Today is the day all your hard work pays off. Get a good breakfast. Relax. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to drive to the testing center so you can afford for traffic or other unforeseen issues. If you feel like you absolutely HAVE to open your book one more time (I get it), I would very lightly flip through your pages. Maybe just kinda glance over the most important notes you made or the information you’re most scared about. But don’t cram. You’re done studying! Now it’s time to pass & celebrate!
You got this!
Did these tips help you? What are your favorite study habits? Share with me below in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section!