Article Date: 9/1/2008

Tackle the Test
Street Smarts

Tackle the Test

The experience of taking a mock board exam can help you prepare for the real thing.

By Dan Beck, O.D.
Leland, N.C.

Twice a year, my partners and I administer a mock board exam to willing students who've interned with us. The students take the exam a few weeks before the North Carolina state board. My partners and I work very hard to emulate the doctors who give the test. We're cold, distant and arrogant, and occasionally, downright mean. We've made our interns feel many emotions, including frustration, confusion, exasperation and hopelessness. We've even made a few cry and caused some to lose their appetites. In a word, we give them exactly what they need — a dose of reality.

Elements of Success

Knowledge and experience are the two essential elements needed for success. While you can achieve knowledge through disciplined study, it may be difficult to find meaningful experiences. When it comes to state board exams, North Carolina is known for administering one of the toughest. Even an intern who's a whiz at patient care may struggle with the test. But knowing what to expect is half the battle. Anyone who's taken portions of the national board exam can attest that there's only so much practicing you can do alone or with fellow students.

Unfortunately, most interns and recent graduates don't know anyone offering mock board exams. Because state license requirements vary greatly, most optometry schools can't offer one-size-fits-all mock exams to help prepare students.

Quest for Experience

Anyone wishing to do well on a board exam must find someone competent and willing to issue a mock test. I'd encourage any student planning to take a board exam in the state in which they're interning to ask the doctors who offer internships for guidance. These doctors get a great deal of free labor from their interns. The least they can do is give you the help you need to succeed when your internship ends, and it's time to take the board.

Tap Optometry Professors

I'd bet that within every optometry school, there's at least one staff professor who's taken the state board for which you're preparing. Most professors would be happy to help you. They probably recall the stress they were under, and will gladly take 30 minutes or more to tell you their exam war stories. Stroke their egos. It will get you almost anything.

Being at the top of your class or taking on the most challenging internships will give you the key to the proverbial executive bathroom. But passing the board will prevent those in the bathroom from throwing you back into the hallway. nOD

A survivor of test-taking stress, Dr. Beck is a 1993 graduate of Pennsylvania College of Optometry. You can reach him at

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2008