Q & A With a New Grad: 6 Tips when studying for the NBCOT
Written by Matthew Alpert, OTR/L, Published on July 25, 2016
What are some tips for studying for the NBCOT?
Studying for the NBCOT has been one of the most arduous and rigorous tasks in an occupational therapists journey. Lot's of graduating 3rd years ask me about studying techniques for the NBCOT and so I decided to put together this short Q&A list. Here are six tips to help any new grad study for the NBCOT! Feel free to share this with friends!
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Tip #1: Create a study plan
By creating a study plan, you will have a systematic way of approaching the NBCOT. As we’ve learned from our psychosocial course work, as humans, we thrive when we have a structure. By planning an outline you hold yourself accountable to sticking to it, and accountability is impotant if you're going to be studying for the NBCOT.
Elements of a study plan:
- Weeks Studying
- Weekly breakdown of studying
- Hours per day studying
- Materials being covered each week
- When you will take practice exams
- What material and study guides being used
- Allotted time for material & practice exam review
- Planned days off from studying
Tip # 2: Don’t try and relearn everything from OT school
Yes, there is a lot of material to cover when studying for the NBCOT, however, don’t try and relearn everything!
There will be moments of when you’re not able to recall everything you reviewed. There will also be “ah-ha” moments when everything becomes super clear. Keep your textbooks handy but only refer to them if you do not understand the material at all. Most of all, use your textbooks when referencing charts and examples. These visual cues are critical to embed in your mind the most important concepts.
Tip #3: Have a study partner, study group, and weekly meet-ups
Building a study support network is important. You will be able to ask each other questions, express concerns, help each other, review together, vent when frustrated and the list goes on.
When I was studying for the NBCOT, I would study 3-4 days of the week with my friend from OT school. We would be in the same room, but we wouldn’t talk unless we were both taking a break. We would often be studying different material. Also while studying, we would meet would meet either in person or via Google chat and have a round robin style of asking questions.
Tip #4: Take a break… Seriously!
Take a break, get some fresh air, don’t kill yourself cramming for 6-8 weeks.
Make sure your breaks are spaced evenly throughout the day while studying and during the week. Taking breaks relates back to Tip #1.
Part of your study plan should be to relax.
A stressed brain, won’t retain as much as a relaxed brain. Study for several hours in the morning and then later on in the afternoon.
It’s better to break up your day studying with a 1-2 hour break for something to eat and some exercise. During this time you can refuel and get your endorphins going to allow for you to focus for more studying later in the day.
Tip #5: Schedule the NBCOT at the time of day when you’re brain is at its strongest. & Take your practice exams as if it were the real exam.
Not everyone’s brain functions the same.
Personally, I perform best in the morning, which is why I scheduled my NBCOT for 9:00 AM.
I know that in the afternoon its harder for me to concentrate but in the morning I’m my sharpest. If you don’t know your best time for taking an exam or studying, you will learn quickly when you begin studying for the NBCOT.
Prometrics offers the NBCOT exam at various times, you might want to chose alternative locations to allow for a better testing time!
The scheduled NBCOT time will guide your practice exam time. By simulating the time, you will take the NBCOT you will optimize your brains endurance for that time. When taking your practice exams, you will need to build up your brains endurance.
170 multi-choice questions and three simulations totaling 4-hours is an extended period of continuous thinking.
This boils down to 50 seconds each multi-choice question and 15 minutes per simulation, allowing for a 15-minute break some place in there.
Tip # 6: Find a quality location to study
Many people think that sitting in the middle of a noisy coffee shop while sipping on a chai latte is the best way to study. However, we learned throughout occupational therapy school that there are various components of cognition.
Distractions are everywhere in a noise filled location like this.
Try to optimize your hours dedicated to studying. The best places are quiet and have even lighting, with comfortable seating, and have a minimal visual stimulus.
I chose a local library, but not the one closest to my house. I made this decision for one simple for the reason; the library closer to my house didn’t have dedicated study rooms.
A lot of local libraries are the perfect location to study; they might have study rooms, quiet rooms, even rooms to reserve for a certain amount of time.
If you found an excellent location for you study but it’s a little too noisy, noise canceling or isolating headphones work very well. Another consideration is earplugs or ear protecting earmuffs to reduce the amount of extraneous noise.
Now these tips are no fool proof method to increase your NBCOT score, but they will certainly help you with developing a successful plan for the future.