Part Two : DO’s
Recall that in our previous blog of September 4th, we outlined those practices that can negatively impact your effectiveness. Continuing the discussion, let’s look today at positive strategies you can implement to help pass your credentialing exams.
1) EMPLOY ACTIVE LEARNING TECHNIQUES – To retain information you are trying to learn, it helps to have your mind engaged beyond simply reading or listening. Simply reading material over and over is a very passive approach to learning, which is usually tedious and painful. This is especially true when the study time comes after a full day’s work. So how can you make the studying approach more active? I always suggest that my students read with a pencil in hand. I have always believed that a part of my brain resides in the pencil. As you read, try solving problems, draw pictures, take notes, and create diagrams. Additionally, reading aloud helps as you employ auditory senses as well as your visual senses. Perhaps most importantly, take your book and sit near an ultrasound machine and try things out as you read. This will allow you to directly relate the concepts to what you do clinically on a daily basis. Beyond that, you need to find circumstances that allow you to participate in other learning opportunities. For example, if you have clinical areas of weakness and you are offered time to shadow a sonographer in the clinical environment, take it. If your professor offers Office Hours, this represents a better study scenario than simply laying on the couch with your laptop or tablet.
In our design for eCourse education modules, we employ “check points” to maintain some level of engagement, understanding that you can easily slide into passive learning if left to your own devices.
2) ITERATIVE LEARNING – OK … so this expression may be more familiar to computer programmers than to most people, but it is critical. Iterative learning means reviewing material over and over, with each pass resulting in a deeper understanding. For most people, the only way to truly learn new and often difficult concepts is to review the content iteratively. There is a reason that runners become better by training every day, as well as why you are a better sonographer after months of experience than days of experience.
On July 20th, 1969, nearly every American was immensely proud when Apollo 11 landed at the Sea of Tranquility. Of course, as are many of you, I am way too young to remember the event through personal recollection. However, I think about how people celebrate the success and somehow neglect to realize that there were six unmanned flights and four manned flights that laid the foundation for Apollo 11’s success. That should give you some appreciation for an iterative process. “Mini-failures” and “mini-victories” are the building blocks essential to iterative learning … and you should not be scared or discouraged by those “mini-failures” while studying, because they are part of the necessary process to truly learn the material and then pass your test.
3) QUANTIFYING YOUR WEAKNESSES – It is very hard for most of us to admit, but everyone carries predisposed strengths and weaknesses in their educational, personal, and professional lives. That does not mean we are doomed by these weaknesses, only that we need to develop self-awareness in order to make adjustments and improvements. In other words, “you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. “
For most people, taking exams is stressful. It is during these times that many people (very unfortunately) discover their weaknesses. Of course, it is much more helpful if you can expose and then set to fixing those issues before the actual test. You should consider:
Do I rush through question stems, eager to begin sorting and eliminating the distractors?
Does the sight of anything remotely mathematical make me revoltingly queasy? Logarithms? Geometry and spatial sense? Direct and inverse relationships?
Do I over-think questions and change my responses frequently?
Do I hear unsettling voices having arguments in my head (usually making use of very impolite language)
These queries and many others can help you target the types of questions with which you will most likely struggle … giving you the opportunity to put into place strategic defenses. You should certainly look for any pre-test assessment tools that quantify the categories of questions you answer incorrectly. A good exam simulation tool should do that.
Ultimately, if you put in the work and avoid the supposed shortcuts, you can learn and you can pass with a lot less stress.