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Test-Taking Evaluation: How do I approach problem-solving?

γνῶθι σεαυτόν

γνῶθι σεαυτόν

In our last blog, we discussed how conducting a periodic personal inventory, whether for your life or career trajectory, is a worthwhile exercise.  Specific to the experience of aspiring ultrasound professionals, much of your angst is focused on credentialing exams.  Career paths are opened or closed based on the outcome, so it naturally looms large in our minds.

The ancient Greeks offered the aphorism “know thyself” and Chinese philosopher Laozi (Lao-tzu) observed that “Mastering yourself is true power.”  This concept has relevance in your approach to successfully scheduling and challenging board exams.

It goes without saying that if you don’t grasp the core material and underlying concepts, you shouldn’t schedule your certification exam(s).  However, in my experience nearly half those who sit for a board certification are prepared in terms of subject knowledge.  The missing piece is quite often either test-taking anxiety or under-developed test-taking skill.

A good exercise in self-awareness involves assessing whether you are “Deliberate” or “Decisive”.  Where you fall on that scale has an impact on which test-taking skills you need to refine.  The distinctions are worth exploring.


fork_decision_imageUsually, people prefer to visualize themselves as decisive.  It is seen as a quality possessed by great leaders, and the most cutting criticism for a military commander is to be labeled indecisive (e.g. Gen. George McClellan).  However, in the medical field being decisive is never as important as being right, so accordingly much of our training is channeled toward making good observations that lead to accurate conclusions.

Test creators often intentionally construct question distractors with either true-but-irrelevant, or partially-true statements to seduce overly impulsive test-takers.  It is these types of traps that must receive special attention for personality types driven by predisposed “certainty”.



Paralysis by Analysis ?

Many of the synonyms associated with “deliberate” have negative connotations.  People today want quick answers (Thanks, Siri…Alexa…Google).  Uncertainty is almost never praised; it is considered a sign of “weakness”.  In our field, however, we ideally want all the information before we draw conclusions.  Yet time is often a consideration, especially in critical or emergency situations.

With this in mind, credentialing exams are time-based, specifically to mimic “real life” circumstances where you can’t pass around test results for two or three days, waiting for a consensus to emerge.  So individuals prone to “paralysis by analysis” have their own unique challenges to overcome in this environment.


My point in raising these considerations is to open a self-examination process for you internally.  We have found that well-designed exam simulations have utilities allowing you to analyze the nature of those questions you answer incorrectly.  Here, it is important to understand what led to the error.  Was it sheer sloppiness?  Math-conceptually based?  Inattentiveness to an inverted question?

Pass_StampThe value in qualifying the source of your errors can raise future awareness to the types of questions you may stumble upon.  As I have stated in lectures, and in previous blogs, the differential between passing and failing often comes down to 5-7 questions answered right or wrong.




Frank Miele, MSEE , President of Pegasus Lectures, Inc.  Frank graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College with a triple major in physics, mathematics, and engineering. While at Dartmouth, he was a Proctor Scholar and received citations for academic excellence in comparative literature, atomic physics and quantum mechanics, and real analysis. Frank was a research and design engineer and project leader, designing ultrasound equipment and electronics for more than ten years at Hewlett Packard Company. As a designer of ultrasound, he has lectured across the country to sonographers, physicians, engineers and students on myriad topics.

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