AS SUMMER APPROACHES and the school year is coming to an end, you can feel the excitement in the air!
The weather is warming and eager students are making plans for the summer.
For many, graduation is an exciting time of change and looking forward to endless opportunities.
Maybe you will take a year and travel?
Maybe you’ll teach abroad?
Maybe you’ll start working right away?
Maybe you are planning for your upcoming wedding?
With so many options available there are a handful of graduates who have one more obstacle to leap over before the celebrations (and real life) can really begin.
For my fellow 4th year Naturopathic medical students, congratulations and let’s get planning.
May is not a month for stressing out… not yet. May is for giving yourself permission to recharge, celebrate, relax and to start that website you’ve been putting off. So go travel, hang out at the cottage, go to the parties and soak up the sun.
My personal experience of NPLEX-2 was awesome. I went in feeling positive and I came out feeling confident. That’s not to say that there weren’t times of frustration, stress and worry, but I made it my mission to focus on studying while maintaining a healthy daily balance in my life.
I hope all students have a similar experience that I did.
So if you are worried, anxious or wondering how on earth you are going to manage a balanced summer while studying for NPLEX-2, I may be able to give you a tip or two and a helping hand while studying.
Here are my 18 best tips for rocking NPLEX-2:
1. Make a plan of action, be flexible, but stick to it for the most part.
Every hour you should be able to read 4 pages of HM or 5-6 modality remedies
- 3 Months before exam (ie. May) – relax for the first half but then get organized with your notes, a study group to stay accountable and figure out exactly what material you are going to complete by each week/ day.
- If you have lots of holidays, weddings and events planned for the summer (like I did), you may want to start studying in May.
- 2 Months before exam (ie. June) – Study consistently and finish 1 round of your main study resource (ie. Healing Mountain) and practical group work.
- 1 Month before exam (ie. July) – Finish up your cheat sheets/ chart notes and start doing practice exams.
- Take your time doing a few practice exams and read the answers thoroughly as it’s a great learning tool.
- Month of exam (ie. August) – Practice exams and reviewing charts.
2. Have a daily routine that mimics the exam.
- 8 am – breakfast (eggs, protein shake, healthy fats and supplements)
- 9-9:55 am – flash card review from previous study day
- 10-10:55 am – subject study
- 11-11:55 am – subject change and study
- 12-12:30 pm – “Get off your butt and move” time
- 12:30-1 pm – lunch
- 1-1:55pm – subject study
- 2-2:55 pm – subject change and study
- 3-3:55 pm – diagnosis condition review
- 4-4:55 pm – diagnosis condition change and review
- 5pm – done for the day (or catch up on topics missed)
3. Prioritize your notes
Use the NPLEX Study Guide by NABNE as your foundation to focus your studying.
Have one main set of resources:
Seminars and additional study guides:
Check in with yourself and see if you work best with live seminars, charts, flashcards or more practice exams. Don’t get overwhelmed with too much stuff. Just pick the strategies that have worked for you in the past and be confident in them.
- PassNPLEX Course by Dr. Chris Habib, ND
- USMLE Practice Exams
- Healing Mountain Flash Cards
- Board Vital Question Bank
- Toronto Notes
- The NPLEX-2 Study Resource by Dr. Alison Chen, ND and colleagues – Sign-up for the NDDC newsletter at the end of this article to get your free copy today!
I was fortunate to get many charts from colleagues of mine and so I modified them and added pertinent information to them for others to use. I study best with charts and lists. I find it easier to compare, contrast and see similarities as well as memorize specific details.
Herbs to Avoid During Pregnancy
A (Aloe, Aconitum, Arctostaphylos, Aspidosperma, Atropa)
B (Baptisia, Berberis spp, Bryonia)
C (Chelidonium majus, Convallaria)
D (Datura, Digitalis)
E (Ephedra, Eucalyptus)
G (Gelsenium, Glycyrrhiza)
H (Hydrastis, Hyoscyamus)
I (Iris versicolor)
J (Juglan nigra, Juniperus)
L (Lara, Lithospermum, Lobelia, Lycopus)
P (Pausinystalia, Phytolacca, Piscida, Podophyllum, Pulsatilla)
R (Rauvolfia, Rhamnus, Ricinus, Rosmarinus)
S (Sanguinaria, Seleniceres, Senna)
T (Tanecetum vulgaris, Thuja)
V (Veratrum, Viscum album)
4. Exercise weekly.
Get moving each and every week (ideally every day!) and stimulate blood flow as well as interrupt your day so that you can be most productive with your time.
5. Eat nutritious and mentally supportive foods.
You of all people know how much your mind and mood is affected by what you eat. So do yourself a favor and stick to a 90% clean diet while studying.
6. Take your supplements.
Go to see your Naturopathic Doctor and start your supplement protocol. While I was studying, this is what my regiment was:
- MediHerb Bacopa: 2 cap bid
- Restorative Adrenal PX syrup: 1 tsp bid
- HMF Intensive: 1 cap qd
- Phosphatidyl Choline: at night
- Orthomind: 2cap tid
- Kali Phos 6x: 3cap bid (instead of caffeine)
- Phosphatidyl Serine: 1cap bid
Continue your protocol up until the very last day of exam period.
7. Weekly group discussions and practical prep.
My awesome group got together each and every Friday afternoon. Not only was this a great time to ask study questions but it was a social event that allowed you to get invigorated to continue studying.
In July this was a perfect time to practice for manip, acupuncture and other practical examinations.
8. Take a day off a week to do something not related to studying.
I decided to train for my first mini-triathlon while studying for NPLEX. And while this was a major event for me, it forced me to take an afternoon to swim, bike, run and be outdoors.
I was also on the CCNM Dragon Boat team, which was a great reason to head to the water and meet up with other students who were not studying for NPLEX.
9. Practice your meditation and mindfulness.
This will be so beneficial when the nerves start kicking in before, during and after the exam. This is a marathon of an exam so take the time to show yourself some love.
10. Do your practice exams mimicking the real deal.
Not only do you want to schedule your days to be similar to the examination, but it’s good to do 3 straight days of written examinations to get an idea of how exhausting it may be.
Turn off your phone, internet and distractions while you do your practice exams. Treat this like the real deal.
11. Avoid the cramming and use of stimulants.
It’s tempting to take study aids or go crazy cramming as much info into your brain as possible, but resist. There will always be more to learn and study, but remember you are playing the long-term memory game… not the short game.
Trust in your plan and keep confident that you know enough. I guarantee you that you will continue to learn and learn more than you ever thought once you’re out into the real world.
12. Sleep 7-8 hours a day!
This is a grueling marathon. Make sure to keep your body and mind in tip top shape!
13. Take the day before the exam off!
I took half of the day before the NPLEX-2 exams started and went to the Toronto Islands to give my brain and nerves a break. DO IT! Even if you want to look over just one more chart.
14. Don’t rely on the days within the exam to study.
done enough. If you need a little confidence boost, make single page cheat sheets just to skim over, but don’t go flipping through all your study material between exams.
This will not only stress you out, but it will waste valuable energy that you need for the 5 long days of examinations.
15. Don’t talk to other people before, during or after the exam about exam material.
Find a quiet corner to eat or meditate. If you have a tight group that you’ve been studying with, make a pack to not chat about specific questions from the exam.
Save your energy and if you must, review a couple cheat sheets
16. Pre-make and pack a healthy lunch and drinks
Such as a garden salad with salmon, water or green tea, and keep taking your supplements!
Pre-make enough food for the 5-day marathon.
17. Keep a timer or watch in plain site.
Make sure you keep on track by knowing how many questions per hour you should be aiming for. If you are 20 questions off after the first hour you at least have another 2 to catch up. The worst feeling is being half way through the exam and having the invigilators announcing 30 minutes left to the exam.
18. Stay positive. No matter what.
If you have no idea about the answer to a question, don’t stress. Make a best guess and move on. Leave that question behind you and move on to the rest.
I remember when there was 15 minutes left of one of the multiple choice exams and I started panicking because I still had 3 pages of questions to go. In that moment I couldn’t read the question, my eyes were so blurry. So I skipped that question and went on, but still I couldn’t comprehend the questions.
So I paused. Took 5 seconds to breath, re-focus and regain composure. This is where the meditation practice really helped.
I went back to the previous question and took my time reading it carefully and was able to answer the question correctly as well as finish the exam without any trouble.
Staying positive not only helps you during the exam, but especially after the exam. You will have several weeks of worrying, analyzing which questions you got wrong and anxiously awaiting the results. Breath and remind yourself that you’ve done the best you can.
GET YOUR OWN NPLEX STUDY GUIDE TODAY.
Whether you are doing early planning or last minute prep, feel free to use my NPLEX-2 charts to help you study and pass the marathon of an exam! In this document you’ll receive:
- 8 and 13 week study schedules and daily study break down
- Diagnosis charts of organ system pathologies listed by NABNE (these may need to be updated)
- Modality charts:
- pertinent pharmaceuticals
- orthopedic testing
- acupuncture diagnoses and point information