When I started vet school, I initially tried to keep track of how many exams we took in each course. I wanted to be able to count by the end of vet school how many exams we took in total in order to graduate. After that first semester of first year, I basically gave up on this goal. There were just SO many tests that there is no way I could ever keep track of all of them. Surviving vet school means being able to pass tests, and a significant part of being able to pass tests is how you prepare for them and your mindset about them! Here are some of the test-taking strategies I have developed over the past few years in order to make it through vet school.
- Always eat breakfast. Our tests normally take place during the first class hour of the day. It’s important to prep that morning by getting up on time, eating a solid breakfast, and getting to class a little early to make sure you don’t get stuck in traffic. Nothing is more distracting than a growling stomach and the thoughts of what kind of snack you can go get after an exam is over. Eat breakfast before your test so you aren’t worrying about these things when you need to be focusing on the test material instead.
- Don’t cram. Tests in vet school often hit back to back, which can make it very tempting to study for the first one and neglect the tests following it until the first one is over. Don’t do this. Don’t put yourself in a position where you studied so much for one exam that you have to just cram in one or two days to take the next one. Doing this will be more stressful on you, and you will be less likely to retain any of that information. Courses in vet school build off one another, so it’s really important that you understand key concepts before moving on.
- Look at the learning objectives. One challenging thing about vet school is the sheer volume of information that is thrown at you. It can be really hard to determine what is and isn’t important material that you need to know. The vast majority of my professors post learning objectives at the beginning of each lecture, and many of their exam questions will stem from these topics. While this might not work for every question, I always try to make sure I understand the learning objectives very well.
- Remember that tests are just a means to an end. You are not in vet school to become excellent at taking tests. You just have to be good enough to keep going. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take studying and actually learning the material very seriously because you ARE going to be responsible for patients before you know it. But, if you aren’t the best test taker, it’s okay. Tests don’t always reflect how much we actually know about a subject, or how we will react and handle real-world challenges, or how effective our communication is with clients and colleagues. If you do poorly on an exam take a breath, keep your chin up, and keep going. Don’t let exam scores destroy your self-esteem. You just have to pass.
Vet school can be really challenging, and one of the most stressful parts for me is the constant pressure to do well on exams and the sheer number of them that we have. It’s really important to foster good test-taking strategies early on so that you can have as little stress as possible about them. Eating breakfast before an exam, not cramming the day before to study, effectively studying the important material, and not letting test scores get you down are just a few things you can do to help yourself out while in vet school.