Whether you’re still in RT school and just beginning to think about your credentialing exams or have now graduated and need to take them ASAP, your head is probably swimming with ideas about the best way to study.
Respiratory care educators have spent their careers ensuring students have the knowledge they need to succeed on these exams, and they have some great advice on preparing for them too.
Five of them — Emily Zyla, MS, RRT; Meg Trumpp, MEd, RRT, FAARC; Bruce Feistner, MSS, RRT; R. Curtis Aumiller, MS, MBA, RRT, RRT-NPS, RPFT; and Robert Joyner, PhD, RRT, RRT-ACCS, FAARC — offer their words of wisdom here:
Preparation starts now
- Be invested and aggressive about your own education. The only person that can learn the material for you is you. Study it more, and do it again. — Robert Joyner
- Repetition of the material is vital to a student’s success. Using the skills and knowledge you learn in the program is not a ‘learn and dump,’ it is a ‘learn and remember.’ — R. Curtis Aumiller
- Don’t forget the basics. The individual facts are needed to put things together and arrive at critical thinking decisions. For example, the tendency when learning ventilators and more advanced critical care aspects is to assume that the basic facts that were learned earlier are still there. But they must be reviewed to keep them in the forefront of decision-making. — Bruce Feistner
- What you see in clinical is not necessarily the way it should be done on the NBRC examinations. Keeping those two worlds separated can be a challenge, but is vital to not making mistakes on the boards. — R. Curtis Aumiller
- Take the exam as soon as you can after graduation. Don’t wait, because the longer you go out from graduation the more ‘book learning’ you lose. — Emily Zyla
Know your strengths and weaknesses
- Be honest with yourself about what you understand and what you don’t. Study the stuff that you don’t. Never give up on yourself. Work hard to figure out what you don’t know. — Robert Joyner
- Make time to study, every day if possible. Read over the review books and take their quizzes. Use practice exams that provide feedback on content area strengths and weaknesses. Study what you don’t know. — Meg Trumpp
- Have peers ask you questions about things that you think you know. Attempt to teach the material like your professors. If you are shy or unsure of yourself, then you don’t know the material well enough. — Robert Joyner
Practice makes perfect
- Take practice exams and feel comfortable with the format and the timing. You are allowed about 70 seconds per question for the TMC exam. Don’t spend too long on one or two questions and not finish the exam. — Emily Zyla
- Access as many TMC-type exams and clinical simulations to practice as possible. Analyzing the results and going through what was chosen, why it was chosen, the rationale, and the accuracy all count. — Bruce Feistner
- Understand the exam. Realize there may be distractors in questions — for example, know there may be two correct answers but one is MORE correct and why. In order for the NBRC to say that you are competent, they need to rattle you a little to see if you really know your stuff or are you just a good test taker. — R. Curtis Aumiller
- When using practice exams, take time to assess why an option is correct, correct and the best answer, or not correct. You should be able to explain your process of eliminating (usually three) options and arriving at the (usually one) correct and best answer. Avoid memorizing questions and answers. — Meg Trumpp
Ace the end run
- Study hard working up to the exam and then take the day off before it, get a good night’s sleep, and go to the exam fresh. If you test best in the morning, schedule your exam in the morning, if you test best in the afternoon, then schedule your exam in the afternoon. — Emily Zyla
- Plan to enter the exam room ready for success. Get plenty of rest and be well nourished. Arrive on time and without distractions. Be confident in your knowledge and cognitive skills. — Meg Trumpp
- Believe in yourself! If you have done as many exam preps as possible and are familiar with the type of questions and the mechanics of testing, navigating the questions and routes will become almost second-nature, and calm confidence will certainly help. — Bruce Feistner
Looking for a comprehensive prep course for the exams? The AARC’s Exam Prep Program has everything you need to get ready for success!
Meg Trumpp is the program director at Newman University in Wichita, KS; Bruce Feistner is the program director at Dakota State University in Sioux Falls, SD; R. Curtis Aumiller is the program director at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, PA; Robert Joyner is the program director at Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD; and Emily Zyla is an assistant professor and director of clinical education at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI.