By Dr. Dean Cyril Y. Catot

Never think that passing the medical board exam is not possible to you. The fact that you have graduated from medical school and qualified to take the exam is enough assurance to yourself that you have the chance to pass it. And your chance depends on your preparation which increases if you are well prepared for it. The best preparation is unfortunately during your medical years in school where you made a foundation for yourself to become a doctor. Observation shows that majority of those who failed the exam were struggling in their studies. But whatever you’re standing in your class, don’t worry about it especially if you belong to the bottom of your class because you can’t do anything about it. What you can do now is to believe in yourself that you can pass the exam. Make and do your master review study plan based on your intelligence, weaknesses, limitations and the type of questions to be asked in the exam. Always remember that you can get whatever you want in life as long as it is good and you work hard and pray for it. You get what you deserve in life.

First of all, you have to set your goal which dictates the kind of effort you need to achieve it. Therefore, make your goal higher than just passing the exam and it is not bad to dream of topping it. If your goal is just to pass the exam which you need only a grade of 75%, there is a tendency that you prepare only 75% for the exam. Good if your 75% preparation will give you a passing grade of 75% which you do not have assurance. But don’t be disappointed if you don’t achieve your goal to top the exam with all your preparations. Whether you top the exam or just pass it will give you the same licence as physician. But it is better to aim high but fail to achieve it than to aim low and able to achieve it. Of course, it’s a different, nice story if you top the exam. Once you have set your goal, find as many reasons as you can why you must pass and never to fail the exam. Even try to visualize yourself the kind of life you will have depending on the result of the exam. Your future depends on the exam. You can’t practice the profession if you fail it. Your time, money and effort to finish your medical studies are useless and wasted if you fail it. It is a shame if you fail it. Your family will surely be frustrated if you fail it. Your boyfriend or girlfriend will break you up if you fail it. Your school will curse you if you fail it. But if you pass the exam, everybody will be proud of you and your name will be printed in the national newspaper. That is why you must pass and never fail the exam because the reward is great- honour, prestige, privilege of being a doctor. If it is necessary to study 24 hours a day without sleep and meals just to pass the exam, then do it because it is really worth your sacrifice. You can do whatever you want after you pass the exam. But right now, what you must do is to study very hard because that is the only way to pass the exam and I’m sure you know it. The problem is that we don’t usually do what we know to achieve our goal in life. We want something but we don’t want to work for it. But your many reasons to pass the exam will surely energize yourself to accept this very important challenge in your life which will give you the determination, discipline, perseverance, positive attitude and faith in God during your preparation for the exam. The board exam is the most important exam in your life and therefore, you must pass it by all means. Once you have committed yourself to acquire these qualities, the next step is to plan your review study.

Before you start your review, you have first to make a schedule for all your subjects with more time allotted for the difficult ones which you must have to follow strictly. Do not extend your time to a particular subject if you have not finished it .Proceed to the next subject as scheduled or else you will ruin your schedule and you can’t cover all your subjects. Remember that every subject is important whether it is a major or minor one. You can’t pass the exam if you have a very low score in one subject even if you have a passing average grade. Just realize that you don’t have enough time to study everything. But even if you have enough time to study everything, after you finish your study, you will forget almost half of it. And by the time you will take the exam which will be a few months thereafter, it is possible that you will forget everything. So what will you do? Don’t pray for photographic and retentive memory. That is unfair to other examinees. What you can do is to make notes while you study. Studying is the best sleeping stimulus for students. You feel sleepy after you finish studying one page especially if you hate the topic. But making notes will help you keep awake. But take down only important points that you are likely to forget. Do not include important points that you can remember even without thinking them. Your notes are actually a summary of important points of the topic that you study. Your books contain many pages which require hours of your time to finish reading them. But your notes contain only a few pages which you need only minutes to read them and this means more time to read them many times until you can master or memorize them. Retention is achieved by repetition. Besides, you can carry easily your notes and read them anywhere and anytime you want which you can’t do if you only highlighted your heavy books. What are written in the pages of your books are mostly explanations to the important points that make them thicker and heavier. To review is actually to scan the important points and to skip the explanations which you had already taken up in details during your class. What will surely come out in the board exams are the important points that you must know for you to be worthy to be called as physician. It is impossible to cover everything in your review what you had studied in three years in medical school. Be realistic and wise! Also study the previous board exam questions because these will guide you how and what to study. The board exam is a multiple choice type of exam where you choose the best answer. So when you review, anticipate the questions and focus on the important points that will give you the best answer. Besides, many previous board exam questions will come out again not necessarily in exact words. The examiner must be really crazy if he can formulate a new question entirely different from the hundreds of questions given in all the past board exams.

During the exam, you have to remember that it is time pressured and many intelligent examinees failed because they were not able to finish the exam. You may complain that you don’t have enough time with some long questions consuming your time. But that is part of the exam and you can’t do anything about it. You have to finish the exam for you to have higher chance of passing it. Don’t waste your time on difficult questions because you will miss to answer the easy ones. One advice is to answer first the easy questions and leave in a blank the difficult ones where you can go back later if you still have time. But be sure that you write your answer to the specific number corresponding to the questions and not to the number that you leave it blank temporarily. Or else, your life will be disastrous. Passing the exam is not only knowing the correct answers but more importantly, it is finishing the exam. You may know all the answers but if you don’t finish the exam, you still fail. So how do you deal with long and difficult questions? For long questions containing paragraphs, you don’t really need to read them all but only to see the key words. And to save time, you have first to read the choices so that you don’t need to finish reading the whole questions once you know the answer. For difficult questions, you don’t have the choice but to answer them and it is where you have to develop this ability to guess the right answer. If you are able to explain your answer, there is a higher probability that it is correct. Some will just feel the correct answer based on vibration. But a wild guess is statistically wrong or else you don’t need to study anymore but just to make guess to pass the exam. The exam is just a matter of choice and passing it is just choosing the correct answer. And you can increase the probability of choosing the correct answer through the process of elimination. Negative and absolute statements containing words such as not, never, all, and always are usually wrong. Anyway, don’t worry and don’t force yourself if you really don’t know the answers to the difficult questions. Just pray for your answers. You are allowed to commit mistakes as long as they are not enough to fail you. You only worry if most examinees find the questions easy for them. Remember that the passing grade is based on the highest score. It’s okay if you get lower score as long as you still belong to the upper 40% of the examinees because before you get failed, the 60% below you must first be failed and you are not alone.

Lastly, you may wonder that there were examinees who were expected to pass but failed and there were those who were expected to fail but passed the exam. Your preparation does not guarantee you to pass the exam but it only gives you higher probability to pass it. No matter how prepared you are for the exam, there are still many questions that you don’t know the answers which may come out in the exam. What you all know may not come out in the exam and you are very unlucky. Besides, there are many factors which are beyond your control including your weaknesses and limitations. You don’t have control of your emotions during the exam which may cause you mental block. You can’t do anything to prevent you from getting sick during the exam due to stress. But God has the control of everything and all you have to do is to trust, believe and have faith in Him. Everything is possible with God and He will grant your prayer as long as what you pray is good and you work hard for it. Achieving any goals in your life is like riding a boat which you need two paddles for it to move to the destination you want, namely; WORK and PRAYER. GOD BLESS AND CONGRATULATIONS IN ADVANCE. MAKE US PROUD OF YOU. THAT’S THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN PAY US BACK.


  1. Thanks a lot for your very helpful tips on how to prepare for the medical boards. I am about to take the exams this february 2016. I skipped the august exams as i felt unprepared and realized that i needed more time to study. I am currently doing a self-study on the most difficult subjects, to be followed by the relatively easier ones. Do you think it is better for me to enrol in a review center or just continue in my self-study for the next four months?

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