Vet student at a table with a cat studying NAVLE exam questions

Is the Way You’re Reading NAVLE Exam Questions Killing Your Scores?

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The STATMed Way to Read NAVLE Exam Questions

If you’ve struggled with — or even failed — the NAVLE, you’re not alone. Bad test-taking is a thing. We’ve seen even super-smart students and veterinarians have trouble with exams. Surprisingly the way you’re reading NAVLE exam questions could be to blame. 

Now, before we dig into the method we recommend, we’ll start by saying this: no two learners are exactly alike. What works for some people might not work for you, and vice versa. 

We believe that many “bad test-takers” are struggling with working memory overload. Some may have underlying issues like ADHD. Others may be falling into various test-taking traps, such as the trap of familiarity or a binary test-taking mentality. To counter all of this, we’ve designed a process for reading test questions that helps reduce the burden on your working memory and keeps the focus on the problem to be solved. This isn’t the only “right” way to work through exam questions, but it works well for many of our students. 

So, how do you know if you’re a bad test-taker or if it’s another issue? If you read the answer explanation and frequently realize you could have gotten the answer correct, you may have issues with test-taking. But, if you read through and don’t experience that “ah-ha” moment, you may not be studying effectively, which is a different situation entirely.

Our Process for Reading NAVLE Exam Questions

Start with the Prompt

We believe the prompt is the most critical sentence in the question, so we always read it first. After reading it, take a moment to fully process all aspects of the problem that needs to be solved. The prompt isn’t usually loaded with clues or the terminology students, and veterinarians are trained to look for. So, we frequently see our students glaze over this vital piece of the puzzle. And then their brains fill in the question they think or assume is being asked — and if you’re answering the wrong question, it’s challenging to give the correct answer. 

Find Three Clues to Solving the Problem in the Passage

Once you have a solid understanding of the question to solve, go back and read the passage or the vignette that explains the situation. Here, we read for the big picture. As you’re reading the passage, be sure to keep the prompt in mind. After you’ve read through the information provided, try to identify three key clues. 

Why three? Noting three clues prevents us from falling into two types of traps: 1) latching onto a single clue and putting undue weight on it, or 2) feeling so overwhelmed that you hold onto nothing substantive. Some people might find that four clues work best for them or that they’re able to process five or six. But if you find yourself feeling lost in or overwhelmed by the passage, this strategy can help. 

Check Each Answer Choice Individually Against the Prompt

Now that the clues you’ve identified have given you a better understanding of the situation, we turn our attention to the answer options. Here, we recommend evaluating each option individually. Each time you read an answer, ask, “Is this a viable answer to the prompt?” Taking each option back to the prompt one at a time turns each question into a series of mini-questions, allowing you to rule out options that aren’t viable. Once you’ve narrowed it down to only viable options, check each remaining option against the prompt. With each of your narrowed-down answers, ask, “Is this the safest answer based on what I know?” 

This one-by-one process keeps all aspects of the prompt front and center in your brain, helping to ensure you answer the question that’s actually being asked. Asking which is the “safest” answer enables you to keep in mind subtle cues like “what is the most appropriate next form of treatment” or “what should you be most concerned about?” Adding the caveat “based on what I know” reminds you that you don’t have to know everything about a topic to identify the right answer. It helps you avoid a binary test-taking mentality, which is basically “Either I know everything about it and will get the answer right, or I don’t know everything I feel I need to so there’s no way I can answer this.” 

And that’s it. We’ve found using this same structure every time helps many of our students stay focused and avoid becoming overwhelmed while working through boards-style tests. 

Check out our STATMed Boards Workshop to learn more.

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