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Tips For Passing the Athletic Training Certification Exam

Updated on February 20, 2014

The Outline

  1. Congratulations!
  2. In the Beginning
  3. The Note Cards
  4. The Night Before
  5. Sum It Up



Congratulating you already? I know it seems like a strange way to start this article. You haven't passed your test yet and maybe haven't even graduated. Believe it or not the hard part is over. You just spent the past 2-4 years studying all the information you need to know to become a certified athletic trainer. There are many different guides and books out there telling you how and when you should start studying. I only read one study guide and came up with my own way of preparing for the certification exam.

I started studying for my BOC exam in July. I wasn't taking the exam until the next April. As I'm sure most of you are, I was a broke college or grad student. My biggest fear was not passing and not being able to afford to retake the exam. The following is what worked for me; I managed to pass on my first attempt. Hopefully this works for you and you pass on your first attempt too!

A newer edition of either book might be out by now.
A newer edition of either book might be out by now. | Source

In The Beginning

I started studying with flash cards. I took my copy of Starkey's Examination of Orthopedic and Athletic Injuries 3rd Edition and made my flashcards. I read this cover to cover. Depending on the chapter length, my goal was to finish one about every other night. I covered things from the basic palpation to diseases and disorders that were briefly mentioned in a sentence or two.

The second book I used was Arnheim's Principles of Athletic Training. For my own sanity I skipped over the sections dealing with orthopedic injuries and exams. I personally believe Starkey did a better job. I also believe Arnheim did a better job with explaining, general medicine conditions, management skills, and risk management; you know the exciting side of athletic training like paperwork.

In the end, I had a stack of around 400 3x5" note cards with a huge variety of information on them. I carried them with me everywhere. Some of my classmates laughed but I didn't care. I'd be laughing when I passed the exam with confidence and they were losing sleep.

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The Note Cards

I had those note cards with me 24/7. I kept them in two stacks. If I read the definition and got it right I would set it off to the side. If I got the wrong answer I would place the card at the back of the pile. I would try to get through the entire pile at least every other day. By the time I walked into the exam I was able to go through all 400 cards with no problems. The trick was to keep up with it. Every day. Even on the weekends. You'll be surprised how much you can get through in even a half hour.

I attribute my problem solving skills as a clinician to memorizing these cards. I can recall more information and rely less on my books. Of course we all have our moments and need to look something up but as a freshly minted certified athletic trainer, it is a huge confidence booster to not have to look in a book all the time.

Nothing like good friends and good beer to calm your nerves.
Nothing like good friends and good beer to calm your nerves. | Source

The Night Before

The night before the exam I didn't change my routine. There was a group of friends, not athletic trainers, who would go to Quigley's Irish Pub every Monday night around 9pm to shoot the breeze and just hang out.

Many of my athletic training friends and classmates decided to stay home and study as much as they could. They stayed up late reading our textbooks, studying flashcards, and generally just worring.

I still went to out to my usual Monday night pub group. I did change my routine a little. I did only have one beer and left at about 10:30pm rather than my usual 2-3 beer and staying until close. My thought process is twofold.

One, changing your routine throws me for a big loop. I am a creature of habit and changing it too drastically would make me more nervous. I still needed to socialize and even forget about my huge, life-changing exam I was taking that next morning.

Two, if I didn't know the material by then I wasn't going to learn it that night. My thought process was just like when I took the ACT in high school. Why should I try to cram in the information and stress myself out. I either know it or I don't. I might as well just try to get a good night's sleep so I can panic wide awake rather than half asleep.


Sum It Up

In the end, it's all about being confident in yourself. You have studied your butt off to pass this exam and you are more prepared than you realize. Your program is accredited and this means you have the tools at your disposal to pass on the first try.

Do not second guess yourself. Your first instinct is most likely right.

Read the question thoroughly. There might be a key word in there that changes the meaning entirely.

If you do not know the answer, flag it and move on. No sense in wasting a bunch of time on one question when you can answer several more in the same amount of time.

Good luck!

Work Cited

Prentice, W. E., & Arnheim, D. (2009).Principles of athletic training: a competency-based approach (13th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Starkey, C., Brown, S. D., & Ryan, J. L. (2010). Examination of orthopedic and athletic injuries (Ed. 3. ed.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Co.

© 2014 Trainer Joe


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