The comprehensive exam is a two-part test that encompasses all class material through the first two years of PT school. It is the last major hurdle in the quest to obtain the beloved PT diploma. It’s very similar to fighting the giant hand at the end of single player Super Smash Bros. If you have a solid game plan, you’ll be fine. If you don’t, prepare to get smacked into oblivion. Fortunately, we are given a lovely break in between summer and fall that lasts about a month, which is more than enough time to prepare. But you do need to attack that time wisely. I’ve run through ways people have planned out this break for our class and have come up with a few recommended strategies for managing all that time.
The most important aspect for the majority of individuals is a consistent schedule throughout the week. Total hours massed for studying seems to vary a bit, but a safe estimate of time is 5-6 hours per day, 5 days per week. The total time is dependent on how efficiently you feel you study. If you study well, do less, not so well, take a couple extra hours where you need them.
What you study is the important part of the “study” aspect of your schedule. Not every course is weighted the same. The staff has been kind by giving us the breakdown of content for each half of the test. I’m not going to go into detail, but basically Musculoskeletal Management, Neurological Management, and Management Applications of Physiology are your most important classes (by a lot). Divide the total study into where you need the most help, and base importance partly on these percentages (in other words don’t spend an entire day on PT exam). Inside of those hours, try to avoid studying one class per day unless you really can devote the concentration. I suggest 2-3 different courses on an average study day. One caveat from a professor, if you miss a day on your schedule, DO NOT GO BACK. Move on with your schedule. You will most likely not miss any questions from that day if you are diligent with the rest of your time.
So you have the study hours scheduled. Now comes the break schedule. As you learned in Movement Science class, you need breaks, and you need exercise. Most of you won’t have as hard of a time with this as I have recently (running makes me cry more than sweat). Try to take a break when you complete 3-4 hours of studying (and honestly, make it exercise and food). Then go back for a few more hours of studying.
Now you need to decide where to study, which can be anywhere. I’ve studied at the park, home, school, coffee shops, and airplanes. It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you stick to the schedule. One suggestion I will make is try to avoid studying alone. Yes, some of you will disagree with me on this, but most will say that it’s nice to have someone around when you could use a better explanation than YouTube is providing for a concept you get snagged on (or if the video on YouTube is funny and you need affirmation that you have a sense of humor).
With all that said, you need to enjoy your break. Do things that you really want to do. Go to Uganda. Go to that music festival. See how many beer gardens you can attend. Take a day to try to sleep until 4:00 p.m. This is the part of the break where you keep a little bit of your sanity. Not to mention, you don’t have a lot of time after this period. You have made it this far just fine; don’t expect them to throw something at you that you can’t handle. It’s not worth destroying yourself studying without having any fun on the weekends.
Ultimately, most students find that it’s pretty relaxed studying (outside of the occasional panic attack). This is what we’ve worked so hard up until this point for, and we all know SO MUCH. Schedule well. Study efficiently. Play hard. This is just the next check mark to complete before we can call ourselves doctor on graduation day (and then go by our first names for the rest of our career).
Blogger: Tommy Hughes
Hometown: Bartlesville, OK
Undergrad: University of Arkansas
Fun Fact: I’m Seth Rogan’s cousin