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Evidence-based PCE Study Tips

It’s likely no surprise that not all study techniques are created equally. In previous blogs, I covered PCE mock exam questions, and common exam errors. However, I have yet to touch on actual evidence-based PCE study tips that are more about study techniques and tactics for retention than the PCE exam itself. It’s important to understand that time put into studying does not readily equate to retention. Plus we are all busy, so why wouldn’t you want to use PCE study techniques that are proven to be most efficient? We are such proprietors of evidence-based practice that we’ve organized the EPE study schedules for the PCE written and practical exams to incorporate all of these study recommendations.

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6 PCE exam study tips for efficiency and effectiveness: 

1. Take breaks. Research has shown that your brain can only focus on one task optimally for 45 to 60 minutes. That’s why it’s recommended that you study no longer than 1 hour and 15 minutes before you take a 15-minute break. Because of this, we have organized the PCE study schedules into blocks. Each block should take you no longer than a 1 hour and 15 minutes, at which point we suggest taking a break to let your mind rest. Some of our favourite break activities include taking a walk, chatting with a friend, making a snack, playing with our dogs, even colouring. 

2. Vary your study location. This is another well-researched technique to improve retention. We recommend switching rooms or locations every study block. There are some extra benefits to your mental state if you spend some time studying outdoors.

3. Write it down. Research suggests we store information more securely when we rewrite it in our own words. This is not the same as highlighting, but more on this later. Taking notes is an important part of understanding and retention. If you prefer to be green, you will want to do this digitally rather than on paper, so we have enabled this as a feature in EPE. Use the little note icon at the bottom of your screen to take notes on any page. Your notes will be readily available on your Dashboard anytime by clicking the My Account button.

4. Practice stress relief. Preparing for the PCE was one of the most stressful times I can remember. Unsurprisingly, stress hinders learning. Research has shown even a few hours of stress can trigger a surge of corticotropin-releasing hormones that disrupt the process of creating and storing memories. For that reason, we recommend that you try practicing stress relief (hint: this is why our favourite study break activities do not involve negative social media time or high stress gaming). Try a brisk walk, a short exercise routine, deep breathing, meditation, sketching, colouring, or any other favourite activities that will help control your stress levels. Once again, stay off social media. 

5. Don’t highlight textbooks.  I wish someone would have told me this when I was in physiotherapy school. Research has shown highlighting as a study practice is ineffective for the same reasons it is so popular – it requires no training, no additional time, and no analytical thought. This is why we chose to exclude highlighting as an option for the EPE programming. DO NOT HIGHLIGHT. It is literally the biggest waste of your study time.

6. Stop aimlessly reading. Research has suggested textbooks lead students to believe they know more material than they actually do because the content is sitting out in front of them. To improve understanding and retention, you have to actively engage with the material.  This involves reciting, explaining an activity, and using the information. We encourage you to do this with your PCE exam prep. In EPE, we have started the process for you by creating multiple venues for practice questions and exams. As well, we have set aside time for you to engage with the material in your study schedules. You will find a block allocated to this every Saturday in your study schedule. 

Wondering what to do to interact with the PCE exam content? Teach the concept to a family member, write 3 exam questions for a classmate, or invent a patient scenario that incorporates the concept.

The research to support these retention strategies are overwhelming. The challenge now will be to break your old habits to form new more efficient ones. Are you up to the challenge? 

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