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November 29, 2010

Preparing For The National Physical Therapy Examination

At this stage in my education, I'm studying for the National Physical Therapy Examination. I remember a similar feeling while I was studying for the National Certification Exam for Massage Therapy and Bodywork. Despite what feels like an extensive education, I'm having trouble remembering everything. I don't know how I managed to pass all those exams, when, during clinical education, I was asked questions I couldn't remember the answer to. This usually engendered a response of, "I can't recall right now, but I'll look that up tonight and get back to you." These lessons in the context of clinical practice, actually encouraged me to learn the material, rather than simply memorize it and regurgitate it on a test.

So, now I'm at the next stage. The preparatory class I took back in May gave good advice about how to test ourselves, what kinds of questions we tended to get stuck on, and where to focus our study efforts in order to pass the National Exam. They suggest 2-3 hours of studying a night for 6 to 8 weeks in order to adequately prepare for the exam. Honestly, I'm so tired of studying that this is totally unappealing. So, while I'm supposed to be resting a bit and preparing for graduation, instead, I'm worrying. I hate tests.

So, I've gone on a mission to help myself a little everyday by creating tricks inside my head to help me remember words that I see and recognize, but can't quite remember exactly what they are.

For example, during clinic one day, a doctor came in to examine a patient who had a stroke. He was performing a neurological exam, holding the patient's hand and flicking a finger. This is testing for excessive reflex excitability and is positive when other fingers on the same hand flex in reaction. It's called Hoffman's sign. Of course, what pops out of my mouth, but Homan's sign, a test for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots in the leg. I remember the difference between these two words because "Hoffman's has to Fs for the fingers."

Similarly, in patients with stroke, there are two areas in the brain on the left side that are responsible for speech: Broca's and Weirneke's. One is for processing and understanding spoken language, the other for creating speech. Sadly, I get these areas confused, not only for their location, but also for their function. So I created a trick in my head to straighten things out. First they occur in alphabetical order front to back in the brain. Second, Broca's is for creating speech (Blah, blah, blah), and Weirneke's is for speech comprehension (What?). And so now I have it.

It's best when studying to create your own simple cues to help you remember. For example, there's a mnemonic for remembering the cranial nerves: On Old Olympic Towering Tops A Finn And German Viewed Some Hops. For one thing, this has no useful context in my life (unless I had studied classic mythology while drinking -- now that I can remember! hahaha) and it is yet another thing to memorize! So I just learned cranial nerves, flat out, precluding the need for the other mnemonic involving whether they had a sensory function, motor function, or both. However, I still get cranial nerves IX and XII confused.

Posted by linda at November 29, 2010 8:47 AM

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