Doing well in EMT class and preparing for the NR EMT Exam
Tips from Mark Wintle
I get a lot of questions from students who want help passing the EMT Exam. I think the best advice I can offer is to pay attention in class and do your own workbook. I'm amazed at how many people leave the workbook to the last minute and then copy the answers from someone else. The workbook is the best cheat sheet for passing the test (and being a knowledgeable EMT in the field). Go though the workbook and look up every question in the book. It's not hard, but it is time-consuming. When you're done with the workbook you will be so much better prepared to pass the test.
Here's are my other tips:
- Pay attention in class -- engage in it. It sounds simple, but a lot of people don't bother. If you're serious about doing this, then you should pay attention. Don't chat with your neighbor the whole class. Try thinking up a good question for the instructor. That way you involve yourself.
- Take notes. Even if you're not a note-taking type. Many people attracted to EMS are "action-oriented" people. We may have trouble sitting still or retaining information that's abstract. We tend to like hands-on things. Many people find that writing helps to satisfy a bit of that need to involve the body. I'm not talking about writing down every word. Just writing each topic and some "bullet points" can make a big difference. After a class you may have a page or less of notes, but if they're the main points they may help you retain the info. Just searching for the main points during class can help engage your brain.
- Teach someone else. Try explaining something to someone else in class that seemed confused, or missed something. When you go home tell a friend or relative what you learned in class today. It's quick and easy, and they'll find it entertaining. Teach it to someone on your squad who isn't in class yet for a more rigorous experience. This is an amazing technique. Just telling someone else what your did in class makes you review it in your head. And you'll also realize the things that you weren't able to retain or that didn't make sense to you. This will be frustrating and you'll want to look in the book to figure out what it was. Try it once and you'll be really impressed with your retention. If you like try it on the one section that's been giving you the most trouble.
- Sit in the front row of class. This helps a lot. I can't pay attention when I'm not in the front row. I'm betting that you don't pay attention as well from the middle or back either. How many of the people in the back of the class pass the test? I'm betting not many. The other people who sit in the front are also usually the best students. Socializing with them will help you to think of learning the material in a positive way. They will provide peer pressure to learn it. The people in the back will provide peer pressure to see the whole exercise as "bullshit." Just moving to the front is a simple, easy secret that will boost your score, believe me.
- Do the workbook as you do the course. If you keep up with the workbook, then there will be no panic at the end. Moreover it helps you understand the information. Retaining information works much better when you make it travel into and out of your brain a couple of times. If you pay attention in class (info in) then take some notes (info out), then do the workbook (you will have to review the book to answer the questions, so info in and out), then tell or teach someone else about it, then you will have a number of chances to internalize the info. Remember this is going to help you later on too. Yes, you need to pass the test, but if you get in the field and forget Cushing's Triad, then you will look like an ass to the medic you're working with. The more information that sinks in now, the easier it will be to do the job later on.
- Read the chapter you will be doing in class before the class. Most classes are designed to work this way, but few students do this step. I know it doesn't come naturally. It may even seem like a waste or redundant. But repetition helps you learn. If you read the chapter first then you will already know much of the information the instructor is saying. Your brain will look for things that differ from the book -- and find them. Bingo -- you've found a question to ask the instructor that will help you engage even more. Repetition + variety = good.
- Make up ways to help you memorize things. I'm terrible at memorizing, so I have to use a lot of tricks to help me. One nice thing about the EMS curriculum is that there are "mnemonic devices" for almost everything already. OPQRST, AVPU, SAMPLE, SLUDGE, "My Baby Looks Hot Tonight" "345 keep you alive" "8 is breakfast, 12 is lunch, 5 is dinner" are all great tools. For the other stuff (medical and trauma assessment are the most important things to know *cold*) you have to review it in a variety of ways. I made flash cards and put them in order. During the day, any time I was idle, I'd quiz myself in my head, or on a scrap of paper. I printed it out and put it on the wall next to my bed. I taught it to some "probies" at the squad. I reviewed it with current EMTs, I even made it into a formatted web page just for myself. Some of my classmates made it into a song (very useful for people who can learn lyrics, but not lists). Employ all of these things and you will know this list inside out and rattle it off easily during your test -- which is a huge advantage. These same techniques work for pharmacology, another place where memorization is important.
- Take sample exams. There are a lot of them out there, but they're hard to find. The best one is the one from the NREMT themselves and is call the "EMT-Basic Self-Assessment Examination." It's a small booklet, but it's not that expensive and it's the best question pool of any of them.
Links to sample tests (and other resources) on the web:
Gerenal multiple choice test-taking techiques help a lot. This is the same stuff that works for doing better at the SAT. Here's my list of tips for passing multiple choice exams.
Relaxation makes a big difference. Don't stay up all night cramming. Instead go to sleep at 10pm and get a full night sleep. That will help a lot. Have something light to eat (no greasy food) for breakfast. Cereal is good. Allow enough time to get to the exam, go to the bathroom and be seated 10 minutes before the start time. Breathe evenly and try to concentrate on the positive -- you've completed an EMT class! All that's left is this exam, which will be over soon.
For each question read it carefully and think about it before peeking at the answers. You have lots of time. Once you have an idea in your head, then look at the answers and see if any of them are close to what you thought. Often this will help you catch the fact that you misread something in the question!
The test people had to come up with three bad answers for every good answer. That's hard! So often one answer will be really stupidly wrong. Eliminate that one. Many times they will come up with one that's really close to right, except for one detail. Eliminate that one. Now you have a 50/50 chance on the remaining two!
Read all the choices before choosing your answer. Even if you think the first one is perfect, you may find the fourth one includes something you hadn't considered and is "more correct."
Answer questions in the order they come. If you spend a great deal of time skipping around, you are likely to mistakenly leave some questions unanswered. If you are stuck on a question, put a mark off to the side and come back to it when you have answered the rest of the questions.
Any time there's a double-negative be careful! Some questions say "which if the following are not correct?" So now you have to find the wrong answer and mark it down. This is very hard for our brain to do and it will easily make a mistake. Recheck these carefully.
Take an educated guess and select an answer even if you have no clue which one is right. Leaving a question blank guarantees you get that one wrong. I used this method on questions that involved activated charcoal and body weight, since I didn't realize that would be on the exam.
Hesitate a lot before changing your answer. Statistics show that your first choice is usually the right one, unless you mis-read the question.
In "All of the above" and "None of the above" choices, if you are certain one of the statements is true don't choose "None of the above" or one of the statements are false don't choose "All of the above".
That said, if there is an "All of the above" option and you know that at least two of the choices are correct then "All of the above" is a better choice
A positive choice is more likely to be true than a negative one.
A lot of the questions have to do with the order of steps to be taken. Unless you have memorized patient assessment these will kill you. "In real life" the order of things isn't always critical. On the exam it is.
Read all of the choices. Donít stop reading all of your options simply because you think youíve already found the correct choice. Many people are stressed by the idea of the "most correct answer." Yes, there may be two answers that are both right. But in the test creators' minds one is "more correct" than the other.
Try to think of the exam from the perspective of someone writing an exam. If you're really serious about this, then you may even want to try writing your own exam. Notice how you have to think about how a question will illustrate a topic you're trying to convey (or test?) There's a "point" to every question they're asking and every choice they're offering. Try to guess what "point" they're getting at. Often this will make you understand why they've offered such a subtle distracter answer in the pool.
Once you're finished the test, you'll want to know how you did. You can check at the NREMT web site.
Did you pass? The page where you can check if you passed your national EMT exam.
Yes, you can email me with questions, corrections, other links to sample exams and anything else you want to share. I can't guarantee a prompt, personal reply, but I do read and appreciate all my mail.