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How to Study for a Test: 10 Steps To Ace Your Next Chiropractic Board Exam

We promise the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners aren’t out to get you. 😉 As unpleasant as taking a big chiropractic licensing exam can often be, it actually does more than just show the NBCE you can take a test: it can show yourself you’re equipped for taking care of real people with real cases. 🧠

Studies have shown that students who are tested regularly actually learn more content and retain it longer than students who have not been tested. Frequent testing has even been shown to help decrease test anxiety. Great news for anyone who takes practice chiro board exams, right?!

Not sure how to study for a test? Follow these study tips ⬇️ to help you get your best score on NBCE Part I, II, III, IV even Physiotherapy!

1. Get informed

Don’t walk into your test unprepared 🚫 for what you will face. Before you start studying, utilize courses and notes that are catered towards helping you do focused review:

Will there be multiple-choice questions or short answers or case history/vignettes? Will you have an hands-on, practical that will require you to demonstrate your ability to use different tools like a stethoscope 🩺  or reflex hammer? The goals and layout of the test will determine how you tackle learning the material.

2. Think like the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners

Your class notes, review course packets, practice questions and everything in between are all indicators of what the NBCE thinks is important about the information and what might appear on the test. Your chiropractic college’s curriculum is designed to follow the state requirements for chiropractic student learning objective (SLOs) AND prepare you for the standardized testing we are all required to pass to get our licenses to be doctors of chiropractic.

3. Make your own study aids

When it comes to learning, practice tests work BETTER than simply highlighting or re-reading your notes. You can also test yourself by turning your notes into flashcards or use a flashcard app (Quizlet is great for this!). You can also ask your fellow chiropractic students to quiz you or write your own practice test - this is especially helpful for the NBCE Part IV stations.

4. Practice for the inevitable

For x-ray analysis 🩻, use sites like and go over all the major conditions of the body that may be asked. For practical tests like Part IV, actually time yourself with the allotted time limits so you can simulate being under a time pressured situation and know you can do that chiropractic adjustment set up, or demonstrate the orthopedic or neurological exam on the mock patient. And of course, doing plenty of practice problems similar to ones that you KNOW will appear. Make a list of questions that you think might show up on the test (and then make sure you can answer them!). If you don’t want to take the time to do that, we did it for you by compiling thousands and thousands of practice NBCE board questions and created full-length, timed practice board exams.

5. Study every day

If you have a test in a month or two, studying a little each day will help you identify tough concepts or weak areas in your knowledge in advance. The research is clear 📑, WHEN you study and HOW you study both matter, especially for high stakes tests like a chiropractic licensing exam. “Spaced studying” or “distributed practice” is one of the most highly effective ways to study and review for a test. This means less cramming more more frequent touches and study sessions. This is why our review course videos are bite-sized so that it can be easily digested and spaced out. This is also why we include a study planning tool 🗓️ so you can plan your “spaced” study schedule out. You can even choose if you want to take weekends off or study 7 days a week! 🤯

6. Cut out the distractions

Distractions make it difficult to pay attention to what you’re doing, which in turn makes it harder to commit facts to memory. Give yourself a leg up by turning off the notifications on your phone, temporarily blocking your favorite websites, or sticking to instrumental music while you study (so you’re not tempted to sing along! 🎤). Taking a break every 45 minutes or so will also help you stay focused. Go check out our blog post on Tips for an Optimal Study Environment at Home.

7. Divide big concepts from smaller details

If you're studying a big topic like juvenile bone pathologies 🦴 —try breaking the material you need to study into chunks (e.g. by age, by region, by cause, etc.). Study one smaller area or section—and then quiz yourself. Ask yourself questions about what you’ve just studied, what you think may show up in your future chiropractic practice, and even write ✍️ your answers down. That muscle memory of writing things down helps a ton.

8. Don’t neglect the “easy” stuff

Even if you’ve been acing a certain subject like spinal anatomy or general anatomy or concept all year and think that section will be a breeze, you should still give it a review before the big day. In fact, did you know spinal anatomy is one of the lowest scoring sections for Part I boards, which you would think we had down pat because that’s usually what people think is a chiropractor’s bread and butter. 🧈 You don’t want to lose points for careless errors or neglecting the “easy” topics.

9. Don’t skip out on class

Missing classes automatically puts you at a disadvantage because this is really where chiro students get familiar with topics, get into the nitty gritty details of things like microbio organisms 🦠 and their modes of transmissions. While the NBCE may not test on the nitty gritty, attending class helps develop your understanding of topics, which means better memory and retention.

10. Review the day of the test, but don’t over do it

Before you take the test, give yourself time for a quick review to keep things fresh in your mind. Nothing too intense but just cruising through your notes and simply reading things here and there or utilizing the the flashcards you made without putting too much pressure on doing 5 hours the morning of your review can put you in the right headspace 🤓 before the test. And if you’re the type of chiro student that needs to just chill and meditate 🧘‍♂️ the morning of your exam, do that instead.


Still stuck on how to study for your chiro board exam?

Check out all of Chiro Aligned Learning’s products, follow us on Instagram for what to expect during your exams or reach out to us with questions via email at [email protected]!

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