DIDACTIC STUDY PROGRAMS
Educational programs available to potential candidates include didactic course opportunities and special session presentations at meetings of allied organizations. The longest standing didactic course is the annual ACZM Short Course held each spring / summer at either North Carolina State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, School of Veterinary Medicine, or University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine / Sacramento Zoo. This course is offered each year and is designed for candidates preparing for board examinations. The intensive didactic course is 5 days long covering clinical and basic science topics in depth. The course includes mock examinations and sessions on study skills and strategies. It is taught by ACZM diplomates and University faculty. It is supported by tuition charges and is self supporting. An Ultra-Short Courses held in conjunction with conferences of allied organizations (i.e., AAZV, IAAAM, WDA, EAZWV) is also available. This course is designed to provide intensive in-depth review for candidates who are interested in pursuing board examinations. The Ultra Short Course is one day in duration and usually focused on a specific topic area. The course includes basic information about the examination and may include sessions on study skills and strategies. It is taught by ACZM diplomates and other qualified experts. It is supported by tuition and is self supporting. The ACZM also sponsors special sessions on topics in zoological medicine at meetings of allied organizations. This is done primarily in response to invitations from the hosting organization and is usually supported by the hosting organization with contributions by the individual diplomates participating.
CREATING A STUDY PLAN
1. STUDY IS NECESSARY
Although ideally one would like to think that an experienced veterinarian in the field would be able to pass an examination of this nature on the basis of their accumulated knowledge, it doesn't seem to be the rule. There seems to be a direct correlation with the amount of study put in and the performance on the examination. It seems that at this point, a full year of dedicated study seems to be required of most candidates to sit the exam well.
2. YOUR STUDY ROUTINE SHOULD BE DISCIPLINED
It is important to establish set times for study, without distraction. The length of these times and frequency will depend very highly upon the individual. There is no sense in slogging it out for 4 hours at a time if your are only benefitting from the first 30 minutes or hour. Use your reading strategies to help you guide your time commitment.
3. TEST YOUR STUDY
Just reading is not enough. Basically you need to be testing your accumulation of knowledge. After you have been studying a subject for an hour, put the books down and immediately begin to ask yourself questions about the material. Think about what you have read. How does it apply to zoological medicine? What were the important points? This exercise just after reading material, often helps retention. You should also quiz yourself about retention issues and main points several days after your reading.
4. A TWO PHASE CYCLE MAY BENEFIT
A cycle of study which allows you to go through each section of the examination twice may help you be at your peak for the examination. A typical double cycle would start with you studying widely in your weakest section and progressing through the base of literature of each subject working from weakest to strongest. This cycle should take up to about two thirds of your planned study time.
When this cycle is completed, you reverse the process. You first study your strongest area again in a quicker review. Then you work from your strongest section to your weakest which will have been reviewed just before the examination. This study schedule has the advantage of allowing you to see the material twice, and your weakest material has been seen most recently when you take the examination.
AMERICAN COLLEGE OF ZOOLOGICAL MEDICINE EXAMINATION - DESCRIPTION
The ACZM examination will be given in two parts. The first part (also called the "day one" or Qualifying exam) will consist of written questions covering mammals, birds, aquatic animals, wildlife, reptiles, and amphibians. The first part must be passed in order to sit for the second part of the examination. The second part (also called the Subgroup, "day two," or Certifying exam) is given the day after the first part examination, and consists of multiple choice, essay and powerpoint identification questions focusing in one of several areas. Areas offered for the second examination are general zoo, avian, aquatic animal, herpetofauna, free-ranging wildlife, and zoological companion animals.
A candidate is required to pass only one second ("day two") examination to become board certified. Once the first examination is passed, it will not be necessary to retake it to sit for the second examination (i.e., if a candidate passed the first examination in 2015, he/she may take the Second Examination in 2016, 2017, or later without having to retake the first examination).
See Structure of the ACZM Board Exam
Job Task Analysis as It relates to Future ACZM Examinations
TAKING MULTIPLE CHOICE EXAMINATIONS
The examination committee which develops the board examination is aware of all of the points contained in this handout, and will be striving to create questions which are not subject to guessing or narrowing the number of distractors without knowledge of the subject. Nevertheless, it may be beneficial to be aware of the structure of a multiple choice examination and to have a strategy for taking the exam.
KNOW THE TIME ALLOTTED AND KEEP PACE
There are several strategies for pacing multiple choice tests. The time allotted for the ACZM Boards and the complexity of the subject matter does not allow the luxury of reading the exam through twice completely for most people. The exams give you just over one minute per question.
It is important to read each question carefully and completely as you go through. If you are uncertain of the answer, you should probably mark your best response anyway and go on when you see you are off pace. This will help you avoid mismarking the computerized answer sheet.
THE BEST DEFENSE IS A STRONG KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUBJECT
Of course, nothing can substitute for knowing the subject matter of the examination. One important strategy is to work from your knowledge base rather than from hunches. Often there is a temptation to try and read tricks into questions. None of the questions were designed to be trick questions. Although a wrong question may occasionally be found, they are extremely rare as the exam is carefully edited. If a wrong question is identified, it is thrown out of the exam, so do NOT get upset or waste time if you think you have found one. Just note it on the exam sheet margin and go on after having attempted to answer it.
STAY COOL AND COLLECTED
To respond to an exam of this nature, it is important to keep your cool. Do not get upset by questions that you cannot answer easily. Force yourself to stay calm. In the worst case scenario, if you run into a series of questions which are creating a block, go to the last question in the exam and begin working backwards. If you do this be very careful to keep track of your answer sheet. Do no get out of order in recording your answers.
READ EVERY QUESTION COMPLETELY AND CAREFULLY
One criticism of multiple choice exams is that they telegraph the answer in the question or in the structure of the distractors and answer. This is the case in poorly thought out questions but in an examination at this level, it is rarely true. Distractors are checked to see that they are roughly the same length and that no grammatical clues are left to give the answer away. Nevertheless, it is important to read the questions carefully to obtain all of the information being given you in the question.
TAKING ESSAY EXAMINATIONS
The essay examination is a very important part of the boards. It is one of the sections which generally helps or hurts a candidate significantly. The questions are more complex than the objective questions in the multiple choice examinations and organization is important to success in this section.
KNOW THE TIME ALLOTTED AND KEEP ON PACE
The number of essay questions varies each year. Also the number of points given per question are different for different questions. Even though it may seem like a waste of time, and you are chomping at the bit to get started, you should leaf through and make sure that you have each question in the examination and that your are aware of the point totals for each question. Mark this information and leave an estimated number of pages needed for each question in your blue books. You will have just under two minutes per point in this part of the exam. You should allow yourself about 1.5 minutes per point when judging pace. Depending upon the size of your writing, you will need about one page front and back for every three to four points.
READ EVERY QUESTION COMPLETELY AND CAREFULLY
Next read each question carefully before you begin to answer. After having read all of the questions, you should identify the highest point question that you are comfortable with and answer it. There is no reason to work from question number one to the end. Remember, allow yourself about 1.5 minutes per point.
If a question asks you to compare and contrast, do both. Compare similarities and then contrast differences. Answer all parts of the question.
PRESENT AN ORGANIZED AND COGENT ANSWER
Technically, neatness does not count, but remember, this is a subjective examination. If in doubt, readers will score a well-reasoned and organized essay to the benefit of the doubt. A confused and hard to read answer may not enjoy this benefit.
It helps to outline your answer. Not only does it help organize your answer, but it helps you estimate your time better. Spread your outline out on the paper you have allotted for the question by writing topic sentences for each major point you want to make and start filling in the outline with detailed points. In a time crunch, you may get points for those topic sentences that you would not get for a half answered effort.
ANSWER EVERY QUESTION
Try and answer every question. Outline your answer if time is pressing you and come back to answer it more completely later. You cannot get any points for a blank page. If you are keeping your pace this will not be a major problem. Leave low point questions until the end.
TAKING THE SLIDE EXAMINATION
The slide examination is perhaps the most stressful for candidates.
This holds for every examination, but in this type of question, it is important to be relaxed and let your subconscious do its work.
LISTEN TO YOUR EXAMINERS
Of course you will be looking at the screen with rapt attention, but be sure to listen carefully to the questions.
ANNOTATE YOUR ANSWER SHEET
If nothing comes to mind, annotate your answer sheet so you will know what the question was and your own impression of what you saw. You will get to see the slides and hear the question again.
ANSWER EVERY QUESTION
Remember there are no points for a blank. If you cannot remember the specific name of a parasite, write its common name. If you cannot come up with a specific diagnosis, give a descriptive diagnosis. You may get some credit.
EXAM SKILLS AND TEST TAKING STRATEGY RESOURCES
Study Skills Guide
MIT Test Taking Strategies
Test Preparation and Taking