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Thread: I passed the ABO - my experience and advice!

  1. #1
    OptiWizard KrystleClear's Avatar
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    Redhot Jumper I passed the ABO - my experience and advice!

    I passed! After years of working in this field, I am finally an ABO Certified optician. This was my first time taking the test and even though I have been seriously studying for about a year, I was extremely stressed... but I passed. I somehow got a perfect or near perfect score on the optics section, the one I was super scared of. I told myself that this was just my first try. If I failed, it's okay. I would just study harder and be more prepared for the second attempt, but I passed.


    Here's some things I wanted to share for others looking to take the test and clear some things up:


    I took my test at a Prometric center that proctors various exams. I was made to take off my watch and all jewelry I had on. They metal detected me. I wasn't allowed to bring in a water bottle either. They have you lock up all your stuff in a locker. I wasn't allowed to leave the testing room to get a sip of water or use the restroom, so make sure you hydrate but not too much because they may not let you go back in.

    While you aren't allowed to bring your own calculator, THERE IS an on-screen scientific calculator that you can use anytime. The Prometric staff also gave me a basic calculator. You are in fact allowed a calculator, just not your own. I know a lot of people have had different experiences, but per the ABO website and handbook, you are provided an on-screen calculator. If the testing center tells you different, I would raise a stink. (Apparently some people were told they weren't allowed any calculators, and some people were allowed to bring their own in, which is concerning because some scientific calculators can be pre-loaded with equations and could be used to cheat.) If you're one of those people who can do the powers in oblique meridians formula in your head, well, good for you, but not all of use are proficient in math like that. You may have missed your calling in mathematics. But officially, you are allowed and provided a calculator.

    There was no on-screen "scratch paper" for me. They gave me two laminated sheets of paper and dry erase markers to use as scratch paper.

    There is a tutorial you can go through that doesn't count towards your time at the beginning. I had already done this prior because you can take the tutorial through the Prometric/ABO site, but I used this time (about 10 minutes) to write out my formulas and make some notes for things that were fresh in my mind on my "scratch paper."

    You can flag questions you aren't sure about and come back to them later. I was able to finish the test in about an hour and I went back through my flagged questions and gave them a second look. I also went back over the whole 125 questions to make sure I hadn't made any obvious errors and double checked my math on the math related questions. You do have to pay close attention to the questions and read all the answers, making sure the answer you selected is in the correct unit of measurement. For example, the answer might be 33mm but they also have 33cm as a choice, and if you aren't paying attention, you could pick the wrong one.

    I scored the worst on anatomy which I thought I had down pat. I work in ophthalmology so I already had a good working knowledge of eye anatomy, refractive conditions, and pathology. I made sure to spend a lot of time studying for this because I expected to bomb the optical math questions so I wanted to be an expert on everything else. There were some really oddball questions I wasn't prepared for but unfortunately I can't even remember what they were now. And some tricky questions, like if a patient has hyperphoria what would their RX look like, prism or no prism (it never specified if it was just one eye or both)?

    The math questions were mostly basic Prentice's Rule, 30/45/60 rule, back vertex depth formula, and vertex compensated rx formula stuff. There was one or two that I had to use the power in oblique meridians formula, but most of the time you could just use the 30/45/60 rule. No mirror stuff, no Snell's law or anything like that.

    The tools I had to identify were all tools for assembling and dismantling drill mounts for some reason, which I never use as we don't edge in house. I don't even have those tools on hand.

    They gave me a lot of questions about poly, but a lot of them were the same question, just rephrased. "What material would you use for a patient who has had an enucleation?" "What material would you use for a patient who is blind in one eye?" That question came up at least three times. Duty to Warn came up also. One question was like "An office has a sign up stating 'We recommend impact resistant materials'; what is this an example of?"

    There was not a lot of ANSI standard stuff. I was so worried because I always just look at a printout when verifying jobs and honestly, if there is an error, I just send it back. So trying to keep all the allowances in my head was tough, but I was able to remember the basic ones like horizontal prism, vertical prism, axis tolerances, base curve tolerances, etc..

    At the end there was a brief survey about your experience with the test and the testing center, and then at the very end it tells you if you passed. Within a few hours you get an email from ABO once again stating if you passed or not, and the email gives you a breakdown of how you did on each section. The email says you will get your certificate in 6-8 weeks.

    Here is what I used to study:

    https://www.myuuniversity.com/ - VSP sponsors an ABO prep course led by a master optician about twice or three times a year. I think anyone can sign up for VSP's continuing education site, UUniversity, whether you are a VSP provider or not. It was completely free. I think it was an 8 week course. We met via Zoom every Wednesday evening. I took it exactly a year ago, and it was very fast paced, but it gave me an idea of what I would be expected to know for the exam. I did struggle to keep up because we had to move through a lot of material very quickly, so I wouldn't rely on this solely. There are also tons of videos and lessons on the UUniversity site to supplement your studies, all free.

    Optical Formulas Tutorial (workbook) by Ellen Stoner. This was what really helped me with the math. It starts with a basic math review for those of us who have forgotten everything from school and goes all the way up to advanced stuff that you would need for the advanced or master certification. It's a workbook, so there are lots of practice questions. The more you practice the math and use the formulas, the better.

    LaramyK Optician Works - This program has been so worth it for me. The courses are laid out in a way that is easy to understand as well as entertaining and there are accompanying videos and quizzes. I would recommend this for anyone new to field, whether you are taking the ABO or not, because it's a great resource. If nothing else, I highly investing in this. You also get a nice certificate upon completion.

    Systems for Ophthalmic Dispensing (book) by Clifford Brooks, Irvin Borish - I did not read this cover to cover, but it did help me with all the various frame materials, old and new. It's a very good resource to keep on hand but is a textbook and it is pretty dry.

    MyTestPrep Optician NOCE Practice Exam - This was a little pricey (like $75?) but it was worth it for me. You get virtual flash cards and a printable PDF of roughly 300 example exam questions, and you can take virtual practice exams over and over. I took a practice exam almost once a day. It got me used to taking tests again and I did learn a few things that weren't covered elsewhere.

    I also made HUNDREDS of flash cards. Flash cards for ANSI tolerances, anatomy, pathologies, lens options, frame materials, optical billing/ICD 11 (which never came up on my test at all), etc.. I made little quizzes and worksheets for myself and tested myself at least once a week to see what I was weak on.

    Also, some general tips...

    Read over your notes or study materials before bed. Studies show this helps you retain the information better.

    Allow yourself months, not weeks, to study for this exam, unless you're already a seasoned pro.

    Use mnemonic devices, songs, or whatever will help you memorize things. Example: for "Calculation, Spotting, Centration, Blocking, and Edging" I used "cat scratches can be evil." For the layers of the tear film, I remembered "LAM" for lipid, aqueous, and mucin. I had a lewd mnemonic device for the layers of the cornea that I shan't repeat here. Whatever works.

    Diversify your study materials. Don't rely on just one resource. Use many.

    Apparently Apollo Ono does this to calm his nerves before competitions. He yawns. It works. I was so nervous leading up to my test, and the "yawning" really did help calm my nerves. Stretching also helps. I also didn't have any coffee or caffeine prior. I wanted to be as calm as possible, which wasn't easy because I have anxiety and hate tests.

    Get plenty of sleep the night before. Don't stay up all night before hand trying to cram. You've studied for a long time. You know the material. You need sleep. Eat a good breakfast and/or lunch. Not anything heavy that will make you sleepy.

    Get to the testing center early. It takes a little time to check in and you'll want to use the restroom before sitting for the test.

    If there's a question that stumps you, flag it and come back to it. Use common sense to eliminate obvious incorrect answers.

    Wear a sweater or hoodie. The testing center was freezing.


    Alright, phew. Thanks for reading my essay.
    Krystle

  2. #2
    OptiBoardaholic
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    Congrats! Going for the NCLE next?

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    What's up? drk's Avatar
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    Good job!

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    Master OptiBoarder optical24/7's Avatar
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    Congrats Krystle, I knew you’d do great!

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    OptiWizard KrystleClear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elvis Is Alive View Post
    Congrats! Going for the NCLE next?
    That's a can of worms I don't even want to open. I work for an ophthalmologist so we really don't do much in the way of contacts, but I know if I did, I would have to deal with all the CL fittings. I'm the only optician on staff. I don't need to add any more work to my pile, at this time.
    Krystle

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    Master OptiBoarder
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    Quote Originally Posted by KrystleClear View Post
    Use mnemonic devices, songs, or whatever will help you memorize things. Example: for "Calculation, Spotting, Centration, Blocking, and Edging" I used "cat scratches can be evil." For the layers of the tear film, I remembered "LAM" for lipid, aqueous, and mucin. I had a lewd mnemonic device for the layers of the cornea that I shan't repeat here. Whatever works.
    Let's hear it

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    Master OptiBoarder
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    Congratulations!

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    Master OptiBoarder
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    Congrats!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience with what was on the test and what to study!

    Excellent post!

  9. #9
    Master OptiBoarder DanLiv's Avatar
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    This is perfect, I'm training an apprentice right now and she's planning to test in a month and this is excellent guidance. Thank you Krystle!

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