Long ago, I studied for the Bar Exam. That exam condenses three years of learning into one giant super-final exam. It covers Torts, Constitutional Law (including stuff like the 4th amendment rights to protect the accused in a criminal case), Federal Jurisdiction (including some civil procedure), Property Law, and Wills. When you study for that exam, you tend to take a big course that lasts 6- 8 weeks and has you in class three hours a day five days a week. You're supposed to study the rest of the time.
Having a course that provides a review of all of these areas really helps. You get a professor up there lecturing on the outlines of stuff you'll need to know to take your exam. For massage, we get review books, but no instructors. We have to be our OWN review course instructors. While it's true, we only have one year of study (compared to three in law school), we cover a lot of material. Allow me to repeat that list for you:
- Physiology (including cell chemistry)
-- these two areas covered by structure and function
- Orthopedic Assessment
- Massage Application including physiologic and psychologic effects of specific strokes
- Benefits and Effects of various massage modalities
- Contraindications to massage and/or specific strokes or modalities
- Treatment Planning
- Business (including taxes)
- Basics of Asian Bodywork including Chinese Medicine, Tui Na, Ayurveda, Shiatsu
- Ethics and Professionalism.
- Regulations, Licensing.
- History of Massage, including identifying WHO devloped specific modalities.
I started back at Anatomy & Physiology, which was for me, the beginning, and read (and took notes on) my text book, on chapter at a time. When I got to the Integumentary System, I began alternating reading a chapter of Anatomy/Physiology with the corresponding chapter on Pathology. When I got to Bones and Muscles, I began mixing in chapters of the book on Orthopedic Assessment.
I figured that doing this would both refresh my recollection for the stuff I had covered over a year ago AND help integrate my understanding of both the anatomy/physiology and the pathology. I intentionally put things together in an order that DIFFERED from the way we learned it in school. Instead of reviewing all of anatomy/physiology and then all of pathology, I tied the subjects together by system. It's called layering, and is supposed to help build memory more effectively. If I had it to do over (which, thankfully, I do not), I would have spent more time with the section of our Massage textbook that our instructors skipped completely. (It covers anatomy/physiology very briefly in one long chapter). Once I discovered that chapter, I began reading that section as an overview before reading the Anatomy/Physiology textbook.
I had one review book that was graciously provided to us by our Director. I also checked out some review books from the library. I took scads of practice tests. After a chapter in Pathology, I did all the silly exercises they had on the accompanying disc (quizlets, a jeopardy type game, hangman). Again, this layered the memory, made me use it in different ways, and let me know what I hadn't gotten this time.
After a couple of weeks of that, I started meeting with a study buddy -- at first once a week, then twice, and then daily in the last days before the exam.
If I had to do it over, I'd start the review book earlier. That book provided an overview of the systems that would have been good to have in recent reading memory when I went back to the text book. It also pitched things in ways that tied them to massage therapy well. (We relied heavily on Mosby's book, which seemed at times to be pitched for medical massage, and thus was a bit more intense). This meant that we were preparing for something that was likely to be harder than the exam we actually faced.
The one thing we did not have was any decent text covering, or even outlining, the Asian/Eastern massage stuff. While our coursework included a section on Chinese Medicine, we learned nothing at all about Ayurveda, and very little about Shiatsu. Luckily, for everything but Ayurveda, I figured that out early on, and began geting books from the library that would help.
Yes, that means I pretty much devoted six weeks to studying all the time. I still took time out for knit night, but I didn't start watching ANY TV again until this last week. This last week, I put in 7 hours or more a day studying for the Board Exams. By the end of the day, my brain was mush, so I started watching TV with Bookworm again.
Friday was the big day.
Thursday morning, we studied by taking practice tests, and going over missed questions with each other. Thursday afternoon we drove to the nearest testing center city (about two hours), my buddy driving, and me "grading" and reviewing aloud the last sections of our last practice test. The timing was perfect, and we finished up about 1/2 hour before arriving. and checked into our hotel.
We then promptly drove to the testing center itself, learning the route ahead of time. We went into the building to find the very room. We went INTO the room, and greeted the person there. We asked questions about how the process would work in the morning, and how early we should arrive. (He was delightful).
Secure in our knowledge of the location and procedure, we returned to the hotel, and took a brief walk around it, enjoying the breezy 82 degree weather before settling down for a last bit of review.
Two hours later we went down for dinner. By 9:00, we quit studying, and relaxed -- me updating the blog and then reading. My first test was at 8:00 a.m. the next day.