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How to Ace the NBEO Boards Without KMK


Are you a stressed out third year optometry student with NBEO Boards Part I looming like a black cloud over your Christmas break?

Or an exhausted first or second year student wondering how you are ever going to make it that far?

Wherever you are in optometry school, it’s never too early to start preparing yourself for the NBEO.

In the fall of my third year, I was shocked to learn that the KMK study course that most students at my school took cost over six hundred dollars.


Taking NBEO Part I was already going to cost me around $600, plus I had a super scary student loan mountain that was increasing every day. I had to seriously consider if $1200 was an acceptable amount to spend on just one part of the three-part test series.

Let’s look at the current NBEO registration fees.

  • Part I: $725
  • Part II: $725
  • Part III: $725 (plus airfare and hotel, which cost me around $500)

*These are for exams taken after July 2016.

And here are the current KMK prices.

  • KMK Part 1: $650
  • KMK Part 2: $400
  • KMK Parts 1 and 2 purchased together: $950
  • KMK Parts 1 and 2 plus additional coaching/review: $1550

* These courses have changed since I graduated; if you’re considering them you should check out all the details about the different options.

Most of my classmates signed up for the KMK Part 1 course, which includes:

  • the study book
  • two weekends of live lectures
  • and online flashcards
  • videos
  • practice tests

Here are some reasons I though I could get by without it:

1) The cost scared me.

2) I am a visual learner, not an auditory learner.

I was fortunate to realize this about myself. I never actually learned much in lectures, I just took notes and learned it later. I was pretty sure that two weekends of studying on my own would benefit me more than two weekends stuck in school at KMK lectures.

3) My optometry school lecture notes were really organized.

I used Evernote to organize lectures and made an outline for every single lecture while studying for exams. My notes were searchable and easy to study.

4) I am self-motivated and a good test taker.

I don’t have test anxiety. I wasn’t worried about failing NBEO. I’m not trying to gloat, I’m just being honest here, I knew I would pass if I studied, and I was motivated to study hard.

So I decided not to buy the KMK course.

I was self-conscious about it and didn’t want my classmates to judge me, like I was too good for KMK.

In reality, I was too poor for KMK, and fortunate enough to be able to get by without it.

So here is how I did it.

1) I bought a previous edition of the Part 1 KMK books from an upperclassman for $90. It was the 2012 version and I was taking the test in 2015.

So I can’t claim that I didn’t use KMK at all, I just didn’t buy the course. I realized the importance of having a solid outline for what was covered on Part 1 and I am REALLY glad I had these books.

2) I sought out practice questions.

I realized I was missing out on all the practice questions included in the KMK online resource, so I found an alternative: ODQuestions.

It’s an online site with hundreds of boards review questions. At the time I think I paid $70 for it, now it’s $100 for 6 months.

I also used Butterworth Heinemann’s Review Questions for the NBEO Examination. It’s a book that THE Dr. Remington recommended we use while studying for her ocular anatomy exams. I think I borrowed it from the school library, but there’s at least one available used on Amazon for $70.

3) I supplemented the KMK book with my notes from lectures.

I was able to do this because, as I mentioned earlier, my notes were organized and searchable. I really valued the lecture notes that I had gathered during school. I was happy to be able to use them to round out my boards studying. I actually still reference my notes often in clinical practice!

4) I reviewed with my study group.

My small group of friends got together to review before every single test in optometry school. We naturally reviewed boards material together. These friends happened to take the KMK course and probably offered me some tips from the course. But that’s not the valuable part, what matters is reviewing material with other people.

So, do you think you can do it?

Can you ace NBEO without KMK? I think you can!

The best candidates for this route are students who are self-motivated and organized.

You can plan to be organized at any stage of optometry school.

Are you a first or second year? You have time!

Make outlines for all of your lectures, or all of your exams, so you can easily reference your notes later without digging through powerpoints.

Are you a third year? Decide if you are organized and motivated enough to prepare on your own.

This article wasn’t written to oppose KMK. It was just written to remind you that you have options, and it IS possible to prepare for boards without an expensive study course. I am not trying to discourage or offend students who use the KMK course. If you want to do it, go for it! It’s a great course and definitely prepares you for boards. Just don’t do it only because everyone else is doing it. Think about your situation and decide what YOU need.

About Rachel Knutson

I am a 2016 PUCO Grad.

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