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HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE CNS EXAM: GETTINGS STARTED WHEN YOU'RE OVERWHELMED WITH CAITLIN SELF

Updated: 21 hours ago



Whether it’s tackling a pile of laundry or a pile of notecards, getting started is one of the hardest things we have to do in this life. 


We’re here to help you prepare for the CNS Exam when you're overwhelmed.


  1. This is normal!


First up, it is important to know that you feel overwhelmed because this exam and process is completely overwhelming! We have very limited official information from the board as to what is going to be covered, and we don’t have any approved study guide or prep book like most other board exams will have. 


Just know that it is totally normal to feel this way! It’s easy to look around and think everyone else has their you-know-what together, but I assure you - you’re not alone! You can breathe through it and move on to…


  1. Make a plan 


I like to recommend two study plan approaches. It’s great to have an overarching plan, such as a study guide outline that just tells you what to study. This is what we offer in our modules in the CNS prep course. 


Next, you want a bite-sized plan. This is more like your daily to-do list. Here are some examples of a Daily plan: 



Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Re-watch fat-soluble vitamins micronutrient lecture 

Complete Module 5 in CNS Prep Course

Take 10-question practice quiz

Make notecards for fat-soluble vitamins 

Record yourself reading drug-nutrient interactions 

Prepare for study group

Add fat-soluble vitamins to micronutrient tracker

Listen to DNI recording (pm commute) 

90-minute study group over Zoom (modules 4&5)


These are small tasks you can do during the day. You only want 1-3 study tasks per day, and it's also ok if you have to carry them over to the next day. 


And on that note, I highly recommend you…


  1. Enlist a team!


We are all different learners, but I am a big believer that we are stronger together, and working with our community of peers is the best way to grow. This also helps provide a forum for lively discussion, which is an important part of active learning. 


We especially want connection with people at our level! Here are some ways to connect: 


  • Join or form a study group! We organize study groups for our CNS exam candidates in the CNS Prep Course!

  • Have social / study time with friends. This can be something you do locally, or you can have a tea time zoom session. Even if you only spend a few minutes studying or discussing the exam, this connection helps to remove the barriers around getting started!

  • Attend online study sessions - the public CNS studying Facebook group usually has some free weekly study sessions. We also have live study sessions built into our course. 


Listening to your supervisor can be intimidating. You might think, ‘gosh, am I going to know that much off the top of my head one day?’ This is unimportant! This is a distraction! This will skew your confidence!


Instead, you want to connect with people who are in a similar position. You’re not expected to have the same knowledge as your supervisor who has 3+ years of experience! We want to re-center our expectations around other individuals who are taking the exam, so that we can learn from each other and push each other. 


  1. Do ONE thing today 


This is my favorite advice for my clients and it is similar to the concept that there’s No Day One or similarly, No Day Zeros. Essentially, my approach here is that if you’re waiting for tomorrow to get started, you’re already delaying your progress. What can you do today? 


Maybe it’s 10:00 pm and you’re ready to fall into bed and you haven’t even started studying yet. What can you do in this exact moment? 


  • You can get a post it note, and write: review calcium-magnesium-phosphorus lecture from grad school. Then stick it on your computer, or next to your to-do list. 

  • You can text your peers - “Anyone around to study this weekend? I’m struggling to get started.”

  • You can put a reminder in your phone to get a babysitter for Saturday morning so you can go study at a coffee shop (or join that study group!) 


  1. Incorporate Passive Learning


Have you ever seen a nutrition documentary and thought, wait a second, is that right? And then spent 25 minutes in a rabbit hole on PubMed fact checking their claims? It’s amazing how consuming certain types of passive content can actually motivate us to take action. 


Sometimes knuckling down and actively learning something is fantastic - and it is one of the best ways to really understand complicated concepts. But when you’re having a hard time getting into the groove, passive learning can be a great option. 


Passive learning involves absorbing, assimilating, considering, and translating information. When I say passive learning, I mean an even more passive brain-break type of learning! 


Examples of passive learning: 

  • Listening to audio recordings or podcasts on nutrition topics

  • Re-watching videos and recordings of lectures and other concepts

  • Copying information from one place to another - such as creating color-coded notecards


Much like other board exams, the CNS exam can be extremely overwhelming - I hope that these tips help you find your way and prepare for the CNS exam when you're overwhelmed! 


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