Optometry Board Preparation

Congratulations, aspiring optometrists!
As you begin the second half of optometry school, you are likely starting to feel the weight of not only making sure you make it through all your courses and clinic rotations, but also passing the board exams.

These exams are crucial milestones in your journey towards becoming licensed practitioners. To help you navigate this challenging process, we have compiled a comprehensive guide with key tips and resources to aid you in your preparation for the optometry board exams.

While optometry board exams in both Canada and the United States share the common goal of assessing your competency in the field, there are some notable differences in their structure and content.

In the US
The National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) administers board exams in the US. The exams consist of three parts: the Applied Basic Science (ABS) Exam (Part 1), the Patient Assessment and Management (PAM) Exam (Part 2), and the Clinical Skills Examination (CSE, or Part 3).

Part 1 focuses on your fundamental knowledge of ocular anatomy, disease, pharmacology, optics, and more. It ties together all the coursework you have gone through in your didactic lessons.

Part 2 evaluates clinical decision-making skills, much like seeing patients in clinic, where you are provided with a series of case presentations and questions are asked based on each case that assesses your knowledge of ocular and systemic disease, as well as patient management and care.

Finally, Part 3 assesses your practical clinical abilities in a series of four stations, each testing a different set of clinical techniques. These exams are designed to ensure that you possess the necessary knowledge and skills to practice optometry independently.

In Canada
Ten provincial optometry regulators such as the College of Optometrists of Ontario (COO) and the College of Optometrists of British Columbia (COBC) conduct the exams under the auspices of the Optometry Examining Board of Canada (OEBC).

The board examinations in Canada consist of only two components – one written, and one practical.

The written exam assesses your theoretical knowledge in areas such as ocular disease, pharmacology, and optometric procedures.

The practical component, called the Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCEs), evaluates your clinical skills, with a particular focus on critical thinking, communication, and patient management.

It is essential to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and exam formats established by the regulatory bodies in the province or state where you plan to practice. Be sure to consult official resources and communicate with your faculty and mentors to obtain accurate and up-to-date information on the optometry board exams in your desired jurisdiction.

Key Tips for Board Exam Preparation:

  • Start Early! Begin your preparation well in advance to allow ample time for review, practice, and consolidation of concepts. For example, for the NBEO, three to six months is typically recommended prior to your examination date. For some optometry schools, you may not be able to take time off prior to your exam date, so more time should be allocated in advance to account for ongoing midterms, clinical evaluations, and other commitments.Some students may consider taking written exams at the later date that is offered to allow for more time to study; however, consider that the earlier you schedule your exam, the more time you have to account for unforeseen circumstances, such as needing to retake or reschedule an exam.

Both the NBEO and the OEBC offer multiple examination dates:

  • Click to view the NBEO schedule (USA)
  • Click here to view the OEBC schedule (Canada).
  • Create a Study Plan: Develop a structured study plan, allocating time for each topic based on its weightage in the exams. Break down the material into manageable sections to avoid feeling overwhelmed.Many boards preparation programs create daily schedules for you to follow, but keep in mind that you may need to adjust this based on your own schedule and to account for areas you may find more challenging.Moreover, optometry school is a busy time in your life, and it’s key to incorporate ongoing events such as midterms, conferences, or social events into your study schedule so you can recognize which weeks you should be packing in your studies and which weeks you may need to prioritize other commitments.

That being said, keep study schedules realistic – if you know you can’t review 50 pages in a day, don’t set yourself up for failure right from the start!

  • Don’t Study Alone: Collaborate with your peers to discuss and review topics, exchange study materials, and challenge each other with practice questions. Particularly for practical examinations such as the NBEO Part 3 and Canadian OSCEs, it is crucial to practice and engage in roleplays with your peers to identify areas of difficulty or to have others point out areas of improvement.Aim to schedule practice sessions with your peers! You may find yourself exposed to more points of view and different ways of presenting information which can be helpful not only in your practical exams but also as a future practitioner.
  • Make Boards Prep a Daily Habit: Consistent practice with sample questions and mock exams will help you build confidence, improve time management, and identify areas that require further attention.No one starts out completely ready to tackle board exams – rather than intelligence and talent, boards prep is ultimately a journey of preparation! Boards preparation should also be part of your daily time spent in clinic at school – remember to ask your professors and clinic supervisors whenever you are encountering a new difficulty or hurdle with a patient. Your time spent in clinic will pay off in the exam room!
  • Seek Mentorship: Reach out to professors, optometrists, or alumni who have successfully passed the board exams for guidance and mentorship. Their insights can be invaluable in understanding the exam format and content, particularly as the NBEO and OEBC may be vague in their rubrics or their guidelines.Students who have recently taken their board exam will have a fresh recollection of their experiences, but take others’ advice with a grain of salt as everyone’s studying process is ultimately unique and something that may work for another student may not be ideal for you!

Using Available Resources:

  • Textbooks and Study Guides: Many students opt for their old lecture notes, or classic textbooks such as the Will’s Eye Manual which are excellent resources to reinforce your understanding of core concepts.Moreover, podcasts can be excellent guides for students who are commuting to clinic externships – Eyes for Ears by Dr. Ben Young and Dr. Andrew Pouw provides a comprehensive review targeted for ophthalmology board exams but provides many clinical insights to optometrists!
  • Boards Prep Programs: Numerous online platforms offer comprehensive study materials, practice questions, and interactive learning modules. OptoPrep (optoprep.com) and KMK Optometry (www.kmkoptometry.com) are two popular platforms that provide tailored board exam preparation services. They offer subscription-based access to their resources, including study materials, practice questions, and simulated exams.

    OptoPrep and KMK Optometry
    Exploring these platforms can significantly supplement your preparation.


  • Leveraging Published Case Studies and Topic Reviews: In addition to textbooks and online resources, incorporating published case studies and topic reviews into your board exam preparation can significantly enhance your understanding and application of optometry concepts.

Your time spent first-hand with patients in clinic is invaluable for boards preparation, but ultimately a limited exposure to all the conditions and management strategies in the field. Therefore, it is highly recommended to immerse yourself with more case studies and topic reviews to solidify your knowledge for topics you may not have had the chance to experience in clinic.

CRO Online Clinical Education
CRO offers original case reports and topic reviews.

One valuable source of such materials is the Clinical & Refractive Optometry (CRO) Journal,

This journal provides a wide range of free articles covering salient topics in optometry. The articles in the CRO Journal present real-life scenarios, clinical challenges, and topic reviews that can improve your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. By reviewing these case studies and topic reviews, you can gain insights into the practical aspects of optometry and apply theoretical knowledge to realistic patient scenarios.

The CRO Journal can serve as an excellent complement to your study materials, allowing you to broaden your understanding and stay updated with the latest advancements in the field.

Students can create a complimentary student account which also provides access to the self-testing quiz included with selected courses. (Contact support@CROJournal.com).

Preparing for optometry board exams requires a disciplined approach, a solid study plan, and access to reliable resources. By starting early, engaging in study groups, exploring online platforms like OptoPrep and KMK Optometry, enrolling in review courses, and leveraging published case studies and topic reviews, including those found in the Clinical & Refractive Optometry (CRO) Journal, you can develop a comprehensive understanding of optometry concepts and sharpen your clinical reasoning abilities.

Remember, success in board exams requires a multifaceted approach that combines diligent study, practice, and the exploration of diverse resources. With careful preparation and a proactive mindset, you are well-equipped to excel in your optometry board examinations. Best of luck on your journey to becoming licensed optometrists!

Related Read
Alex Hecht, UW Class of 2021 Shares her journey writing the NBEO exams as a Canadian OD student.  

Writing NBEO Exams as a Canadian Optometry Student


Jenny Lee, OD


Vision Science Assistant Editor, CRO Journal

Jenny Lee is an onboarding resident with the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science.

She is a recent 2023 graduate and is passionate about pediatrics and vision therapy.


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Eye Care Business Canada Sponsors CAOS

The Optometry student winners of the APERTURE Writing contest have been announced by the Canadian Association of Optometry Students (CAOS). As a sponsor of the APERTURE Writing Contest, NextGenOD and Eye Care Business Canada have awarded prizes for the top 5 optometry student winners of the contest.

Aperture Optometry Student Magazine cover 2023
Aperture Cover 2023

The top entries were  selected by the CAOS communications directors by an anonymous voting system where personal identifiers were removed. Then, the entire CAOS executive team at University of Waterloo which comprises over 20 students, excluding the communications team, votes on the winners.

The first-place winning entry entitled “Lessons from a Superfield Lens” by Jenny Lee (4th year University of Waterloo) recounts a whimsical imaginary conversation with various optometric armamentarium which dispels her fears of being replaced by technology.

The second-place entry, by Shannon Huges (3rd year University of Waterloo), shares results and lesson ingrained from of her first real patient refractions in, “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It“.

Simply entitled, “Foresight“, third-place winning entry by Judit Antonyrajan (3rd year University of Waterloo) celebrates optometry scope of practice advances that have been achieved and opines on the promising future of the profession.

Here is the full list of APERTURE contest winners and NextGEN OD cash prizes.  Congratulations to all of the participants.

  • 1st  Place Jenny Lee  ($150)
  • 2nd Place Shannon Hughes ($125)
  • 3rd Place Judit Antonyrajan ($100)
  • 4th Place Jennifer Li ($75)
  • 5th Place Kiratpal Hothi ($50)

In addition the cash prizes, optometry student winners will be recognized by publishing their entries in NextGEN’s parent company publications, including Optik Magazine, OptikNOW and Eye Care Business Canada,  reaching over 10,000 Canadian eye care professionals. Look for the winning entries to be published later this year.

The 2023 issue is the seventh Aperture Magazine publication. The optometry student publication strives to reflect the voices of future Optometrists in the ever-changing landscape of the profession.

View the winning entries in APERTURE Magazine.
See Contest Announcement.



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Optometry Student Debt

The Adulting 101 two-part series made mention of cash flow and debt. Let’s turn our attention to what is likely the greatest debt you have coming out of school: optometry student debt.

This isn’t all glum, however; as there has been some good news in recent months.

Many Forms of Student Loans

There are three general types of student loans, four if we include family loans.

The first source of funding is often the Canada Student Loan program. This is administered nationally and falls under the National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLCSC).

The second source of student funding is often provincial. These loan programs differ from province to province.

The third is a student line of credit from your financial institution.

Organizing your Debt
Optometry student debut, like all debt is a weight on your back so getting a plan to shed that weight is key. You want to get the final values of each of your debt types, when repayment is required to begin, the interest rates that apply and the minimum monthly payment information.

Understanding the terms of each type of debt will help you prepare your plan for repayment.

Provincial Student Loans
Most provincial plans offer a six-month grace period after your study period ends. This grace period is designed to provide you time to start working and generate an income before payments need to begin. This is ideal for most optometrists because of the delay from study period end until licensing.

You will want to review the website of your provincial plan for further details and to see if such a grace period applies.

National Student Loans
Perhaps the best news to come about in the student loan system in decades is the permanent elimination of the accumulation of interest on Canada Student Loans effective April 1, 2023.

If you graduated prior to April 1, 2023, you will still be responsible for paying any interest that accrued prior to April 1, 2023.

The NSLCSC also provides a six-month grace period before repayment begins.

There are also several provinces that have integrated programing with the NSLCSC. It’s a web site chock full of information that is worth your time to review.

 Student Line of Credit
Financial institutions are typically not as kind on repayment terms. Most banks love optometry students because they have a great need for additional funding and a great track record of repayment. This makes optometrists a good bet for lenders.

That doesn’t mean you should take unlimited advantage of the lending being offered to you. They still charge interest and over time that interest adds up.

Creditor Insurance
Many lenders will offer you life and disability insurance on your loan. This might seem like an easy option to have, but creditor insurance is designed to ensure that the lender gets repaid and doesn’t offer you any long-term flexibility. You can often secure individually owned insurance at similar rates with better coverage. Speaking with your financial planner will ensure you set up the right coverage for your needs today and tomorrow.

How I Eliminated My Student Debt
Personally, I hated having student debt and needed to get rid of it before I could move forward with a business purchase loan or home mortgage.

My key was to continue to live like a student until my bank, government and family student loans were paid off.

This strategy allowed me to eliminate my student debt within 18 months of graduation. Keep in mind, I didn’t purchase my first car until after I purchased my practice. I kept the focus on my career and had a disciplined repayment and savings strategy.

Best Advice
Everyone’s priorities and situation are a little different. Working with a financial planner will ensure that all aspects of your goals and current financial situation are taken into account. Your planner will be able to map out a repayment schedule that allows you to tackle your optometry student debt on your desired time horizon in a tax and interest rate efficient manner.

Read more of Dr. Arnal’s advice on building wealth and personal freedom.

As your Chief Financial Officer, I am here to help guide you through the various adult decisions you will need to make and the next steps you will be taking. Helping you understand your money and assisting you in making smart financial decisions about your debt repayment, insurance protection, tax management and wealth creation, are just some of the ways that I work as your fiduciary.

Have more questions than answers? Educating you is just one piece of being your personal CFO that we do. Call (780-261-3098) or email (Roxanne@C3wealthadvisors.ca) today to set up your next conversation with us.

Roxanne Arnal is a former Optometrist, Professional Corporation President, and practice owner. Today she is on a mission of Empowering You & Your Wealth with Clarity, Confidence & Control.

These articles are for information purposes only and are not a replacement for personal financial planning. Everyone’s circumstances and needs are different. Errors and Omissions exempt.


Optometrist and Certified Financial Planner

Roxanne Arnal graduated from UW School of Optometry in 1995 and is a past-president of the Alberta Association of Optometrists (AAO) and the Canadian Association of Optometry Students (CAOS).  She subsequently built a thriving optometric practice in rural Alberta.

Roxanne took the decision in  2012 to leave optometry and become a financial planning professional.  She now focuses on providing services to Optometrists with a plan to parlay her unique expertise to help optometric practices and their families across the country meet their goals through astute financial planning and decision making.

Roxanne splits EWO podcast hosting duties with Dr. Glen Chiasson.


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Eye Care Business Canada Sponsors CAOS

Eyecare Business Canada and NextGen OD are pleased to announce their 2023 Sponsorship to the Canadian Association of Optometry Students (CAOS).

NextGen OD is a digital resource specifically for recent Canadian Optometry grads and Optometry students studying in Canada and in the USA. The site provides resources for Optometry Students and recent OD graduates, including information on career options in all facets of optometric practice.

As students enter their final academic years, progress through internships and externships, and possibly residency and fellowships, a host of options and opportunities lay ahead.  NextGen OD provides insights from students making these choices as well the paths of recent grads who are dealing with these important decisions.

The NextGen OD eco-system consists of a website (www.NextGenOD.ca), Facebook page, Instagram, and a Linked In Showcase Page.

APERTURE Magazine Contest Sponsorship and More
A unique aspect of NextGen OD’s sponsorship is to reward winning contributions to CAOS’ online magazine, APERTURE.

Student winners of the APERTURE writing contest will be recognized by publishing the winning entries in Optik Magazine in 2023, reaching over 10,000 Canadian eye care professionals.  Additionally $500 of prizes will be provided by the publisher to the winning entrants.

“As a broad spectrum B2B publisher in the eyecare space, identifying the next generation of leading peer influencers is an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the talent that lies within the student cohort and bring their fresh perspectives to the industry at large.said David Pietrobon, president of VuePoint IDS, which publishes both Eye Care Business Canada and NextGen OD, Optik Magazine and CRO (Clinical & Refractive Optometry) Journal.

In addition to the APERTURE Magazine contest sponsorship, NextGen OD is planning webinars bringing together Canadian students from across North America with various subject matter experts. Plans are also underway to provide peer-reviewed clinical pearls to both students preparing for Board Examinations and recent graduates that require continuing education credits. These will be provided through CRO (Clinical & Refractive Optometry) Journal and CRO Online CE, a division of VuePoint IDS Inc.

.About VuePoint IDS
VuePoint IDS Inc. is a private 100% Canadian-owned media and marketing services company focused on serving the information needs of the eyewear and eye care industry’s professional service providers including optometrists, opticians and affiliated personnel. VuePoint publishes print and digital titles for eye care professionals under the media brands Optik, (CRO) Clinical & Refractive Optometry, Eye Care Business Canada/NextGen OD and co-publishes IMAGINEM Magazine, a multi-lingual global eyewear fashion publication published in 5 languages.

VuePoint also offers services to eye care professionals, including accredited continuing education program development and delivery for Optometry through CRO Online (www.crojournal.com)  and for Opticians through OptikConEd (www.optikconed.com).

About  Canadian Association of Optometry Students (CAOS)
CAOS represents Canadian Students enrolled in optometry faculties across North America. CAOS has two chapters in Canada, University of Waterloo and Université de Montréal. There are currently nine chapters in US-based optometry schools. CAOS provides optometry students with a unified voice and advocates on behalf of students in shaping the future of optometry in Canada.


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We are finally approaching the well-loved and relaxing season of summer. Life seems a bit easier; you can get out the door with less layers t and you don’t have to worry about snow-induced traffic delays. Summer vacations and trips to the cottage are coming.

Of course, when you are running a small business, summer time can also present challenges, specifically around staffing.  Luckily, there are often university students who are currently registered in Optometry School looking for summer work. They are really ideal candidates to hire for the 4 months they are available. They are committed to the industry, they want to learn as much as they can and they are eager to do well.

In our experience, having this additional staff member has more than paid for itself. During the weeks when you are fully staffed, the summer student can tackle jobs that have been on the back burner; organizing the CL trial room, reviewing frame pricing, doing an inventory, price comparisons, the list goes on.

Further, many staff take summer vacations, and with an extra member on your team during this time, you don’t have to go short handed. The reality is, you want your patients who visit in the summer to have the same great experience in your office now as they would in the winter with a full compliment of staff ready to serve and assist.

Another advantage to hiring an OD student for the summer is the potential for grooming an associate for the future. Working in your practice, they will become very knowledgeable about the front end of your business. Understanding the flow from appointment booking to retail sales will make this associate a valuable member of your team very quickly.

It is tempting to consider going short staffed for the weeks different members are off on vacation.  This, of course, is not ideal. Not only will the patient experience be compromised but it will likely also have an impact on your Revenue per Patient (RPP) – the two are intimately related. Are patients receiving additional testing to improve their health care outcomes, are they finding glasses that they want to purchase, are they leaving with drops and vitamins for preventative measures? Discussing these solutions takes time and energy. Tracking and reviewing RPP will give you some reassurance that maintaining a full compliment of staff is in the best interests of both your patients and your business.


is the co-founder and managing partner of Simple Innovative Management Ideas (SIMI) Inc. and expert Practice Management contributor for Optik magazine. She can be reached at info@simiinc.com.


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