There is one last hurdle for you to overcome to become Board Certified:  the Applied Exam.

Actually getting to the place where you will take the exam.

Not only are you going to be taking the most stressful exam of your career, you will need to take the exam after having traveled to do so.   Much like the USMLE/COMLEX Step 2 (CS) exam, you will need to travel to the testing location to the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) has a testing center set up in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Because the exam is stressful enough, you want to reduce the amount of stress that you will experience with the travel itself.

There are 5 things that you can do to make the testing experience less stressful.  

1. Fly Carry On Only

You only need one nice set of clothes to take the exam, which can easily fit into a carry on suitcase or hanging bag.   If your flight is delayed, rerouted, or changed, then your luggage will be with you.  You will always have your things with you.  This is one easily fixable variable that you affect to reduce your stress.  (I know an exam taker who had his luggage lost by the airlines.  He almost had to take the Applied Exam in his sweatpants or find a place to buy a suit on a Sunday night.)

You can see my full article on how to carry on only like a boss here.

2.  Plan to arrive two days before the exam.  

This advice was given to me by one of my mentors when I was a fellow.  By arriving a couple of days early it will help you in two ways:

A.  If you flight is delayed or cancelled, you still have another day to arrive to take the exam and your luggage will be with you.

B.  Your first night in a hotel will always produce the least restful sleep.  By having a first night to get accustomed to your new environment, your second night should be more restful.

Building in some margin will help decrease your stress level.

3. Learn what to expect of your travel plans to be like when you get there.

The ABA has set up an official hotel where you will stay, register for the exam the day of the exam, and be shuttled to the ABA testing facility.  Even if you plan on staying with friends in the area, you will have to make sure you get to the hotel on time to meet the shuttle at the very least.  I would recommend staying at the hotel the night before so you don’t have to worry about traffic, a car breaking down, or anything else that could thwart your efforts to get to the exam.  Take a look at google maps to know where the hotel is located in relation to the ABA testing site. (Web link)

4.  Know what the testing day will be like.

The ABA has done a great job at putting up resources related to the Board Certification Process.  Some of those resources include content outline for the exam (web link), but the ABA has gone a step further and has provided videos to help you get oriented to the Applied Exam Process of the testing center itself.   Spend a little time with these videos to help you mentally prepare for the Applied Exam ahead of you.

5.  Avoid other examiners at all costs.

Quarantine yourself from other’s stress.  You will be stressed out enough as it is.   When you get around other examinees, your stress level can go through the roof.  Realize that there will be examinees taking the exam that have failed the exam multiple times, or it took them multiple times to pass the written exam, or they have done minimal preparation, or they are super competitive and are needlessly worrying.  No matter the reason for their stress, when you get around others who are stressed, it will intensify your stress even more.

A.  Do yourself a favor and order room service the day before the exam.

B.  Burn off some stress by working out in the hotel exercise room.   Bring your headphones and don’t make small talk.  You don’t want to psych yourself out by talking with others.

C.   Spend a majority of your time relaxing and watching a good series on Netflix.


I hope that you have found these 5 Hacks helpful for your Board Certification in Anesthesiology.  By putting these tactics to work, you will be able to reduce your stress and allow you to focus on doing well on the exam.

Looking for some other Board Certification Resources for Residents?