How to Take BOC Practice Exams the Right Way

Practice testing is an essential part of your prep for the Board of Certification (BOC) exam. Practice BOC exams allow you to answer former or approximate test questions in a simulated testing environment. BOC exam practice tests will give you the feedback you need, as well as build the stamina you need to reach your ultimate score goals. There are things that you should do when preparing for or taking a BOC practice test, and there are also things you should avoid. To maximize your BOC practice test experience, you should steer clear of the following mistakes.

Half Asleep

After waking up from sleep, the human brain takes approximately 90 minutes to reach its optimal operating level. It’s hard to be successful with your eyes half-shut. It doesn’t work, so plan to ​get 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night if possible. On the real BOC exam day, get up early enough  to have plenty of time to be ready and alert by the time your proctor says, “You may begin.”


Before testing, you should be properly fueled. Long exams can be physically demanding. Although your brain does 80% of the work, remember that it is a part of your body, and the adrenaline, dopamine, and cortisol that are flowing through your body will require calories … lots of them. Bring snacks to the test center and eat your normal breakfast. You will be thanking yourself later if you’re able to slam some peanut butter M&Ms before getting to your seat. Treat a practice exam the same way! 

Not Dressed for Success

The brain and the body are connected, and we need to remember that information flows in both directions. By dressing as if you’re going to a sleepover, what kind of message are you sending? If you’re going to take a practice test during an exam period, it doesn’t make sense to be asleep… Now, you’re not supposed to dress like you’re going to the prom or to a job interview, but it might be a good idea to shower and wear clothes that communicate that you’re ready to work. You’ll be surprised how well your brain responds to those cues. You should still be comfortable, but not as relaxed as you would be at home in bed or on the couch.

Cold – but prepared!

Going in Cold – literally

​The BOC exam is offered several times each year. In fact, you may be testing when snow is on the ground, around the holidays, or during X-Country pre-season in Vermont, and you cannot predict whether your test center will be ready for the warmer weather or still pumping heat during a late winter morning. Make sure you dress in layers: zip-up jackets or sleeves that can be rolled up or down. That way, you can be prepared, no matter the temperature inside (or outside). Try and mimic a few different temperatures when you take a practice exam and figure out your layers early. 


A key feature of the BOC exam is that it’s designed to measure students’ knowledge, not to actually teach them. What this means is that we can’t approach these kinds of tests with the same level of familiarity that we do for other exams. Standardized tests have completely different types of questions and styles than what we’re used to in school, so they require our full focus. The BOC test writers are certainly trying to test you (but not in the same way that our professors do), and, at times, they’ll trip you up if you’re not paying close enough attention. For your practice BOC exams, limit distractions as much as possible. Turn off notifications on your computer and turn off your phone or watch notifications. 

​Plugged In

In the past year, we’ve all had to get used to operating in a virtual environment. When you’re taking a BOC practice exam at home, be aware of your test environment. Clear away any distractions from your desk or testing area, and let your friends, roommates, or family (including pets!) know that you’ll be busy for the next few hours and you’d appreciate their not interrupting you. You might be at home, but it is still a good idea to dress semi-formally as if you were going to a testing center. The key is to be comfortable, but not like you just rolled out of bed. When possible, treat your BOC practice exam like the real one, and follow the official test policies about food, drink, phones, and noise.

As a rule of thumb, you should avoid any behavior that is not likely to be acceptable on test day, such as unscheduled breaks, checking the answer key, and working after the time limit has expired. You’ll be better prepared on your BOC exam day if you make the practice test as realistic as possible.

We know that taking a four-hour test is probably not your preferred way to spend part of your day, but as long as you’re going to, why not make the most of the time you’re giving to the process? If your goal is to perform better on the real BOC exam, BOC practice tests are one of the best ways you have to gauge how ready you are. 

Good luck!

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