• Dr. Ryan Corte

North Carolina State Board of Optometry Examination | How To Prepare For NC Optometry Boards

Updated: May 4

Are you interested in practicing optometry in North Carolina but anxious about taking the North Carolina State Board of Optometry Examination?


In this video, I share with you everything you need to know about North Carolina Optometry Boards, including tips to prepare for and pass this daunting examination!

Disclaimer: Before reading this, I want to be very clear this is not North Carolina State Board of Optometry created, sponsored, or sanctioned content. It's simply best practices used to prepare for and pass this examination.


RELATED: Should You Practice Optometry in North Carolina?


My North Carolina State Board of Optometry Examination story

North Carolina is known to have a tough examination process for optometry licensure. Personally, I took the board the winter of my residency year.


To prepare, I studied a few hours each night for about a month. I even flew down to meet with one of my mentors to practice talking out cases (now very doable via zoom).


Also, the exam used to have a clinical skills part (it no longer does). To be completely honest, I had put so much pressure on myself to excel that I had a mini panic exam the night before the exam.


Hindsight is truly 20/20 because it wasn't as bad as I'd envisioned.


In order to practice optometry in North Carolina you must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.

  • Be of good moral character.

  • Be a graduate of an accredited optometric institution approved by the North Carolina State Board of Optometry.

  • Achieve passing scores on NBEO Part I, II, and III.

  • Achieve passing score on NBEO part II TMOD.

  • Achieve passing score on NBEO part III ISE.

  • Provide a fully completed application form (which I'll get to in a second) and pay the required $800 fee.

  • Achieve a passing score on the North Carolina State Board of Optometry Examination.

Registering for the North Carolina State Board of Optometry Examination

  • The examination is held twice a year (August and February). I highly recommend you apply early!

  • Returned by the application deadline, which is 60 days before the exam, you must submit a:

  • Completed application, notarized in two places.

  • Passport size photograph affixed to the first page.

  • Check made payable to NC Board of Optometry in the amount of $800.

  • If you pass, this fee includes your license fee for the first year.

  • Returned by the completion deadline, which is 45 days before the exam, you must submit a:

  • Birth certificate.

  • Official optometry college/university transcripts showing the date degree was conferred.

  • Official pre-optometry college/university transcripts.

  • Qualifying NBEO Scores

  • Passing scores on Part I, II, and III.

  • Passing score on part II TMOD.

  • Passing score on part III ISE.

North Carolina State Optometry Board Examination format

  • There are 5 stations of which you'll be given two 10-minute cases per session. So a total of 10 cases. Between each station, you'll get a 15-minute break.

  • 10 minutes into the session you will hear a beep that signals the session is half over and it might be a good time to move on to your second case.

  • From start to finish the exam is ~ 2 hours 40 minutes.

  • The exam is oral, adaptive, and designed to simulate real life cases and presentations you can see in practice at any time.

  • Using the SOAP format, your goal is to achieve a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan for each case. You can also be asked what your differentials were in making the diagnosis, what type of disease you are dealing with, and to explain the pathophysiology of the condition.

  • To pass the exam, you must get a 75% or better.

  • Also, different from when I took the exam, clinical procedures are no longer being tested. This is nice since it takes another stressful element out of the exam.

Tips on how to best prepare for the North Carolina State Optometry Board Examination


1) Know the NCSBOE study guide inside and out!

This awesome resource was not available when I took the exam (I wish it was).


Also, use resources like The Wills Eye Manual, Mass Ear and Eye, KMK Part II Study Guide, and your optometry school disease course notes to prepare and be familiar with landmark clinical studies that impact the treatment and management of ocular disease.


2) Review lots of case photos and specialized testing

Each case will likely have a clinical picture, specialized testing, or both. Therefore, it's in your best interest to review as many pictures from textbooks, Google searches, and industry databases.


Make sure to spend time interpreting OCTs, visual fields, MRIs, and CT Scans. Also, understand what lab tests are required to make a proper diagnosis.


3) Study consistently and perfect verbalizing cases out loud

Personally, I prepared consistently for 1 month and verbally talked through cases with classmates and colleagues using the SOAP format.


This process was critical, as it prepared me for the verbalization required to pass the exam.


4) Practice time management

Honestly, it’s in your best interest to be comprehensive yet efficient with your time.


If you get stuck on a case, move to the next one and come back to it later.


5) Complete the entire patient exam

If you identify something is going on in the anterior segment, don't get excited you "solved" the problem and forget to complete the posterior segment evaluation.


It is very important that you complete the entire comprehensive exam on each case in a logical sequence. Because, just like in real life, patients can have more than one thing impacting their eye health and vision!


6) Be as specific as possible!

It's in your best interest to be as detailed as possible when describing how you would treat and manage a patient.

  • When prescribing therapeutics, use brand names and verbalize the entire prescription.

  • When making referrals, identify the specialist that needs to be seen and why.

  • If there is a landmark study that influences your decision-making, highlight this and why.

7) Relax (breathe)

I know how stressful it can be preparing for a test of this magnitude. But you got this!


Final thoughts

While the North Carolina optometry licensure process is challenging, it’s certainly not as daunting as its reputation. With the right focus and preparation, you will pass this examination!


How do you plan to prepare for the North Carolina State Board of Optometry Examination? Let me know in the comments below and feel free to reach out if you have any questions!


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