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  • Writer's pictureLFaits


NBEO exams are the national optometric board certifications required in the United States. OEBC is the Canadian equivalent. Some optometry students only take American boards, and others take only Canadian, but there is a large group of students at ICO taking both. Usually, these students are from Canada and want to have the option of working in both places. Or, they are in a relationship with a Canadian and have to be open to living in either country. I’m the latter. (Side note: if you want to work in British Columbia, they accept NBEO scores.) So what are the differences between the two? Let me tell you.

Parts: NBEO has three parts.

Part 1- Facts and knowledge gathered from all the courses you’ve taken at ICO. Part 2- Case/disease-based Part 3- Practical

OEBC has two parts.

Part 1- Written cases (65 to be exact, with multiple questions for each case) Part 2- Practical

Price: NBEO: Each part is $750 USD

OEBC: Part 1: $2000 CAD, Part 2: $3900 CAD

Location: NBEO: Part 1 and 2 at any Pearson Testing Center, Part 3 in North Carolina (check out my past blog).

OEBC: Hamilton, ON if you want to take it in English. However, the location changes yearly. Part 1 is in a hotel conference room. There are no lockers, so bring the bare minimum or make sure you can put your backpacks in the same room as the test; unfortunately, some classmates had their stuff stolen during the first half of the exam.

How to Study:


Part 1- Study everything. In my blog, I wrote about KMK- a crash course in the most important things to know. NBEO Part 1 includes everything we have learned at ICO. It doesn’t necessarily prove that you know how to care for a patient, but it does prove if you can cram a whole lot of information in your brain.

Part 2- KMK also provides a book for Part 2. Part 2 is a clinical test. There are cases based on patients you may see in your office. You need to be able to diagnose, treat, and manage. It tests you on side effects of drugs, common causes of certain ocular findings, etc. This test proves if you are ready to take care of patients.

Part 3- Practice makes perfect. Check out my blog for a more in-depth explanation. This part proves you know how to do all the tests you need to be able to do- including injections!


Part 1- So, the OEBC does not give any information on what is on its tests. All we know is that it is similar to NBEO Part 2 and everything on this test is clinical-based. Each page has a case and four questions pertaining to it. KMK came out with a Canadian supplemental booklet for the OEBC because treatment is slightly different in Canada. I read the KMK Part 2 book twice, watched the KMK videos, and read the Canadian book twice. I ended up making notecards for the treatment of diseases. I think this is plenty enough to prepare for Part 1. Also, there is hardly any math on the exams, which is really nice!

Part 2- Again, we are unsure what is going to be expected. There are some stations where there may be a patient and others where there won’t be. We don’t know what skills we will need to perform. This is nerve-racking compared to the NBEO, which gave us a rubric. I will give more information as the exam gets closer! (You can only take it in May).

Well, those are the main differences. No matter which national boards you take, both require lots of time, focus, and money to get them done. It will be worth it in the end, but it sure is stressful the day before you take it!


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