NAPLEX Question of the Week: Preparing for the NAPLEX in the New Year

Happy New Year! This is Part 2 of what I wrote last week so be sure and read last week's column if you didn't get a chance!

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The year 2020 is here! I give my first live NAPLEX review of the year tomorrow so you know testing season is just around the corner. Here are a few additional preparation pearls for the exam that are more practical in nature:

1. Logistics: Take stress out of the occasion. Exams are stressful enough trying to remember material, assess questions, and commit to the correct answer. Take any logistic issues out of the equation! Some examples of this include:

A. Knowing where the testing center is. Sounds easy enough right? What if you have never been there before (which many students when they sign up to take the test are in a different city than normal)? I recommend laying "eyes" on the testing center the day before to eliminate any day of exam stress about knowing where to go. At a minimum get there plenty early in case of accident on road, flat tire, etc. Remember this is your career so prepare accordingly.

B. Get sleep. Remember from last week's column...you can't cram. Get plenty of rest the night before. Recently when I retook my BCPS exam I got plenty of sleep the night before and ate breakfast at my favorite restaurant relaxingly. It calmed me tremendously before I successfully passed my exam.

C. Make sure your ID and ATT match. There is a good explanation of what works and what does not work in the application bulletin. Yes...testing centers do turn students away who's ATT doesn't match the ID in the prescribed manner by NABP (have had it happen to multiple students). 

2. Study what you don't know. My students love to study areas they are familiar with like diabetes, hypertension, etc. Why? First it makes them feel good. Second, because most of them work in a community setting and they know the drugs well. What are your weak areas? Oncology? Psych pharmacotherapy? HIV? Spend some time longitudinally focusing on those areas that are weak spots. Make flash cards and spend a few minutes daily studying those troublesome areas over time. Before you know it your weakness will become your strength.

3. Take a practice test. I had stated in the previous post from last week to practice questions often. This is the next step...The NAPLEX can go as long as 6 hours if you take the whole timeframe. When was the last time you took a test that long? Probably never or not in a long time. There are a number of practice tests available including creating one on AccessPharmacy with the resources previously mentioned. It is important to simulate the exam. 

This is also why I believe attending a live review is very helpful. It forces you to pay attention for hours on end to help prepare you to be mentally ready for a long exam.

4. Minimize/Avoid social media for a few weeks prior to exam. I love social media as an educational tool (Twitter: @blandman19). However, it is really hard to focus for a 6 hour examination. Additionally, attention span is really difficult to maintain when you are used to quick bits of information over and over again similar to what many social media platforms offer. I would substitute studying (of course) and reading instead to train yourself to concentrate so you can do well on what will be case based questions requiring sometimes complex assessments on the exam. Therefore I recommend taking a brief hiatus from social media in order to help you maximize attention span and the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. 

Excited for you as you prepare in 2020 to pass the NAPLEX but more importantly provide outstanding care for your patients. Next week we will return to more didactic discussion with Q and A. See you next week!

Christopher M. Bland

Clinical Associate Professor, University of Georgia College of Pharmacy

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