NAPLEX Question of the Week: Preparing for Success on the Exam (Part II)

This week we continue to provide helpful tips for success as you work toward taking the exam!
NAPLEX Question of the Week: Preparing for Success on the Exam (Part II)

Last week we focused on the components of the NAPLEX. This week we will focus on practical matters regarding the exam. Here are a few additional preparation pearls for the exam:

1. Remove as much stress as possible with good planning. The NAPLEX is stressful enough trying to remember material, assess questions, and commit to the right answer. Take any logistic issues out of the equation! Some examples of this include:

A. Knowing exactly 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 or even a different state than normal)? I recommend going to the testing center the day before to eliminate any extra day of exam stress as you will know exactly where you are going. At a minimum get there on the day of the exam very early in case of accident on road, flat tire, etc. Remember this is your career so prepare accordingly.

B. Get a great night of sleep. You can't cram for the NAPLEX. Get plenty of rest the night before. Good sleep hygiene with little electronics before bed, no caffeine, etc.  The last time I took my BCPS recertification exam, I got plenty of sleep the night before and ate breakfast at my favorite restaurant just a few hours before the exam. It calmed me tremendously before I successfully passed the test. 

C. Make sure your ID and Authorization to Test (ATT) match. There is a good explanation of what works and what does not work in the application bulletin (see last week's column for link to candidate's guide). Yes...testing centers do turn students away whose ATT doesn't match the ID in the prescribed manner by NABP (have had it happen to multiple students over my tenure as a faculty member). 

2. Study What You Don't Know. Students love to study areas and medications they are familiar with like diabetes (metformin), hypertension (ACE-inhibitors), etc. Why? It makes you feel good. Second, because most work in a community setting, they know the drugs well because of repetition in seeing them over and over. What are your areas that need improvement? Storage/Administration? HIV? Calculations? 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 as opposed to one time before the exam. 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 time allotted. When was the last time you took a test that long? How about even 4 hours? Probably never or not in a long, long time. You have to train your mind and body to perform well. 

We are very excited to announce the availability of a full fledge practice exam at AccessPharmacy! This exam possesses the full 225 questions with all potential question formats and is also timed. Our team believes that the best time for a practice exam is a few weeks prior to taking the actual exam. Practice and study until you are ready, then take the practice exam. This will then provide good feedback on what needs to be studied more which will get you ready for the actual exam! You can find a link here to the practice exam:

This is also why I believe attending a live (in person preferably) review is very helpful. It forces you to pay attention for a full day to help prepare you to be mentally ready for a long exam. In our live reviews that we provide across the country, students often struggle to focus, especially on the first day of the review. However by the end of the review, they are locked in and able to focus for longer. 

Live reviews and a practice exam are great ways to stretch your brain to its full potential on the exam. 

4. Avoid Social Media Prior to the Exam. I love social media as an educational tool (Feel free to follow me on X: @blandman19). However... it is really hard to focus during a 6-hour examination at baseline. 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 see you TikTok). I would substitute studying (of course) and reading instead of "doom scrolling" to train yourself to concentrate so you can do well on what will be many case-based questions requiring often complex assessments on the exam. Therefore, I recommend taking a brief hiatus (2-3 weeks) from social media in order to help you maximize attention span and enhance your ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Missing one word or one detail (e.g. allergy, pregnancy, etc.) in a case-based question can be the difference in choosing the right answer!

Excited for you as you prepare in 2024 to pass the NAPLEX but more importantly provide outstanding care for your patients. Next week we will return to our more traditional question of the week. 

See you next week!

Dr. B

You can find Dr. Bland on X at @blandman19. 

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