Preparing for Success on Exam Day

Today's question gives tips on how to decrease stress and improve your chances for passing the NAPLEX.

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There are a number of students for whom a few questions make the difference between passing the exam and having to take it again. Often looking back there were a number of practical things they could have done to minimize anxiety and stress that could lead to questions being missed that otherwise would not have been. Many have already scheduled their NAPLEX and preparing to take shortly.

Here are some helpful hints for minimizing test day anxiety and maximizing production on the exam.

1. Take a deep breath. You have spent the last 3-4 years depending on your school working hard to get to this point. You can't cram for the NAPLEX! Typically desperate thinking leads to mistakes on exams. Remember that the pass rate nationally as of latest data from NABP is nearly 90% for first time takers at ACPE accredited schools. Therefore keep in mind that most people do pass but you do want to be diligent in your preparation leading up to the day of the exam.

2. Don't try to find the exam center on the day of the exam. Many pharmacy students end up scheduling their exams for a geographical area (even different state). The absolute last thing you want to do is drive up last minute to try and find where you are to take the exam. If you are going to go up the day of the exam, leave very early to give yourself plenty of time in case the room is incorrect or you get a flat tire. I remember vividly trying to crank my car before trying to catch a plane only to find my battery was dead! I often recommend to my students to spend the night before near the exam site to give yourself plenty of time if the testing area is greater than 2 hours from home.

3. Get a good night's rest and definitely eat breakfast. Don't stay up all night studying. Get to bed early and get at a minimum 8 hours of sleep. It is a long test! For some of you it will be right at 6 hours. Definitely eat a good breakfast the morning of the exam to give your brain some much needed food. Performing calculations makes up 14% of the exam (Area 4) and being accurate and sharp during the exam is key to getting these correct. 

4. Take your break seriously. Use this time to take a mental break and definitely bring a snack. Most centers will have a locker you can use to place a snack in. There are some data demonstrating that eating during tests increases performance. Take full advantage of the break.

5. Read every word of every question. Our mind can play tricks on us sometimes, assuming details that aren't there. As a faculty member who has reviewed hundreds of tests with students, I could retire if I had a dollar for every time I heard "I didn't see that detail when I answered that question". All it takes is one word in a question to change the answer. For example, recommending an antibiotic for a UTI in a 24 year old female or 24 year old pregnant female. If you miss "pregnant" because you are reading the question too fast, you likely could miss the correct answer.

6. You won't get every question correct. There is a high likelihood you will run into some questions for which you have little knowledge or didn't cover in preparation. Don't panic. Do your best to eliminate choices to give yourself a reasonable chance to answer correctly. It can be done!

Good luck to everyone as you work toward becoming a licensed pharmacist!



Christopher M. Bland

Clinical Associate Professor, University of Georgia College of Pharmacy

Dr. Christopher M. Bland is a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy at the Southeast GA campus in Savannah, GA. Dr. Bland has over 20 years of academic and clinical experience in a number of clinical areas. He is a Fellow of both the Infectious Diseases Society of America as well as the American College of Clinical Pharmacy. He is co-founder of the Southeastern Research Group Endeavor, SERGE-45, with over 80 practitioners across 14 states involved. Dr. Bland serves as Associate Editor for the NAPLEX Review Guide 4th edition as well as Editor-In-Chief for the Question of the Week. He has provided live, interactive reviews for more than 10 Colleges/Schools of Pharmacy over the course of his career.