Successful planning for the NAPLEX in 2021: Part 2

This week we continue to make a plan for successful passing of the NAPLEX in just a few months!

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This week we will focus on practical matters for the exam. Here are a few additional preparation pearls for the exam:

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 a good night of 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 just a few hours before the exam. It calmed me tremendously before I successfully passed the test.

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 over my tenure). 

2. Study what you don't know. My students love to study areas and medications they are familiar with like diabetes (metformin), hypertension (lisinopril), 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 time allotted. 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. I just completed my first live review of the year and students were amazed that they were able to pay attention for 3 straight days for that period of time.

4. Minimize/Avoid social media for a few weeks prior to exam. I love social media as an educational tool (Feel free to follow me on 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. Missing one word or one detail in a question can be the difference in choosing the right answer!

Excited for you as you prepare in 2021 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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