Successful Planning for the NAPLEX in 2021: Part One

Pray everyone had a safe New Year! Now we get rolling toward our goal of passing the NAPLEX in 2021.

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You've heard about the NAPLEX likely since before getting admitted into pharmacy school. It has been in the back of your mind throughout your pharmacy school career. Now that 2021 is here and you will be taking the exam in just a few months! In the many years I have taught live reviews across the country, I am surprised how often students do not do the "little" things that are critical for success come exam time. This is definitely not an exam you can just stroll into and pass.  Here are some practical pearls to getting prepared for the exam.

1. You Can't Cram.  This is not a pharmacy school exam. There just is no way to cram 4 years of intense education into 2-4 weeks. If you have not started studying in a formalized way, this should be your 1st New Year's resolution! Come up with a plan to divide and conquer and just doing that will ease your stress (think making a budget!). Some areas that you are familiar with lend themselves to short bursts of studying (diabetes, hypertension) while others require more of a long-term approach (HIV, oncology) for retention. 

2. Read the Candidate's Guide, Competency Statements, and Exam Question Types. NABP on their website has a guide for all students who will be taking the exam. There are additional documents on test design, competency statements, and sample questions. This will give you a framework on how the exam will be structured and will not surprise you on different question types (Hint: There are 5 different question types). The links can be found here:

https://nabp.pharmacy/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/NAPLEX-MPJE-Bulletin_July_2020-1.pdf

https://nabp.pharmacy/programs/examinations/naplex/competency-statements-2021/

https://nabp.pharmacy/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/NAPLEX-Sample-Questions-1.pdf

3. Practice. Practice. Practice. Questions are your friend. The more you practice, the more you get into a rhythm of "test mode". Additionally, you identify areas of weakness that you need to improve upon. Also you identify areas of strength which helps you tailor your study habits. AccessPharmacy has a number of great resources for studying and practicing questions including the following resources by Dr. Scott Sutton, Clinical Professor and Chair at the University of South Carolina. These resources allow for creation of custom quizzes both by disease state or by competency statement: 

Naplex Review Guide 3rd Edition:https://accesspharmacy.mhmedic...

Naplex Online Question Bank: https://accesspharmacy.mhmedical.com/qa.aspx?resourceID=2255

All NAPLEX resources can be found on AccessPharmacy under the "NAPLEX Central" Tab on the top right of the front page. Our team is rapidly finishing completion of our newly released NAPLEX Review Guide 4th edition which should be available in first couple of months of 2021 on AccessPharmacy.

4. Calculations.  How many calculations have you done on your rotations this year? Unless you had a compounding rotation, most of your experience is likely with pharmacokinetics or TPN formulation calculations.  You likely are rusty and need to get back into the swing of things. Calculation questions could be fill in the blank (constructed response) so not just recognizing the correct answer. Therefore it is vital to practice and practice well. 

5. Back to the Basics. Chances are on your rotations you are being challenged to practice at the top of your future license so to speak. This includes being educated on all the most difficult cases available. It is important to remember that the exam is testing your ability to perform as an entry level pharmacist, not a specialist like some of your faculty to trained you. Chances are also that you haven't been quizzed a lot on important parts of an exam such as brand/generic names, storage required for certain medications, routes of administration, delivery systems, etc. As stated in #2 above, be sure and read the candidate's guide to review the competency statements to ensure you are studying for all aspects of the examination. 

Next week's column will touch on some further points to help you prepare for success. 

Happy 2021!

Dr. B

Christopher M. Bland

Clinical Associate Professor, University of Georgia College of Pharmacy