NAPLEX preparation can be stressful even if you find the best NAPLEX review course. Here you will find advice to help in achieving a passing NAPLEX score.
Authored By: Christopher Bland, Pharm.D., BCPS, FIDSA
To say that May is an emotional time for pharmacy students would be an understatement! As a faculty member I have watched the ups and downs of fourth-year pharmacy (P4) students as they complete their rotations followed by graduation with a Doctorate of Pharmacy degree. This of course is a great day to celebrate and congratulations to each of you! Then the stress enters knowing there are several examinations that require passing before receiving their license, one of which being the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX).
I have given live reviews to thousands of pharmacy students across the country in the past several years and have spoken personally to many regarding preparation for the exam. I do my best to adequately prepare them with not only clinical teaching but also with common sense advice or what I call “keeping the big picture” in mind.
In this column I want to try to point out some of the best advice I often give to students as they actively prepare for the NAPLEX.
1. Take a deep breath.
It is important to remember that the NAPLEX passing rate is approximately 90% for first-time takers at ACPE accredited programs. You have received intensive preparation for likely 3-4 years through didactic education, projects, presentations, and experiential rotations. While we as faculty don’t teach specifically to pass the exam, your education goes a long way to help prepare you for the exam.
2. But…You still need to study.
You would be surprised how often I have had students blow off the exam because of the 90% pass rate. This is the absolute wrong attitude to have regarding the exam. Our team of live reviewers has heard several stories of students failing the exam with NAPLEX scores in the low 70s most likely due to lack of preparation. Please take the time to prepare as this is the only thing separating you from a financially lucrative career after graduating.
3. Multiple methods of preparation are best.
If you perform an internet search using “NAPLEX Preparation” the results found can be overwhelming! A number of different preparation materials including live reviews, textbooks, online products, and streaming lectures are available for students. I recommend using several different methods as often they will stress different aspects of material. For example, attending a live review along with buying a review guide either online or as a hardcopy is a good method.
Many schools of pharmacy either provide a live review or contract with a company to provide live reviews for their students. If you anticipate working in the community setting, often chain pharmacies will provide the review for their new hires or at least give a coupon for a discount for a preparation product. Also, if your school has AccessPharmacy, you have access to a number of NAPLEX preparation products from McGraw-Hill for free.
Additionally, there are a number of review guides available for use. Two guides that I recommend are the NAPLEX Review Guide 2nd edition (McGraw-Hill) and the RxPrep Preparation Book (2016 is the newest edition). In full disclosure I was the Associate Editor on the NAPLEX Review Guide.
4. Read the NAPLEX Candidate Registration Bulletin.
You would be surprised how many times I come to do a live review and many of the students have not even read through the Registration Bulletin! Here lies all of the competency statements (which recently changed in November 2015). Did you know there are 5 types of questions on the exam? Are you familiar with a “Constructed-Response” question or a “Hot Spot” question? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you best prepare for the NAPLEX.
5. Prepare for the day of your exam stress free.
Taking the exam is stressful enough! Why make the day any more stressful? Some pointers I often give students are the following:
- Get there early! If driving a long distance to the exam site, try to get there the day before or at least early. This takes the stress of a flat tire, traffic, etc. out of the picture.
- Get a great night of sleep! Many of the exam questions will involve calculations or statistics which require a sharp mind to answer correctly. These are questions that you can easily get right as long as you are mentally sharp.
- Don’t study the night before. I advise relaxing the night before and doing something other than studying. Cramming won’t work for the NAPLEX.
I hope this advice will put many of you at ease and increase your confidence! I look forward to seeing many of you very soon at various pharmacy meetings when you are a licensed pharmacist!
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