What is the NAPLEX®?
The NAPLEX at a Glance
The NAPLEX® is a 250-question, multiple choice, computerized examination designed to determine whether candidates have the knowledge, judgment and skill necessary to practice pharmacy at entry-level competence. The exam tests three fundamental areas of competence: managing drug therapy, safely and accurately preparing and dispensing medications, and providing drug information and promoting public health. For a complete list of NAPLEX competency areas and statements, visit NABP.
Many NAPLEX questions refer to specific patient profiles, so called "scenario" questions. These questions require both a fundamental knowledge of pharmacy as well as the ability to interpret patient information. Most other questions are standard, so-called "stand-alone" multiple-choice items in which a question is asked and answer choices are offered but no patient profiles are given.
The NAPLEX follows the one-best-answer rule, in which several choices may be plausible, but only one answer choice is the best. You will encounter both single-answer and combined-response questions. In single-answer questions, you must choose the best option for completing a statement or answering a question. In combined-response questions, you must choose among several combinations of answer components.
What to Expect
You will have approximately 6 hours to complete 250 questions on a computer. There are two optional ten minute scheduled breaks. Fifty of the questions on the exam are pretest questions and will not affect the student's score. However, there is no way of knowing which items are pretest questions so students should answer each question as though it counts.
The NAPLEX is no longer adaptive, meaning all questions must be answered in order. Test takers cannot return to a question once they have submitted the answer.
Your NAPLEX Score
Your NAPLEX® score is a scaled score, meaning that your final score is neither a number-correct score, nor percent-correct score, but rather an independent value based on measures such as the number of questions you answered correctly and the difficulty of the questions you were asked. A scaled score of 75 or better is considered passing.
There is no longer a minimum number of questions you must answer to receive a score. Unanswered questions are scored as wrong. You should answer all questions, even if you have to guess.
How to Register for the NAPLEX
Registering to take the NAPLEX® and scheduling your exam date is a multi-step process.
First, contact the board of pharmacy in the state in which you want licensure. The state board will issue paperwork and instructions. The state board will determine your eligibility to test and will notify the NABP. You will then be issued an Authorization to Test, which has the following information:
- test authorization number
- expiration date
- range of dates during which you can take the NAPLEX
Next, schedule your examination with Sylvan Prometric. You will need your Authorization to Test information to schedule a test date.
NAPLEX Strategy Sessions
There is no question that the best strategy for NAPLEX® success is to know the material. Without content knowledge, your chances of passing, let alone doing well on the NAPLEX, are slim to none. However, knowing the content doesn't guarantee a high score. You also need to be able to APPLY that knowledge in the way outlined in the NAPLEX Competency Areas. And you need to make sure you can answer the questions in the allotted time! There is nothing more frustrating than running out of time on a standardized test.
In addition, to score well on the NAPLEX you'll need to keep your composure. There will be many questions where you won't know the answer. Good test-takers won't panic! They will systematically eliminate the distracters they know are wrong and will then guess and move on.
The Week Before the Exam
- This is not the time for cramming in new material, but a time to organize and integrate what you already know. Work on making what you know more accessible.
- Review keywords, phrases and concepts. Look over your summary notes one more time. This is the time to drill yourself on essential information. The key is to practice recall, not simply read over the material again. What you need to know is probably already in your head. Your task now is to train yourself to access it when you need it. Doing practice questions is a good way to reinforce your recall skills. Only remember, practice questions are often harder than the questions on the real exam. Do not panic if you do not get them right. Use them to clarify your understanding of key details.
- Be honest with yourself about what you do and do not know. Knowing that you do not know something gives you more of a sense of control on the exam and makes you less likely to panic when you encounter the material and/or waste time on questions you are not likely to get correct. When you come to a question that you know that you do not know, simply mark your favorite answer choice and move on!
- Get yourself onto the right time schedule. Wake up every day at the same time you will need to on the day of the exam. This will get your circadian rhythm coordinated with the exam schedule. Do not nap between 8:00am and 5:00pm. Otherwise you may accustom your body to shutting down during critical exam hours. If you get up at the right time each day, you will also find it easier to fall asleep at night. By getting into the proper sleep-wake cycle, you will find it easier to get to sleep the night of the exam as well.
- You should be getting a sufficient amount of sleep. For most people that means at least 6 to 7 hours a night. Sleep is an essential time for your brain to consolidate what you have learned. You need sleep; it makes you a more efficient learner when you are awake.
- Take some time each day to relax. Have a good meal. Take a walk in the fresh air. Find time for exercise. The change of pace will refresh you and the physical activity will help you relax and sleep at night.
- If you haven't done so already, visit the Sylvan Center where you will be taking the exam. It will be indicated on your exam entry ticket. This will ensure you know how to get there and how much time you should allow for the commute. You can see where you should park, and see what the computer set-up is like.
- If you have not yet done so, review the NABP's NAPLEX® Candidate's Review Guide, which you can download from the NABP. Become familiar with the interface, the location of key information on the screen and how to navigate between screens. If you walk into the exam familiar with the exam, you will be that much more comfortable on test day.
The Day Before the Exam
- Take the day off from studying. This is your day to relax and gather your strength before the main event. Get out of bed at the same time you will have to get up the next day. If you feel you must study, limit yourself to reviewing your own notes and flashcards.
- Have some fun. Go for a walk. Listen to your favorite music. Go see a good comedy or an action movie that will allow cathartic release. Go shopping. Spend time with a significant other. Do what ever you like. You have worked hard and deserve it.
- Make sure that you have checked out the basics for the exam: Have you worked through the NAPLEX® Candidates Review Guide tutorial? Do you know where the Sylvan center is, and how to get there?
- Have a back-up plan: Do you have alternative transportation if, for example, your car does not start? Do you trust your alarm clock to wake you up in time? If not, make arrangements with friends as back up. You want to be sure to wake up rested, refreshed, and on time.
- Lay out what you'll need for the exam before you go to sleep. This includes photo identification, scheduling permit and confirmation number, as well as any personal items like eyeglasses.
- Call your friends and classmates and make some plans to celebrate after the exam is over. You'll need to blow off some steam anyhow, and talking with colleagues will remind you that you are not in this by yourself.
- Be sure to do some physical activity. Just taking a walk for an hour will help relax you.
- Get a good night's sleep. To help you sleep, consider a hot bath or warm milk. Avoid taking sleeping medication as it may leave you groggy in the morning.
- Taking the NAPLEX® is NOT the most important day of your career; it's just another hurdle on your way to becoming a licensed pharmacist. Keep it in perspective. Treat the exam like what it is, a routine mechanical exercise. Deal with each question as you come to it, make your choice, and then move on.
- No matter how well prepared you are for the NAPLEX, you will get many questions wrong. Be prepared to feel stupid. This is not an exam where you should expect to know every answer. Knowing this, your test-taking strategy should be somewhat different than it may be when you take other exams.
- Arrive at the Sylvan Center 30 minutes early so you are not rushed and have time to get organized. You will be given a locker to store your personal items and then assigned a computer station. Remember that you have a total of 4 1/4 hours to complete 185 questions, and a 10-minute mandatory break after approximately 2 hours.
- To cope with fatigue, you will need to make the most of your break. Take care of your needs in the order of their importance to your comfort. Youll probably want to visit the restroom, get a quick refreshment and stretch your legs.
- Be cautious about changing answers. In general, your odds of changing a correct answer to a wrong one are so much higher than the reverse that it is simply not worth the risk. If you change an answer, you are most likely making it wrong! Your first impulse is usually the correct one. Stay with it unless some clear insight occurs to you.
- Monitor your time so that you know how much you have left, and so that you do not find yourself rushed at the end. Work on your pacing from the beginning of the exam. Check your watch or on-screen timer every 10 questions to make sure you are on the correct pace to finish. If you pace yourself throughout the exam, you should not be squeezed for time at the end.
- During the break, try to relax and not think back over the exam. The desire to recall questions is strong, but not helpful. Those questions are in the past; you will never see them again. Focus on relaxing and making the most of your break. Remember, you will always tend to remember those questions you get wrong.