Although I make my living as a lactation educator (Lactation Exam Review, Comprehensive Lactation Course, and more), I too have to take the IBLCE exam. Sitting for the exam is downright exhausting. It’s taken me days to regain my energy and put together my thoughts about the experience. (I admit it! That’s partly because I was busy with a national conference of breastfeeding coalitions—an experience much more enjoyable than taking the exam!)
It’s been five years since I last took the IBLCE exam. The test has changed quite a bit in that time. The format has changed. The number of items has changed. The testing period has changed. Here’s what I learned from taking the 2014 exam:
1) It’s not really a 4-hour test.
In its exam authorization letter, IBLCE writes that the exam “consists of 175 multiple-choice questions, 102 of which are associated with an image. The exam is given in 2 parts. You will have 4 hours to complete the exam, which includes two hours to complete Part 1 and two hours to complete Part 2.”
In practice, you don’t have “four hours” to complete the exam. You have “two hours” to complete each part of the exam. Even this is not equal; the parts have differing numbers of questions.
Here’s my tip: IBLCE exam-takers this year had 120 minutes to address 73 text-based questions of Part I, and 120 minutes to address 102 image-based questions of Part II. Be prepared!
2) Plan your break strategically.
The IBLCE allows exam-takers to take a break, but does not provide a specific time for it. Referring again to the exam authorization letter: “There are no scheduled breaks between Part 1 and Part 2 of the exam. Any minutes that you do not use to complete Part 1 will not be rolled over to Part 2.”
Here’s my tip: If you finish Part I of the exam before your time is up, before you click the “Finished” button, go take your break! You’ll want to take the “break time” while the clock is running on your first (nearly completed) section … not during the as-yet-unseen Part 2. This ensures that you have the full 2 hours you are allotted for tackling the second part of the exam. (And if you’re an older test-taker like me, consider applying for a scheduled break.)
3) Core principles of lactation care are timeless.
I recognized at least two photos included on the 2014 exam. I have seen them on other occasions during the past 25 or 30 years; I’ve even used them in my own courses. Although we in the health care field talk a lot about “new” research and “new” information, these photos remain relevant for today’s exam-takers and lactation-focused health care providers.
Here’s my tip: Focus on the core principles and concepts—and don’t be distracted by the outdated visual elements.
4) Flag for review judiciously.
When taking Part I, I flagged many, many questions to review again later. When I pushed the button to “Review flagged items,” I felt overwhelmed. I felt like I ought to change all of the answers just because I had doubted them—even though I know that’s not a good test-taking strategy!
I’m not saying that flagging an item for review is a bad idea, but I’m saying that it opens a door of temptation that I shouldn’t walk through too often.
Here’s my tip: Flag carefully.
5) Have confidence in the material you know.
There’s no telling how much time I wasted worrying about the exam content, or doing some last-minute studying. In fact, I would say last-minute studying did not help me at all.
Here’s my tip: A good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast support exam success more than last-minute studying will!
So, that’s what you need to know, IBLCE exam-taker!
And, IBLCE, a few words of advice about the test structure:
- Allow MORE TIME for the more difficult, longer section of image-based test items! Since it includes about 40% more items than the text-based Part I, Part 2 deserves more time.’
- Check the clocks. This may have been an isolated incident, but I was hyper-vigilant about my time—especially when I sat down for Part 2—and I firmly believe that my clock counted down from “110 minutes” rather than the “120” it should have started with.