Marie's Outlook

Last-Minute Advice for IBLCE Exam: 6 Ways to Avoid Losing Points

I thought I’d seen it all, said it all, and written it all about taking the IBLCE exam. Apparently not!

A few days ago, I received a slew of inquiries from a handful of people who were doing our practice exams. They challenged the correct response to several questions.

I carefully reviewed these questions. The answers, as indicated, were correct. And, literally thousands of people have faced those questions, and answered them correctly. So I felt confident about the accuracy and clarity of the questions.

Then, I carefully reviewed questions from these exam-takers. There was a pattern. Here was my advice to them, and now, to you!

Read the stem carefully.
The exam item’s stem is what most people call the “question.” (It may be worded in the form of a question, or as an incomplete statement.) Read exactly what it says: no more, no less.

People often complain that the IBLCE exam is “tricky.” I cannot say that I love all of the IBLCE exam questions! But I would not characterize the questions as “tricky.” Why so?

An exam item writer—the IBLCE committee or me, or anyone else—must be specific. If you ask, “Are you going to the game on Sunday afternoon?” I must know exactly what game you are referring to, and which Sunday you mean,  in order to give an accurate response. That’s not a “tricky” question, it’s just a more precise question.

Read the options carefully.
One of the recent questions I received was from a woman who read the word misfeasance as malfeasance. I replied to her question, pointing out that one option was, indeed, an example  of the IBCLC’s misfeasance. She followed up with another question about the “wrongness” of this same thing!

Even after my explanation, her eye was still reading the wrong word. I cannot tell you how important it is watch these look-alike, sound-alike words!

Note the baby’s age.
In the courses I teach, I’ve seen literally thousands of people trip on this.

I give a question on the normal number of stools for a 3-week old baby. The normal number of stools for a 3-week old is very different for an older baby. On the IBLCE exam, the age of the baby is often critical for determining the correct answer.Make sure your response is age-appropriate.

Stick to the WHO principles and directives.
One person got all tangled up in a question that pertained to a new mother who seemed sad and tearful. She didn’t like any of the options, and sent a note to me saying that some famous psychologist who specialized in postpartum depression said that none of the options were correct.

She is overthinking this. The stem asked how to elicit more information from the mother. Three of the options were closed-ended questions; one was an open-ended question. For years, the communication principle put forth by the World Health Organization (WHO) is simple: To elicit more information from the mother, ask an open-ended question.

Assume the “classic” case.
If you find yourself saying, “It depends on if…”, HALT! If it truly depended on that, the stem would have specified that.

Here’s a great example. Some astute dietitian often points out to me, “But there’s more than one type of galactosemia!” OK, I know that. But on an exam, you should assume that the question is about a classic case of a condition, unless otherwise specified.

Don’t start thinking about true statements.
I saw this a few days with someone who got all messed up in a question about PKU. It was obvious that she did not recognize how human milk compares to cow’s milk based formula, which was the basic thrust of the question. She insisted that some babies can be breastfed. That option wasn’t listed. Even if it had been, it wouldn’t have answered the question being asked.

An option that is a true statement might be merely a distractor if it does not answer the question. Here’s an exaggerated but accurate illustration. I ask you, “What time is it?” and you tell me, “It’s 77 degrees outside today.” Okay, that’s a true statement! But it doesn’t answer the question.

Do not be fooled into thinking that you need only knowledge to be a successful test-taker. You also need to be a savvy in reading and responding to each exam item and using Test Taking Strategies.

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12 thoughts on “Last-Minute Advice for IBLCE Exam: 6 Ways to Avoid Losing Points

  1. Karen Gresback

    3 days and counting down. You continue to show your passion on wanting us all to be successful. You have helped with all of the knowledge you have shared in a way that it is understandable ( I was at your live review course in NJ this fall) You have gone above and beyond in sharing the importance of test taking strategies as well. I can just see your mind is rarely at rest. I imagine you will be right there with all of us as we sit the exam on Monday. Thanks for keeping things simple and clear. I feel ready. Now if that little voice that I hear once in awhile ( that wants to throw me into panic mode )would just shut up. I only want to hear one voice on Monday and that is yours Marie when I’m recalling what I learned and heard. I’m counting on hearing your voice whisper me the answer. Karen Gresback.

    1. Marie Post author

      Oh wow, Karen, I can feel the tears pricking at the back of my eyes! NOT something that happens to me often–but yes, you have read me right! I am am passionate about getting people to their goal–passing the IBLCE exam or to any other goal–and I really do care. And that little voice that wants to lead you into panic mode? Be sure to tell it, repeatedly to shut up because that voice is wrong! Wishing you peace, and feeling sure that you will do great!!! (Thanks for your really uplifting comment today!)

  2. Stephanie Krasner

    Yes Marie! I’ve got that same sweet and strong Marie voice with me! You are coming to the exam with me, and you have been with me on the entire test-prep journey! Thank you for everything! I hope ‘we’ pass!
    And good luck to my classmates on Monday!
    Stephanie Krasner

  3. Marie Post author

    Ha ha! I chuckle at so many IBLCE exam-takers, when, after the exam, they tell me, “I could hear your voice in my ear as I was taking the exam!” I have to wonder if this is because I do so much audio instruction these days, not just books, and somehow, my “voice” is in their head!

    In any event, keep listening to that “strong” voice– and so does Karen, everyone else! Muzzle any “weak” voice or “panic” voice or negative self-talk!

    I am sending all of you the “strong” voice, best wishes, and lots of positive energy over the weekend!

    (Now stop studying! Cramming usually isn’t good for people, because it often evokes that “panic” voice!)

  4. Snober Lakhani

    Marie,
    Thank you for all that you are doing. From the live course in NJ in August to the drill questions, to the Practice online exams, to the new picture perfect study workbook and to all the notes and HW assignments pre-course. I feel prepared. Just doing a Full Practice Exam today and tomorrow and may your voice ring in my ears on Monday. My test taking skills and confident have somewhat improved over the past few weeks with your support. I am at hopes that the anxiety stays at bay. Keeping all test takers in my thoughts and sharing my positivity with all!

    1. Marie Post author

      Snober, thank you for your nice note. I admit that sometimes it’s hard for me to “keep on keeping on.” But I’m as passionate about getting people to meet (and surpass!) their goals as I am about getting mothers to breastfeed! This is my personal agenda: To get everyone in my course to pass! And if the topic was on growing orchids or raising border collies or knitting a sweater, I’d be just as passionate about getting you to accomplish your goals for those things, too!

      You were among the first 10 people or so to buy my new workbook. I know it has some warts on it, but on the whole, was it helpful for exam prep?

      1. Snober Lakhani

        Yes, agreed there were some items that had some “warts”. But, overall, it did help me. I feel using the reading and the activities to better evaluate the photos I was able to become more confident on what to look for in the photos. At the end of it all, I hope I will be as prepared as possible for the test tomorrow.
        To all, take a few moments to relax and de-stress by doing something you enjoy. This will calm your nerves for sure. Get an adequate night’s sleep and eat a nutritious breakfast before entering your exam tomorrow. This is my plan… sending good vibes to all my fellow test takers!

        1. Marie Post author

          I’m so glad you found the new workbook helpful with zeroing in on what to look for in the photos, evaluating them, and becoming more confident. Those were for sure my unspoken aims for writing the workbook! (Which turned out to be the most difficult writing task I’ve ever taken on, largely because there were over 460 pages of content that had to “match” so many other pages, concepts, photos, or answers in the appendix!) My commitment to active learning strategies was obvious, I’m sure! (I am working feverishly to get rid of those little warts before we go to the next printing!)

          EVERYONE: I totally echo what Snober just said: Stop studying! Relax! A good night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast…all great advice. (And be sure to tune in for the little surprise blog I have cooked up for you AFTER the exam is over!

          With warm wishes to you, Snober, and to all!

  5. AnneMarie Watt

    I am not only writing to thank Marie once again for her wisdom, guidance, sense of humor! There is more, I’m just brain dead right now! I feel I have studied and like the rest of my fellow test takers just need to remember to have more confidence and remember all those tips Marie drilled in our heads at our review course in NJ in August! I know I don’t go into this exam alone in my head! Best wishes to all and I hope all the positive energy is flowing for all of us future IBCLCs who will be making a difference to so many women around the world!!

    1. Marie Post author

      AnneMarie, I think I wrote you a little note on my private Facebook page. (Last night or this morning, I think.) You know–the one for those who attended the Comprehensive Course.

      But my basic message was this: RELAX! And that goes for anyone else reading this, too! The likelihood of your “learning” anything else at this point is highly improbable. To the contrary, you could be just working yourself up into a sweat which doesn’t do you any good.

      Better that you take a good nap! Stop worrying! You’re totally smart. I remember you, and actually, if you are who I think you are, I just went by your hospital the other day!

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