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.