Studying for the NAPLEX 101

Hey Pharmily!

Wow, I knew studying for boards was a heavily requested topic but you guys are not messing around! Please know that this is not an all inclusive guide to the NAPLEX or my full thought out advice on the subject. This blog post is targeted to 2019 graduates who have their NAPLEX exams coming up soon. One of my exciting upcoming projects will be able to dive into studying for the NAPLEX deeper but for now I can’t just leave all of my amazing 2019 peers hanging.

Studying Timeline

First, it is worth it to mention that I was in a unique situation because I had my last block off from rotations. This gave me six weeks before graduation to relax and like I planned ahead of time also allowed me to study for boards. All in all with not matching to residency in the first round and going back to campus for a week, I probably had about two to three weeks where I studied before graduation. I graduated on Saturday, May 4th and like we all deserve to, I certainly took a few days off from studying afterwards. After graduation I was studying daily but not what I would call intensely studying. This time period adds up to about another two weeks at which point I received my ATT number. On May 21st, I scheduled my May 31st exam… I was very stressed to say the least as the panic set in. However, at this point I had been through the RXPrep book once for every chapter and I knew I had enough time to prepare. Due to the nature of scheduling these types of exams, I had to take my NAPLEX in upstate NY, which for me was fine because my whole family lives up there. One week before my exam I drove up to my grandmas house where the intense phase of studying began.

Creating a Study Schedule

Creating a study schedule for a huge exam like this is critical. It can be hard to know if you are doing enough each day without keeping track of your progress. What I personally did, both before graduation and during my intense phase of studying, was I wrote out what chapters I was doing each day into a calendar based on how many days I had to study. If you guys have read other blog posts from me on how I study then you might know that I love making study guides. So yes I am 100% the over achiever that made a NAPLEX study guide but honestly I have to say it is not make or break by any means. A lot of my initial studying was a long time before my exam and I didn’t necessarily recall making my master study guide. What it did allow me to do was review the chapters more quickly during my intense phase of studying because I had already pulled out the information that I deemed most important. This could also be done by highlighting in the book key information that you want to go back over. I saved calculations and pharmacokinetics for soon before my exam. These weren’t topics I was focused on in the begging because I knew there was equations and little things I wanted to memorize and have fresh in my mind. During my intense phase of studying I would review a certain amount of chapters each day (again base this on how many days you have) then I would do some math each day and flashcards each day. The day before my exam I focused on reviewing anything that I had flagged as needing review or subjects that I historically have just needed to study harder like ID and HIV.

Most Helpful Tips & Tricks

Like I have said again and again when it comes to studying I truly believe flash cards are the holy grail. It helps me memorize them by writing them out but it also helps me decide if I truly know them or not. I will put a list below of everything I made flashcards for but in general I kept them sorted out by what kind of flash cards they were and whenever I went through them I’d sort them into ones I knew really well and ones I did not know. Each day my pile of “I don’t know” flash cards got smaller and smaller and this saved me time.

Types of flash cards I made:

  • Brand/generic (from the front of the RXPrep top drugs and throughout the chapters any other bolded brand names I didn’t know)
  • Math equations and drug equivalents (there is a helpful list of must know equations, etc at the front of the rxprep book)
  • Acronyms (ex. LATTIN, Double Quarter Pounder….)
  • Drugs that “_____” (ex. drugs that cause photosensitivity, etc)

My thought with these flash cards was that if the book was telling me I should know something and they gave me a list a key drugs I needed to know (like teratogens) or they even gave me some weird acronym to try and help me then I should really probably take that seriously and memorize them. Flash cards are again I believe the best way to do this but if flash cards aren’t your thing still keep these subjects in mind!

I also got my RXPrep book taken off of the spine! I went to staples and they simply cut off the binding for you. This let me split of the chapters and sections of the book how I wanted and it wasn’t like I was studying on a giant curved mountain everyday.

Day of Exam Advise

  • If possible and your testing center is far away, spend the night before at a hotel nearby. Mine would have been a 1.5 hour drive which would have made the entire morning and night before much more stressful
  • Get sleep the night before, trust in yourself and your schooling and prioritize getting some much needed rest
  • Eat breakfast! Yes your stomach is going to be in knots and you might feel nausea but that brain of yours needs fuel
  • Coffee, back to the nervous thing.. yeah that goes away about an hour in and its not fun to crash when you have 5 hours to go… so my advise would be to load up
  • Definitely arrive 30 minutes early it does take a while to get checked in
  • Wear something that doesn’t involve a ton of pockets or is really loose fitting, you will get patted down and asked to roll up your sleeves, lift your hair, show them jewelry, etc. The more simple you keep it the easier
  • 100% bring a water and granola bar or some kind of snack for your breaks
  • Take BOTH of your ten minuet breaks, I only took one and my brain regretted it

I hope this quick blog posts was helpful for you! If you have any questions after reading this please DM on instagram so I can respond and let others know the answer as well! I wish you all the best of luck and have absolute confidence you will do great!

-Madeline

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