Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Random thought

Does anyone know someone who actually failed the NAPLEX? I'm not going to count anyone who barely speaks English and couldn't understand the questions. I mean, do you know anyone who failed the NAPLEX simply because they thought the test was too hard?

Whenever a student asks me about how to study for the NAPLEX, I say the same thing; "Study as much as you need to in order to ease your mind, but just keep in mind that as long as you know how to do pharmacy math, you will not fail it."

Like everyone else, I was nervous about taking the NAPLEX. Everyone tells you that you'll do just fine on it, but as a student, you never accept that. I bought a review book that I planned on reviewing starting roughly a week before the exam. However, before starting my review, I decided to take the practice NAPLEX online just to see where I stood. The practice test seemed pretty challenging to me (aside from the pharmacy math which is ridiculously simple). I felt like I was guessing on a lot of the answers, and I didn't really know what to expect for my score.

Upon finishing, I learned that I got a 112 on the practice test (you only need a 75 to pass). Basically, I passed that exam by a fairly wide margin before I even started to study. My nervousness immediately vanished and was replaced by a sense of incredulity. How could anyone fail this thing??? I felt like I was mostly guessing on the non-math problems, yet I still passed easily.

My review strategy changed. I ended up not bothering to use the review book. I didn't go over any pharmacy school notes. In fact, I basically put the exam out of mind until a couple nights before I was scheduled to take it. I started to think that my pre-NAPLEX score could have been a fluke. Therefore, I took another practice test online just to reassure myself. Once again, it felt pretty challenging. This time, I scored 122 on it. That night, I calmly went to sleep and didn't give that stupid test another thought.

My score on the actual NAPLEX ended up being 130 (I've heard the average score is somewhere around 100, but I'm not entirely sure how accurate this is). When I found out my score, I wasn't relieved that it was over. Nor was I really all that thrilled that passed. The only thought that kept running through my mind was how in the world ANYONE could fail that thing?

Pretty much half the questions on the exam are pharmacy math questions. Pharmacy math isn't difficult. In fact, you pretty much only need to know basica algebra to solve them. Moreover, you don't need to know anything about drugs or therapeutics to answer them. Therefore, if you simply taught someone pharmacy math, they've pass the NALPEX... easily I might add. I'm 100% confident that a lot of pharmacy technicians without ever taking a class in pharmacy school could pass the NAPLEX on their first try.

Again, this isn't because the actual pharmacy questions easy. They aren't. In fact, they can be quite challenging. The ease in passing the test is entirely based upon how the test is scaled. According to the official NAPLEX registration bulletin:

The minimum acceptable passing score on the NAPLEX scale is 75. The passing score reported is not a percentage value. The score is calculated by first determining the candidate’s ability level on the NAPLEX and then comparing the candidate’s ability level to the predetermined minimum acceptable ability level established for the NAPLEX.
The passing standard has been established by a panel of pharmacy experts, and the ability level that defines the passing standard is the same for all NAPLEX administrations.

I have no idea what they mean by "ability level," but whatever the "predetermined minimum acceptable ability level" is, it's ridiculously low.

This is why I tell students to just as much studying as they need to in order to put their minds ease. I also tell them to make sure they know how to do pharmacy math because as long as you know that, I promise that you cannot fail this exam.

The MPJE is another story....

That exam scared the shit out of me. Pharmacy law is very very vague. The MPJE will throw questions at you where all the answer choices seem like they could be correct, and you'll see questions where all the answer choices seem entirely wrong. I'm usually a very confident test taker, but when I finished that exam, I went home and starting throwing things because I was sure I failed it.

It took a little over a week to get my score back, and it was the most agonizing week of my life to that point. It was my last exam, so getting a passing grade meant I was a pharmacist. I ended up getting an 84 on it (75 is passing).

This is when I started truly analyzing the numbers for the MPJE. According to various websites, the passing rate is roughly 86%. You need a 75 to pass. 99 is the maximum score. I found a site that told me the average score for the MPJE in 2005 was a 79.

Think about that. 75 is passing. 79 is the average score. 86% of people passed the test. What the hell is the standard deviation from the mean on that test? 2 points????? Basically, all the scores must fall between 75 and 85. In my pharmacy class, the highest score that I knew of was an 88, and the lowest score was 78. Most people got between 82 and 84.

The MPJE is scaled the same as the NAPLEX. Therefore, it seems that as long as you at least read the stupid law book before sitting down to take the exam, you'll pass.

I don't know what made me think about all this now. It was just a random thought upon waking up this morning. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands.


rxdrewthejew said...

The confusing thing about these tests is the totally random scale they use to score them. I'm fairly convinced that it's just a ploy by state boards of pharmacy and the company that administers the tests to make a lot of money off new pharmacy grads (who, incidentally, don't have any money).
Gotta agree about the NAPLEX though. I was pretty sure I barely passed and ended up with like a 120 on it. And if you think the MPJE is dumb, take the CPJE where only like 40% of the questions have to do with law and the rest are harder versions of the NAPLEX questions...

Anonymous said...

I was actually one of those people who failed their first time. I graduated in 2005; out of my 75 classmates 13 of us failed. And, from what I heard from other schools, that seemed to be the trend that year. They changed the blueprint to the test, and I would have to disagree about the math questions. Many of my questions were about hospital drugs, and this girl isn't a hospital person! I didn't have an issue the second time around, and I think part of that was because I bought cards dealing with IV hospital drugs, and studied more of those. Each test is random with the type of questions you get. All that really matters is that I have a license, no one that I work for will ask "did you fail your first time taking the NAPLEX???", they will ask "are you a living, warm breathing person that has a piece a paper for this state to practice pharmacy???" A test doesn't prove what type of pharmacist I am.

Pharmacy Chick said...

In all honesty, I have no idea what my nabplex score was, it was 22 years ago,and I skated thru fine, but I can tell you the horror I felt when I checked the mail on the day the liscenses arrived and mine came in a white envelope--all the REAL liscenses came in a yellow one. I had failed the Law exam. I hardly studied for it, for I had been told it was an easy T/F test, yada yada. When i went in, it was a 100 question behemoth that I was completely unprepared for. I was devastated, but I was not alone. At the time the law exam was given 2 times a year: July and Jan. Because so many failed, they had a make-up exam in Sept. This time I studied more and passed with 86.
A little more humility is never a bad thing.
pharmacy chick

RPhGirl said...

I don't know anyone personally but I've heard that some honor students at my school had failed it. I myself passed NAPLEX with a safe margin and passed Law by 1 question. I also agree that both exams were a joke and I really thought that I failed both of them because I was guessing most of of the questions.

The best advice that I can give to students studying for NAPLEX is to know calculation questions 100%, to study from review books (APhA is the best in my opinion), and to try the on-line practice NAPLEX exams because it helps you to familirize yourself with the format of the questions and to boost your comfort levels up (my on-line exam score was really close to my real NAPLEX score). Also, I would advise to really study for the Law part as the questions are very tricky, misleading and vague. Oh yeah, alsmost forgot...Do not schedule both exams on the same day!

greensunflowerRN said...

I could say the same thing about the NCLEX (RN licensing exam). I walked out of there after a mere 28 minutes, thinking "is that all it is going to take to get my lisence." Well yes it was. That and 5 years of torture in school. That was the real test, the NCLEX is a non predictor of real nursing ability.

Anonymous said...

Pharmacy Mike,
Can you or anyone shed some light on the CPJE? I took this pure-torture of an exam 2 times and still failed. I studied for it both times. I have no problem passing the NAPLEX (I got over a 100) and throughout my pharm school days I was a good student. I am originally from California and would like to stay. But the rate I am going I may need to start studying for the MPJE soon. The thought of moving to another state just because I cannot pass this one test is enough to break me. I really don’t want to leave my family and my fiancĂ©e, please help!

Anonymous said...

cpje is hard,mostly clinical questions. I am licensed in 3 other states than CA but i failed the CPJE 4 times.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all thoughts but the stupid and sososo very very unfair things is both exams carrying the number of precount tests. So what is the point here. They want to try get student down? Couldn't believe it? Maybe ask President Obama see what he think.