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.