How to pass your NAPLEX the first time

Congratulations, you made it through pharmacy school and officially graduated! Now, you may find yourself consistently browsing through articles and student forums across the web, all in hopes of finding the best tips for succeeding in your upcoming licensure exam(s). The NAPLEX has undeniably become more challenging over the years. Changes were made to the exam back in 2016, ultimately resulting in decreased pass rates since then (Table 1).

YearPassing Rate (%)
201494.9
201592.6
201685.9
Table 1. First-time NAPLEX Pass Rates for 2014-2016

With the exception of the brief increase in passing rates seen in 2018, scores remain consistently low since 2016 (Table 2). Is the exam becoming more clinical? Are school curriculums becoming outdated? Or are exam writers simply burning out due to the extended length and duration of the NAPLEX? There could be a variety of reasons as to why pass rates have dropped, and while preparing for an exam that covers up to 4 years of material may feel overwhelming, this article will pinpoint everything you need to know to overcome these statistics and take down your NAPLEX exam (also be sure to check out tips on how to pass your MPJE from our RxPharmacist blog here).

YearPassing Rate (%)
201786.28
201888.03
201986.74
Table 2. First-time NAPLEX Pass Rates for 2017-2019

  1. The first step in preparing for any exam is familiarizing yourself with it .

The NAPLEX is 6 hours long and contains 250 questions; 200 count towards your score, while the remaining 50 questions anonymously serve as experimental questions and will have no effect on your score. Many of the questions you’ll come across will be written as patient cases and will require you to piece together multiple elements of the information provided. Questions are presented in multiple choice, select all that apply, fill-in-the-blank (for calculations), ordered response, and hot-spot (using a diagram to identify the answer) format.

The NAPLEX is broken into two major areas:

  • Area 1: Ensure Safe and Effective Pharmacotherapy and Health Outcomes (67%)
  • Area 2: Safe and Accurate Preparation, Compounding, Dispensing, and Administration of Medications and Provision of Health Care Products (33%)

Each one of these areas are further broken down into more detailed subcategories that are listed as part of the NAPLEX competency statements found here from NABP’s website.

  • Once you know the basis of the exam, the next important item on your checklist is to implement a study schedule that strictly predetermines your daily and weekly goals. As much we’d like to provide an estimate on how much time you should set aside to study, the only person who is best aware of their tendencies and abilities is you. Be realistic and fair with your timeline and be sure create an effective study environment by setting aside all distractions during study periods.
  • In terms of study resources, Rxprep has become well-reputable throughout its time and many have relied on the course book as it covers each topic in depth and provides effective illustrations. Rxprep can definitely be a primary tool for studying, but not the only one.

Other helpful resources include:

  • Quizlets: Online flash cards that can serve to enhance and encourage quick recall.
  • RxPharmacist’s practice questions: One of the most updated guides that contains over 500 NAPLEX practice questions that highly mimic the actual exam.
  • Medication and disease state charts: Will help condense information down to the most important material you need to know – excellent tool to use for review. Our RxPharmacist CPJE exam guide provides a nice review of all of the major clinical topics with visuals and easy to read charts.

One thing we’d like to place emphasis on is the importance of practicing calculations. A considerable portion of the exam contains calculations, which are typically very easy to answer if you’re familiar with the formulas and procedures. Consistent practice will help make you an expert in calculations, allowing for a little more leeway when you come across the more tedious and difficult clinical questions. This is why our RxPharmacist NAPLEX guide has a heavy amount of difficult practice calculations so you can easily breeze through the calculation portion to score as high as possible in boosting your overall score.

Similar to the MPJE, the questions on the NAPLEX can be detailed and require thorough reading. Be sure not to rush through the exam and be mindful of what the question is asking.

Best of luck!

Sam Tamjidi, PharmD

RxPharmacist Team

References:

  1. Score Results. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://nabp.pharmacy/programs/naplex/score-results/
  2. Welch, A. C., & Karpen, S. C. (2018). Comparing Student Performance on the Old vs New Versions of the NAPLEX. American journal of pharmaceutical education, 82(3), 6408. https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe6408

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