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No Rings Allowed for IBLCE Exam?!

No rings during the IBLCE exam?

Long-time readers of this blog may recognize this post as one that originally ran in April 2016. I am re-running it here to ask 2017 exam takers: Has the situation gotten better? What security practices were taken at your IBLCE exam testing site? Was there anything you found to be over the top? Comment below.

Please note that IBLCE announced a change in testing contractors in November 2019.

I am still in a state of disbelief! In my blog post on “differences in the IBLCE exam, for the recertifier” (who may not have taken the exam for up to 10 years), I invited readers who were taking the exam this year to comment about their experiences. I never expected the sort of feedback I got.

The IBLCE exam is a high-stakes, high-stress, career-critical exam. Exam-takers shell out hundreds of dollars in exam fees, more in exam prep courses and materials. They set aside a large chunk of time and, sometimes, travel great distances to take the exam. They should anticipate a calm and welcoming arrival at the testing site.

I never expected to hear of IBLCE exam-takers being required to remove their wedding rings, take off other jewelry, or do the “undressing” (removing sweaters, rolling up legs of pants, etc.) that readers recounted.

I have a number of questions for IBLCE and the testing center.

What is the purpose of this directive?

I viewed the “What to expect in a Pearson VUE testing centre” video, conveniently linked from Pearson VUE’s IBLCE Exam page. You should, too. According to this video, there is no requirement to remove a wedding band Nor is there any requirement to remove a sweater, or roll up one’s pants’ legs. You must only show empty pockets and put other personal effects (purse, wallet, cell phone, watch) into a locker prior to testing.

It reminds me of the TSA guards who “require” a mother seeking to board a plane to discard her milk at the airport. There is no such requirement for any mother to do so. Similarly, there is no requirement for any IBLCE exam-taker to remove her wedding band. In both cases, women are intimidated and bullied. Faced with the high cost of not complying (miss the plane, miss the exam), most women — including my readers — do as they are told. IBLCE needs to address this, so that future IBLCE exam-takers are not put through the same over-the-top treatment.

What must be removed?

Pearson VUE’s video does not show any requirement to remove “regular” jewelry, to take off your sweater, or roll up your sleeves. Their detailed internal documentation agrees. You can find a list of “Personal belongings that must be stored” in what seem to be their guidelines for testing sites, as well as a section called “Permitted personal items.” For example, outdoor jackets “must be stored,” while “indoor clothing” including a “sweater” is supposed to be “permitted.”

The IBLCE Registration Guide for Computer-Based Testing states that “No personal items may be taken into the testing room,” and notes that this “includes all bags, books not authorized by IBLCE, notes, phones, pagers, watches and wallets.” OK. That doesn’t include removing sweaters or wedding bands!

Further on in the IBLCE registration guide, exam candidates are informed they “may be asked to demonstrate that [their] pockets are empty.” If they are “wearing a cast due to a fractured limb,” it “may be subject to inspection as are candidates with tattoos.” “In some cases, candidates may be asked to remove jewelry or other adornments.” Really, IBLCE? What are those “some cases”?

What’s IBLCE’s responsibility?

As anyone who takes the IBLCE exam should know, the organization’s mission is to “establish the highest standards in lactation and breastfeeding care worldwide and certify individuals who meet these standards.” I fail to see how allowing its exam subcontractor to force exam takers to remove such mundane yet meaningful items as their wedding bands serves this mission. IBLCE should be bending over backwards to help exam takers be comfortable and perform at their best.

In its vaguely worded guide, IBLCE gives Pearson VUE proctors way too much leeway! Proctors have authority over exam takers’ “personal items,” which opens a huge loophole. Certainly your wedding ring is a  “personal item” — so is your bra, breast pads, or tampon. Will exam takers be asked to remove those, too?

IBLCE needs to immediately re-word their directive on “personal items” to clarify what test-takers can — and cannot — take into the exam room. Ideally, this should be in accord with what’s shown in Pearson VUE’s video, which purportedly shows its standard security procedures.

Where does this end?

Honestly, if IBLCE exam candidates are being directed to remove their wedding bands — for which there is absolutely no requirement — then where does this end? What about my reader who was directed to show she didn’t have pockets on her shirt? If there had been pockets, then what? And what other personal items are at risk — knee brace? False teeth? Wig? Hearing aid? The “personal items” language is entirely unacceptable.

Considering exam takers are both directly observed by Peason VUE proctors and videotaped while they take the exam, these measures are over the top.

I am entirely prepared to mount a campaign against this baloney. No IBLCE exam candidate — or any exam taker — should have to put up with this. I can assure you, if I am required to remove my wedding ring the next time I arrive at an IBLCE exam site, I will forfeit my fee and give up my IBCLC credential, since I would have to seriously question the professionalism of an organization that had such concerns raised and failed to address them.

Were you asked to take off your wedding ring or undergo other steps that you felt were outside of the scope of standard security practices? Let me know in the comments below!

9 Effective Ways to Communicate Your Breastfeeding Policy, Part 1
Everything Changes: 7 Differences in the IBLCE Exam, for the Recertifier
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11 Comments

  1. Jo Ann Gerling

    I had to remove my headband that was holding my hair out of my face/eyes!

    So happy I passed, though…..!!!!!

  2. Lori Ruggieri

    I took the exam this past October for the 3rd time. It was my first time taking the computerized test. I did not have to take off any jewelry except for my watch. We were able to take a sweater if needed. I took the exam in RI

  3. Holly Newman

    Took the exam yesterday in Sacramento and had a good experience. Pushed up my sleeves, opened my pockets and they took a look at my glasses (!). Otherwise good to go. Wore a sweater and kept all rings on.
    The examiner was apologetic about the procedures but I understand.
    Must say I felt well prepared after Marie’s review course plus many hours of personal study.
    I took two breaks for bathroom and snack. Worked beautifully. Checked everything twice and finished with about 20 minutes to go.

  4. Jen

    I took the exam yesterday in NJ and was pleased with the precautions. I pushed up sleeves (to show no writing in my arms), showed my pockets, had to run my hands around the insides of my boots, remove the pony tail holder on my wrist (I had to put it on at security but was allowed to remove it from my hair once inside.) I also had my eye glasses inspected (for camera? Google glass?) But that was it. I didn’t for once think out was excessive and it would not have bothered me to remove rings. (They did ask for bracelets and necklaces to be removed I just wasn’t wearing any). I DEFINITELY would not give up a credential over the removal of a ring.

  5. Mrs. Maggie Allen

    I agree. Not only was I nervous about the exam but the preparation for the exam was intimidating.I had to rub through my hair to make sure that I had no cheat sheets,I had to leave my sweater and another girl with long hair had to pull her hair up in a pony tail,we had to roll our pants legs up,take off all jewelry, no gum chewing (it helps to relax me). If I didn’t want to be an IBCLC so badly, l would have left. Is all this precaution really necessary? They watch you with several cameras.

  6. Mary

    They inspected my glasses and had me lift up my hair and show that I didn’t have any blue tooth devise behind my ears. Showed them my forearms and got to keep on a Jean jacket that had sweat shirt type sleeves and hood. She visually looked at my hood but did not touch it. I was wearing a jersey fabric maxi skirt and she had me pat my own thighs while she watched. She did visually inspect the front part of the waistband of my skirt while I was the one touching and turning the fabric. the only thing I was allowed to take into the exam room was my drivers license and the locker key. I started my exam 10 minutes early. So I was happy to not have to wait. A great experience really.

  7. Joy

    I got to the testing center 20 mins before 8am (April 3rd 2017). Overall, I had a great experience. I was asked to take off my ponytail holder from my wrist. I asked if I could hold my hair (braids) with it, and the lady says ‘sure’. She checked my glasses and had me pat my thighs, and also check my pocket. I had 4 mints in there and was told I wasn’t allowed to go in with them. Not a problem at all because I had a feeling I wouldn’t be allowed anyway.

    About 15 questions left in the photo questons, (havent even touched my flagged questions), I started getting hungry, I hung in there though. After I was done, I thought: why didn’t I go back to my locker and eat up those mints for some sugar for my brain since I came with no snack. Boy! did my brain work hard . I had good breakfast, but IBLCE exam is sure to take everything you had anyway, 4 hrs is no joke! Thanks to Marie for her great work in preparing me for this exam, I passed!! June ending come quickly!!!

  8. venitta bennett

    well I will be taking the exam in the fall hopefully when finishing your classes Marie but I have taken an exam at Pearson VUE and they had me pull up my shirt and show my mid drift area and legs (calfs) and hair lifted….was not sure about all this but I can’t even imagine enough how to cheat so I suppose they had a reason,,,,,yeh a wedding band wow……. and take off a sweater that was only garment would be offensive…….good to see what others have to go through…..I heard there is nano technology but as a nurse you know I could not afford such new age technology…..

  9. Geno

    There’s a reason for the security. They are not arbitrary rules. Technology has progressed to the point where people can hide things in small places. Rings can carry bluetooth technology. Obviously people have been caught suing such devices. These measures are designed to protect the integrity of the exam and ensure your certification is actually worth some thing. A small price to pay for that. Stop obsessing over a ring.

    • Marie

      What I had hoped to emphasize in the post is that it’s more than just about the “ring.” It’s about more than “security.” It’s about the uneven application of the “rules” from one site to another, and the fact that the “rules” that are being enforced don’t match the rules that have been publicized.

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