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Top Ten Mistakes of IBLCE Exam Takers–& Strategies to Help You Succeed

Our mock exams do two important things: help give you an exam-taking experience similar to that of taking the IBLCE exam and give me a chance to review exam-takers responses and gain a sense of the common IBLCE exam mistakes. I don’t have access to actual IBLCE exam results, but here’s what I’ve learned from looking at the results of thousands of mock-exam test-takers.

What are the top mistakes? What are the pitfalls that cause many exam-takers to slip up?

Choosing a statement that is true, but does not answer the question

For example, if the question asks, “Which of these actions will correct the problem?” then the answer must actually resolve the problem. Although actions that alleviate the pain associated with the problem, correctly document the problem, or astutely anticipate consequences of the problem may all be true statements, they don’t answer the question—resolving the problem. Focus on what the question is asking for.

Choosing look-alike, sound-alike options

Last week, I caught a whole room full of people choosing the option doxycycline—a drug given for a variety of infections in non-lactating women—instead of dicloxycillin — a drug frequently used to treat lactational mastitis. It’s a natural mistake to make, but it’s one you won’t want to make on exam day! Watch those look-alike, sound-alike options.

Overlooking qualifiers — especially “least”

Qualifiers are words that alter a statement. In a multiple-choice test, qualifiers can make the difference between a correct answer (key) or an incorrect option (distractor).

Qualifiers include words like first, most, or best suggest that more than one of the options provided might be helpful. But you need to focus on which would be first, or most, or best in the situation.  Read carefully, every time.

Being unable to prioritize

This is closely related to the “qualifier” questions I just mentioned. The test items gives a little vignette, and the question asks which would be a priority for the client’s care. Frequently, all of the actions listed as answers are both appropriate and effective! But only one is a priority. Be discerning, and don’t rush in thinking it through.

Choosing something other than reflective listening as the FIRST response

When a mother is confused, bewildered, or upset, reflective listening should be your first response. However, exam-takers often choose a response that tells the mother what to do, (“You should…”), dismisses her concerns (“Don’t worry about…”) or probes for more info (“How many times a day are you pumping…”) Often, you need to settle the mother as the first step.

Picking an unfamiliar word/phrase

Knowing the vocabulary of breastfeeding care can make the difference between a higher and lower score. Here’s an example from my Workbook. Unless you know the correct answer, it will be very tough to pick it from the other options.

A lesion on skin that is normally soft and pliable but later becomes thick and fibrous would be described accurately as:

I see entire rooms full of course participants pick the wrong answer because they don’t know their vocabulary. Make sure you’ve mastered your vocabulary before you sit the exam.

Choosing a “local” answer

The IBLCE exam is an international exam. The right response won’t necessarily be the way it’s done at your home hospital. Sure, to provide good clinical care at your facility,  you’ll need to know recommendations from local or national authorities (e.g., the American Academy of Pediatrics). However, when it comes to taking the IBLCE exam, the World Health Organization is your top authority. Remember to think globally.

Missing what is age-appropriate

It seems to me this is one of IBLCE’s favorite ways to ensure that only one option is the correct answer. The “right” answer for a 2-week-old is probably NOT the right answer for a 2-month-old or a 2-year-old. Keep the baby’s age in mind as a key detail.

Mis-assessing the severity of the problem

Some things are life-and-death issues. You may need to know that when sitting the exam. It’s true that there are few situations when breastfeeding is contraindicated. Know the contraindications for breastfeeding.

Missing that the mother is going to do “it” anyway

These are what I call “done deals.” This item starts along the lines of, “Your client insists on doing [something]” and asks “Which would be MOST important to teach her?” There’s a high likelihood that when you’re not around, the client is going to continue that behavior. Beware that the exam item is probably not asking you to name the risks, make a risk/benefit decision, or persuade the client of the risks. Rather, it may be asking you what she must know to reduce the risks as much as possible. Keep your eye on your role.

As you prepare for the IBLCE exam, I urge you to beware of the pitfalls, and don’t make these mistakes. You can also learn more about the “anatomy” of the exam to help you prepare. 

Which traps catch you off-guard?

The BEST Way to Deal With One of Test-Takers' WORST Problems: Qualifiers
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