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10 Things for You to Do After You Take the IBLCE Exam

Put away “shoulda woulda coulda”-type thinking

Ok, maybe you didn’t recognize that the child in the photo of question #64 was 18 months old, and you should have picked a different answer because of that.  Maybe you would have picked a different answer if only you had remembered a key point about #123. Perhaps you could have budgeted your time differently, so you weren’t rushing to finish the exam.

As my mother used to remind me, “You shoulda, coulda, woulda – but you didn’t.” The point is: It’s over. You studied. You took the IBLCE exam. It’s done. Ruminating on it is pointless.

Find a way to burn off your stress

Last time I took the IBLCE exam, I was a nervous shaking wreck. The two-mile drive to the testing center felt like a two-hundred mile drive. By the time I finished I felt wrung out. I just wanted to gulp a big glass of water, stretch my legs and burn off my stress.

When you’ve finished your exam, do whatever it takes to release that stress. For me, a vigorous bicycle ride, a brisk walk, or 20-30 minutes on the elliptical machine at the Y helps enormously.

Don’t worry about the outcome

By late afternoon on exam day, I usually get lots of calls from IBLCE exam-takers who are sure that they have failed the exam. I understand the nerves, but almost every single one of my course participants pass the exam! Don’t let your worries overcome you. Odds are good that you did better than you think.

Eat something yummy

I know, I know. It’s silly to reward ourselves with good food. But you can feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that the job is done, and the pressure is off. After such a big push to the finish line, you can enjoy a treat. (I savored a great piece of baklava!)

Do something you love to do

I love to knit, and I’m likely to pick up a simple, mindless project so that I can let my imagination run wild while my fingers are moving. I allow myself to be transported to an imaginary place. I love the ocean, and while I can’t get there as often as I like, I can listen to the sounds of the waves on my iPhone.

Think about what you love to do. Let yourself curl up with a good book or shop online or indulge in some other little pleasure that you wouldn’t ordinarily allow yourself.


Taking a big career-critical exam can be exhausting. Even if you didn’t burn the midnight oil studying, you’ll probably feel better if you crawl under the covers early on exam day. Listen to some relaxing music or sprinkle a couple of drops of lavender essential oil onto a tissue to help you get a deep, restful sleep.

Schedule a “bathrobe day”

 My friend Rebecca insists that for every stressful day we have, we need a “bathrobe day” of recovery time. I doubt she meant we need to literally wear a bathrobe (although I do!) but her point is that, after experiencing stress, we need an equal amount of quiet time when we aren’t pushing ourselves to do something. Don’t feel guilty about this downtime. You need it.

Catch up with friends and family

Odds are that you’ve probably put some things on hold while you’ve been studying for your big exam. Now’s your time to regroup. Put a coffee break with a good friend on your calendar, do something your kids really enjoy that you haven’t had time for, or give yourself the freedom to really catch up on e-mail, social media, or other correspondence. Reconnecting is good for you!

Declutter your environment

Even if you’re normally a neat-freak with a clear desk and home-cooked meals on the table, it’s a good bet that devoting your energy to the exam has caused you to let some things slide. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that! But now is your chance to get things back to normal. It’s likely you’ll feel better when your home is back to its pre-exam state.

Subscribe to this blog – If you’ve come to it for exam tips, rest assured that this isn’t all I post about; you won’t want to miss what’s in the pipeline! – and tell me: What will you do now that the exam is over?

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  1. SK

    Sitting in my car, checking my mail. zjust finished! YES YES YES- I’m taking ALL OF YOUR SUGGESTIONS!
    Thanks again!
    You know exactly how we feel and what we need.

    More later- after I’ve decompressed.
    A Weary Test- Taker

    • Marie

      Oh Stephanie, yes, yes I do know! I’ve been there, many times. Whew! I’m just glad to hear it’s over on the west coast. OVER! Done.Everyone, exhale!

      I’m glad you are taking my suggestions! They are all meant to help you just chill out and unwind, guilt-free. You–and everyone else out there reading this–deserve it!

  2. SB

    I wish I had read this last night! Anyway, I did indulge in some seriously yummy treats after the exam with a good friend who is not an LC. The exam is over and thank you for your help! Slept well last night – until 3:30am then no more sleep. There are about 3 words from 3 different questions that will not stay in their assigned boxes even with the lids nailed down!!! No point looking them up as can’t remember the answers I gave.
    Again, thank you! Now to play catch-up.

    • Marie

      Glad you had at least part of a good night’s rest! Definitely, nail those lids down! My mother would remind you that shoulda-woulda-coulda doesn’t matter now!

  3. Stephanie K

    Elizabeth- funny you should say this. I have a few that were bothering me too. Luckily I met a couple new friends at Marie’s course in NJ and we spoke after the test. Very comforting and fun to vent with them! Feel free to e-mail me if you’d like to vent about a question that is driving you whacky!
    Marie’s advice is to move on. Right Marie? But I’m just ‘sayin- in case there is no one you can be ‘question- specific’ with, rather than stay up another night!

    Now this may sound way dumb. but I still want to go over test B! because I never finished it. As if I have nothing else to do…

    How are we going to make it until the results come in in DECEMBER?

    • Marie

      Stephanie, we usually rig it so that all of the practice exams stay in your account until several days AFTER the exam–it’s not unusual for people to want to go back to them after the real IBLCE exam! (If it doesn’t work that way for you, just call the office.) For some people it helps them to close the loop. In their head.

      How will you make it until December??? You will be SUBSCRIBED to this blog and you’ll get plenty of other new stuff to fill your brain so that you don’t fret about whether or not you get your new IBCLC!

  4. Jessica Simpson

    The questions were clear, and for the most part, the answer felt correct. I believe there was more than enough time to check and double check answers. I am hopeful that I did ok, but also feel like I might jinx myself for feeling too comfortable with my answers. Its going to be tough to wait until December for the results!

  5. Karen

    Yes it is great to be done and all your tips Marie are spot on. I went into exam having talked myself into being confident but realized I was less than. I booked a hotel the day before right next to the exam site so there would be no last minute glitches. I could have walked to the site if needed. I wish I would have spent the evening relaxing but instead I spent if fretting and reviewing. I thought the first written part was very fair and ( fear of jinxing myself much easier than I was prepared for) Looking back because of that I think I did not fall back on the test taking tips that were drilled into my head about reading questions slowly and taking time. I’m a bit worried that I may have made errors because of that knowing the tricks they throw in . Had plenty of time to review flagged questions and take a 15 minute break. Then came the photo part. I came to questions that I was unsure of and it broke my confidence a bit. At this point the room was hot and there were questions that it came down to two answers and again I think I failed to at that point stop and use all the tips you gave us about reading questions. By the afternoon I was wishing I could have retaken it not having looked up questions just that I was in a more settled frame of mind. But I will take your moms advice and throw out the would of’s, could of’s and move on. Grateful for your very insightful help.

    • Marie

      Karen, please allow me to take these nuggets you’ve detailed here and write a blog about it next year! From the mouth of one who has truly “been there” you have outlined several lessons learned:
      1) RELAX the night before. No studying, no fretting and stewing, etc. And that includes maybe taking a hotel room the night before. (I have done that myself!)
      2) Use all of the test-taking tips you’ve learned. It’s not just about “knowing”, it’s about “performing” as I say in my book.
      3) Use your time to review “flagged” questions.
      4) Consider taking a short break, even if it means losing time on the exam. (It is critical for me to have a break, even a 3-minute break)
      5) Don’t let any question break your confidence.
      6) Plan ahead to reduce or eliminate environmental discomforts–dress in layers
      7) Stop yourself every so often and ask yourself, “Am I using the test-taking strategies I’ve learned?)
      8) Stop every 30 minutes or so to some “centering.” (It really helps, and I did not mention that when I gave test-taking tips!)

      Great, great post here, Karen….for anyone who is reading this and going to the exam later, heed these 8 lessons-learned!

  6. Dinnie Beattie

    Well thank you, kind wisdom. I know that one of my answers was plain foolish, didn’t stop and think about the implications for baby. Over all I enjoyed the exam, I believe that I had the right amount of nerves tempered with confidence. Time will tell! best wishes and much peace to all my brave colleagues.

    • Marie

      Okay,you have my attention! You are one of the very few people who have ever said or even implied “enjoying” the exam! Good, good, good for you! I honestly do believe it’s all in how you look at things, and I’m glad you could go into it with that, “Here I come IBLCE Exam, look out, I’m taking you on!” attitude. Cowering doesn’t work. I loved your comment about “the right amount of nerves tempered with confidence.” Wow, everyone needs to hear that! Thanks for your feedback, and for letting me know how ti went!

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