It happens. People sometimes fail to meet their goals. You might have failed the IBLCE exam. It’s disappointing, but you can—and almost certainly should—try again.

However, hit your pause button before you send in your application to take the IBLCE exam again. First understand why you failed before so that you can prepare differently this time.

There are only 5 reasons why people fail. I’ll show you how to make sure that failing doesn’t happen to you this time—or any time.

You weren’t exposed to the content.

Being exposed to the right content is the first and most critical aspect of passing any exam. But how can you make sure you do this?

Certainly, a good first step is to review IBLCE’s Detailed Content Outline. But honestly, I’ve never met any exam candidate who could look at that outline and clearly tell me the exact content they need to study.

What’s more, most aspiring IBCLCs collect their 90 lactation-focused hours here and there, going to a conference on whatever topic du jour catches their attention, or is convenient to attend. Most focus on the “90 hours” requirement. Maybe you did, too. It’s easy to let the “90” distract from the fact that it’s supposed to represent learning about the many different topics that will be on the exam.

With no previous exam experience, and no expert guidance, how could you possibly study the topics that are likely to appear on the exam? How could any candidate prepare to pass a comprehensive exam without taking a comprehensive course?

When I first taught my Comprehensive Lactation Course in 2009, I spent about 100 hours planning the course, to ensure it covered IBLCE’s outline. I’m talking about justplanning the course; that doesn’t include making slides or handouts, or delivering the course! IBLCE has revised its outline since then, and I keep updating my course to make sure it covers the topics the exam will cover.

The IBLCE is a high-stakes, career-critical exam, so don’t take chances. If you have failed, take a comprehensive course to ensure you know what it’s about.

You didn’t understand the content.

Being exposed to the exam topics isn’t enough. You also need to be able to make sense of the material in a meaningful way.

Once you’ve been exposed to the topics, you may be able to re-state, list, recognize, describe, and identify simple facts and concepts. But if you can’t relate that content to your prior learning, explain it to someone else, or summarize it in your own words, then you don’t fully understand it.

A great way to come to understand material is to write out a relationship, an explanation, or a summary. I believe Dawson Trotman’s quote: Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and fingertips.

You didn’t retain the content.

Maybe you were exposed to the right topics and understood everything right away. If you studied early, then gave it up sure that you were ready, you were probably surprised by your low score. Unless you can recall it, you’re doomed to a low exam score.

Research in the education field has shown, over and over, that people do not retain information when they simply watch a video or hear a lecture.  Don’t be fooled by the claim that “adult learning principles” means having great photos. Seeing a video, looking at photos, or hearing a lecture doesn’t automatically create an effective learning experience.

What does result in information retention is to actively participate in your learning experience. Don’t take my word for it; ask those who have taken my courses. I hear it all the time. (Active learning is harder with an online-only program, but if an in-person course isn’t possible for you, here are some ideas to try.)

You couldn’t apply the content.

Maybe retaining the relevant facts, concepts, or principles wasn’t the problem. Could you apply the content to answer to exam items?

Sometimes when I teach, I direct learners to put their pens down, stop memorizing, and just listen. I want them to grasp the clinical “so-what”.

The IBLCE exam will present you with short vignettes. Unless you understand how various circumstances affect the “memorized” information, you’ll have trouble passing the exam.

To prepare yourself for the exam, get clinical experience, and plenty of it, in a variety of settings with a variety of clients in a variety of circumstances. When you’ve gained knowledge with real-life mothers and babies, you can draw on it when you’re faced with exam mothers and babies!

You failed to perform.

You were exposed to the material, understood it, remembered it, and could apply it in the clinical area. But you didn’t get the right answers on the exam—at least not often enough to pass. What happened?

Often, it seems to come down to what item-writers call “distractors.” Remember, there’s a reason why item-writers call those other options “distractors.” It’s because these options that distract you from picking the right answer! Developing good Test-Taking Strategies may be key for your success.

Or, it may be a problem of testing anxiety. That’s common! Try this hypnosis CD on Exam Success. Whether it works or not, let me know.

All the exam gurus insist that your headset is a major determinant in your exam score. It may sound corny, but never underestimate the importance of a positive mindset on the day of the exam.

The IBLCE exam is a career-critical, high-stakes exam. Even if you passed, you can learn how to do better by learning where your preparation could have been stronger.

Still unsure why you failed? Give us a call. We can help you figure out how to succeed this time. Additional suggestions are available here.

Whether you passed or failed when you took the IBLCE exam, what’s one thing you might have done differently in your preparation or performance? Leave me a note in the comments section below. 

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Stephanie krasner · February 5, 2018 at 12:04 am

I passed (thank Gd!)

I think it would have been helpful to go thru some clinical scenarios as a group. I took your class. LOVED LOVED LOVED it! I felt prepared. I also had time to prepare after the course, so it got me started.

There were scenarios that threw me. It’s vague now. Talking thru more scenarios of newborns would be good. I know we had some of this in class, regarding scenarios and how we would assess and respond accordingly.

Marie · February 6, 2018 at 7:57 pm

Stephanie, I just want to say THANK YOU for such positive comments. I’m not at all surprised you passed (you are so smart!) but of course, it’s always good to hear the confirmation.

Funny you should mention about the clinical scenarios. I do have some in the course, yes. But I’m in the process of re-vamping that course, and that’s one of the things that I considered beefing up. With your encouragement, I will indeed do so!

Thank, Stephanie, I very much value your input. And it’s always good to hear from you!


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