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Which of These 5 Methods Will You Use to Study for the IBLCE Exam?

OK, you may have struggled a bit at first. But by now you’ve developed a solid goal for yourself, with specific learning objectives. You’ve also devised a structured timeline for studying, and then reviewing for the IBCLC exam. You may have even rounded up a bunch of books, notebooks, and materials from your basic healthcare sciences courses and your lactation-specific course(s). But if you’re like many people, you haven’t decided what study methods to use.

Read on for the top categories of study options, and then pick what will work for you!

Direct learning methods

Direct learning methods are instructor-directed. In essence, the instructor dispenses information, and the learner passively listens or watches.

By far the most common example of a direct learning method is a lecture, whether delivered in-person or online. This, like other passive means of learning, is highly ineffective for knowledge mastery and retention.

Yet, direct learning methods offer something critical. The instructor has already identified the information that is relevant to the exam, as well as clinical practice. If you’ve never taken the IBCLC exam before, you will benefit from her judgment and experience. During the lecture, you can take notes, and use them for study now, and then for review later.

However, with rare exception, most learners need more than direct-learning methods. Why? Research in the education field has shown that we retain only a fragment of what we hear. By itself, it’s not an effective study strategy.

Indirect learning methods

With indirect methods, the instructor’s role changes from one who dispenses information to one who facilitates or supports learning. The instructor arranges the learning environment, provides an opportunity for your involvement, and, gives constructive feedback. The learner is no longer just listening, but instead takes on a more active learning role by making observations or gaining insights, forming and connecting relevant concepts, and problem-solving.

Examples include guided discussion of case studies, journal clubs, and group discussion.

Indirect learning methods can be highly effective method by which to learn new information and/or review previously-mastered information. However, to be effective, this method requires a very skilled instructor; most learners are unable to use indirect learning methods without an expert guidance.

Interactive methods

Interactive methods involve the learner in their own learning. Common examples in the classroom include role-playing, discussion, or debates. However, an interactive approach can also be used outside of the classroom; a common example is participating in a weekly study group, or completing group projects.

Because learners use their whole body — talking, listening, doing and often, moving — interactive methods are highly effective. However, interactive methods usually don’t work at all without a pre-determined structure. Hence, a study group that meets outside of the classroom won’t be effective if it has a “let’s-get-together-sometime-and-study-this-stuff” approach.

Experiential methods

Experiential methods put the learner in the field. A field trip to a museum, carrying out an experiment in the lab, or playing games are excellent examples of experiential learning.

The role of the learner may be to observe (e.g., viewing art in the museum) or to actively participate (e.g., conducting an experiment in the lab). In the healthcare world, actively delivering client care is an excellent example of an experiential learning method.

To gain the most from your clinical experience, develop a clearly-defined structure for your learning. You should look at all of the subtopics on the IBLCE’s Detailed Outline.

Independent methods

Independent methods are those in which the learner works without an instructor or peers. Examples include reports, essays homework, or similar activities. In my estimation, few individuals learn well independently, unless an instructor has provided substantial structure. One exception, however, is the learning journal.

You’re thinking, “What’s a learning journal?” As I’ve written before, a learning journal enables you to reflect on your learning process. You might want to look at the Penzu template, or even use an app for journaling.

I located at least ten studies showing the benefits of using a learning journal. These included greater assimilation and integration of new information, better long-term retention of course concepts, better test and exam grades, and continuous feedback about one’s own learning.

You may be tempted to dive right in and begin reading or watching anything and everything you can get your hands on related to breastfeeding. That’s highly unlikely to work. But I encourage you instead to think about what approaches you can use to study, and which means will help you reach your ultimate goal of passing the IBCLC exam.

What approaches appeal to you? Many different kinds of study resources using different methods are available through and sister site Not sure what would help? Give us a call.

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