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How Soon Should I Start Studying for the IBCLC Exam?

Ah, yes. You know you need to start studying sometime, but how soon is “sometime”?

You’re feeling fearful that if you start too soon, you’ll forget what you learned. And if you start too late, you might not be able to cram in everything you need to know. Good points. Unfortunately, though, there is no “one size fits all” answer to how soon you should start studying.

However, literally thousands of people have asked me to answer to this question. I respond by posing several smaller questions, which you can now ask yourself!

Have you taken the exam before and passed?

People who have taken the exam previously have a better understanding of the types of questions that might be on the exam. Hence, they should be able to streamline their studying.

People who have never taken the exam frankly haven’t a clue about what questions they will face. I strongly recommend that they take a review course. My online review course has the convenience of on-the-go short audiocasts (and some other stuff!). Honestly, most people just don’t know what to expect, or what to review, so DIY isn’t a great choice when so much is riding on that exam.

The IBLCE requires exam candidates to take 95 hours of lactation focused education. I suggest that you schedule at least 3 hours of study for every hour of class time. (More for some people, less for others, as I’ll address below.) How soon? Do the math. That’s 270 hours, or about 1 hour each weekday for one year.

Have you taken the exam before, and failed?

It happens. Most likely, you will feel a need to be over-prepared. Hence, you’ll want to allot more time to study. Here’s some advice: Make the most of your study time. My Cure for Failure package helps you to sort out why you failed, how you can create a plan for more effective studying, and how to perform better on the big day.

If you’re lucky, you can probably get away with 95 x 5 hours, that is, 450 hours.

Did you, or didn’t you, take a comprehensive course?

It will take time for you to retrieve and review all of that stuff you’ve collected from multiple little-bitty courses that you’ve accumulated over a relatively long period of time. And how do you even know if you’re studying the topics that will be on the exam?

I predict you’ll spend several hours of just getting yourself organized before hunkering down to actual study time.

Do you feel confident?

Some people know their content forward and backward. But, they feel that just by putting in their hours, they will do better. Some do what seems to me like over-studying, over-buying, over-reading, and everything else. But that’s what makes them feel psychologically “prepared.”

Okay, if that works for you, I understand. But just plan the time to actually do that.

Are you studying, or reviewing?

This is a critical point.

After having prepared thousands of people for the exam, I make a distinction between “studying” and “reviewing.” Studying means you are attempting to master the material for the first time. You will need to learn new terms, learn ways to solve problems you’ve never encountered before, and much more. Sure, you can springboard a bit off from the knowledge you’ve gained in previous courses, but for the most part, this is a new frontier. If you’re learning something that is entirely unfamiliar, you’ll need to spend time scratching and clawing for answers. This affects how soon you should start your prep.

That’s very different from reviewing. When you’ve already learned the material, you know it’s stuck in your gray cells somewhere. You aren’t scratching and clawing; you’re merely beckoning with a crooked finger and a nodding head, politely asking the information to come forth. You don’t need to allot as much time for reviewing.

The trouble is, most people — including people who are recertifying — delude themselves by attempting a sweeping “review” when in fact, they need to roll up their sleeves to seriously “study” material they never learned the first time.

Are you fast or slow on the uptake?

Be honest with yourself. Are you one of those people who can read something once, and know it forever? Or must you read something multiple, multiple times, and eventually you get it?

There’s no shame in being slow on the uptake. I’ve always been slow to learn new concepts, but once I’m set, I’m set. I just know that I need to give myself plenty of time.

It’s important to budget your time. But, until you can estimate how much time that is, you will likely struggle.

Which of these questions bother you the most, and how soon do you plan to start your prep?

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  1. Marina Taylor

    My concern is where can I find sample exam question that reflects the actual exam . Is there a site I can go to?

  2. Marie

    Um, how many do you need? We have three complete practice exams (meaning, meant to mimic the real exam in terms of length, categories, difficulty, structure, etc. etc.). So that’s about 525. Plus we have topical drill questions (to “drill” you on topics you might be weak in.) They are here:

    So that’s several hundred. That will keep you busy for a long time!

    Most people end up getting more prep materials, so you might want to have a look at the money-saving packages.

    • Marie

      Brenda, sorry, we were putting a new template into the blog so I missed your comment. Your comment encouraged me, actually! People frequently ask me this question, but as you can tell, there is no one-size-fits all. I struggled with how to explain this, but I’m glad it worked for you. And for sure, if you are prepping for the exam, keep reading. I have over 100 posts here related to IBLCE exam prep. (Check the category, hopefully all of them will come up at once for you.)

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