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Start Studying! You Have Fewer than 60 Days Before Your Exam!

Hourglass with study materials

You have fewer than 60 days before you need to sit for the IBLCE™ Exam. For sure, no one wants to “sit” but everyone wants to pass the exam! Over the years, hundreds of exam candidates have told me they don’t know where to start. So today, I’m giving you 5 steps to start studying so you can get finished on time.

1. Get a dedicated calendar

You could use an electronic calendar or a paper calendar. But find a way to visualize the days so that you can see exactly how to structure your study time.

2. Get a list

Pick any list you like. Here are some ideas:

  • The IBLCE’s Detailed Content Outline. Okay, I admit, it’s not as “detailed” as you might like, but there are enough topics listed to keep you busy for weeks.
  • The chapters of a book.
  • Our terminology list, which provides over 1,000 words related to breastfeeding and lactation.
  • Anything else that you can find, or that you can think of!

It doesn’t matter what list you use as you start studying. Just pick one and figure out how to spread the topics on that list onto your calendar.

3. Estimate how much time you need

Few of us can estimate the time we need to complete a task. Don’t believe me? Here are a few interesting examples in different parts of the world, with different people.

First, the most famous under-estimation involved the Sydney Opera House. The estimated cost to build it was $7 million, and the time needed was estimated to be 4 years. It was finished 14 years after construction was started, and the final cost was $102 million.

Next, note that Bueler and colleages asked PhD students to estimate the time needed to finish writing a thesis. The students estimated an average of 27 days for a best-case scenario, and 48 days for a worst-case scenario. In reality, it took the students an average of 55 days to complete their theses.

Turning things around, Roy and colleagues asked people to remember how long a similar task took in the past. Their findings showed that people underestimated the time it took to complete past tasks.

Thus, whether people are basing their estimates on a hoped-for future, or recalling an event in the past, their estimates were substantially low.  

4. Arrange the list from most- to least-difficult.

Each person has more or less difficulty with one topic versus another. If you have a short list of fairly broad topics (for example, a list of chapters in a book), you could rank order the topics from most to least difficult when you begin studying.

If you have a very long list, such as our terminology list of over 1,000 words, you could code each word by rating your exposure and comprehension with each word/topic/concept:

  • Totally unfamiliar
  • Somewhat unfamiliar
  • Reasonably confident
  • Very confident

Start with the tough topics, so that they don’t get accidently omitted in a last-minute studying frenzy.

5. Write key points before you start studying

This is a little difficult to describe, since the topics are very diverse. But let’s say, for example, the topic is mastitis. It’s likely you won’t know all of these facts about mastitis when you start studying, but you could create a pithy description of critical points.  

Write a few sentences that are critical to the recognition and resolution of mastitis. These sentences would reflect some background information, some “rules” and some responsibilities. For example:

  • Mastitis is almost always unilateral, and usually results from unresolved engorgement or a plugged duct.
  • Always make sure that the mother continues to empty her breast during bouts of mastitis.
  • Referral is needed, as this is a medical condition. The physician may need to order antibiotic therapy to kill the infective organism.

Alternatively, you can start studying by using the Five Ws plus H:

  • What is mastitis?
  • Who is at highest risk for mastitis?
  • Where is mastitis usually located?
  • When are symptoms of mastitis likely to present?
  • Why is it important to resolve mastitis?
  • How is mastitis usually treated and resolved?

Tackle your topics in any way you like. But write only the essential information. Copying gobs and gobs of material is pointless; you won’t remember lengthy missives. There are a variety of lactation exam study tools from courses to study programs that will benefit you in the long-run so be sure to plan ahead for what will make you successful.

When you start studying, be sure you have a structured plan for covering all of the content that is fair game for the exam. Getting a plan to do so is critical!

What else has worked for you when preparing for a comprehensive, career-critical exam? Have you started studying for your upcoming exam?

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