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5 Aspects of Taking the IBLCE Exam that Annoy Me

Annoyed woman in a blue shirt.

It’s true: I get annoyed with the IBLCE™ exam. I’ve faced and successfully passed the IBLCE exam five times. Yes, it’s true I’ve taught my Lactation Exam Review course more than 150 times, and therefore everyone assumes I’m cool as a cucumber when I sit for the exam. Um, no. In the later years, I’ve been less anxious, and just plain annoyed. Here are 5 things that annoy the daylights out of me about taking the IBLCE exam.

1. The “rules” at the testing centers aren’t uniform

I never know what “rules” to expect. Often, I’ve been forbidden to take a tissue into the room. (Hard to concentrate when my nose is running, which, with my allergies, often happens.) Last time, the proctor told me I couldn’t take my own tissue into the testing room, but a box of tissues was in the room, and I should feel free to take whatever I needed. Whew!

I went ballistic on my post when test-takers told me they were required to remove their wedding ring. I more than annoyed — I was outraged!

Luckily, I was never asked to remove my wedding ring, but I was very distressed to hear that more than one of my readers was asked to do so. I was so furious that I wrote a letter to the IBLCE expressing my outrage. I got a letter back citing “security” reasons for this.

Baloney. There’s no way I buy that story!

This year, the IBLCE exam is being given at the Prometric Testing Centres, rather than the Pearson VUE centers, plus there’s the COVID issues. So, who knows what the “rules” for taking the IBLCE exam are this year. Check it out before you go.

2. The number of minutes for Part II make no sense

I can finish the text-only items within the 2-hour period without breaking too big of a sweat. I even have several minutes left over.

The image-based items are also given in a 2-hour period. Each time, I’ve raced with mere seconds to finish. Admittedly, I’m a slow test-taker, but man, I sweat. Some images are grainy; all are small. And I have excellent eyesight!

In my view, they should give fewer minutes to the text-only items, and more minutes to the photo-based items. I have to stare at those photos awhile before I feel sure I know what’s being shown.

One time, I had 102 image-based items to complete in 2 hours! I wrote a nastygram to the IBLCE office and I pointed out that even with decades of clinical experience, I was frantic.

I never found a reply, but when I was taking the IBLCE exam the next time, I got only 75 image-based items. I would like to believe my letter had some impact.

3. The attention that some topics get — or don’t get

Yep. This seems to happen every time. Sometimes, there are several test items on one topic. Sure, the questions are from a different angle, but if it’s a topic I’m weak on, I’m annoyed.

Other times, a topic might not appear at all. This bothers me when taking the IBLCE exam, too. To me, if it’s something that is frequently encountered in clinical practice, that topic warrants a test item.

4. Some questions have little clinical relevance

Without revealing the nature of the item, it’s hard to explain. But there are certainly some test items where I can hear myself saying, “Sure. I know the answer to this. But who cares? Like … when have I seen this in real life? Or if I did see this, what would it matter?”

5. Some questions are just not entry level

I’m not usually one to complain about intellectual information being “too difficult.” As an Enneagram #3, I’m a classic overachiever.

But when taking the IBLCE exam, I’ve seen items where I’ve said to myself, “Sure, I can figure this out, but I could not have when I had only 1,000 hours of clinical experience.” Since 2004, I’ve taught literally thousands of people in my live Lactation Exam Review (cancelled this year because of COVID) and my Online Lactation Exam Review, so I’m highly sensitive to the capabilities of the new candidates.

This is an entry-level exam. In my view, the just-good-enough candidate should be able to pass. Therefore, I’m annoyed when some items seem too complicated to measure the newbie’s ability to practice safely.

Now that I offer all online Practice Exams, I’ve tried hard to keep the questions difficult enough, yet not too difficult.

What I’ve said here is just my opinion. But if you come away from taking the IBLCE exam noting any or all of these things, just know you have company! 

Is there anything that annoys you?

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  1. Kim Cook

    They kept looking at my rings. They said I could keep my wedding and engagement ring on but my other two rings are not removeable (they are too tight) but if I had to do it again, I would find a way to get off. Each security person (I had 7!) had slightly different views. They had trouble with using my nursing license as second form of ID! I told them that it just had to be a signed official ID. Some were OK, many asked for another form of ID. I didn’t have another one because many of my ID’s say Kim not Kimberly. My work ID doesn’t even have my last name for security reasons! I can’t say anything about the questions now but agreed with many of your above pet peeves.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Kim, thank you, thank you for sharing these insights! Wow! I’m stunned that you had 7 security people! And worse yet, that they did not agree with one another! On the forms of ID: I’m just aghast that they questioned the difference between “Kim” and “Kimberly.” I’m glad they allowed you to leave your wedding ring on. I’m sorry that all of this happened, though, it sounds like a hassle in a situation where hopefully you would be at your best, and it’s hard to be at your best when it’s all such a hassle. Ugh. Glad I don’t have to test this year. (And relieved to know that I am not the only one with those pet peeves!) Great to hear from you, Kim, thank you.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Dawn, ha ha! I love it! Thank you for your reaction. I don’t have to always have someone agree with my pet peeves (especially on this topic!) but it sure feels good when they do. It validates my feelings of the last several years! Glad to hear your testing center didn’t give you a hassle. Best wishes to you.

  2. Alyssa

    Marie, this has me cracking up, it is so true! I have not taken the exam yet, I sit next week, but I really enjoyed your practice exams and they gave me a good place to focus on in my studies.
    Thank you for all you do. Missing your new podcast episodes though, I’ve been going back and listening to older ones!

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Ha ha! Glad it cracked you up, that makes me feel validated that this junk annoys me so much! Practice exams, yes, I do pretty much rig them so they mimic the the real thing. (Minus the most of the annoyances!) Podcast, well, we are relatively close to getting them up and running again. Our office just outside of Washington DC is still officially closed, but we are making some progress getting back to normal again. Best wishes for your upcoming exam!

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