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Is it Worth Asking for Hand Scoring on the IBCLC Exam?

Confused woman sitting in front of a laptop computer.

My team and I have been reading about IBCLC exam-takers who have failed by 1 point. As in past years, candidates who failed are asking: is it worthwhile to ask for a hand scoring of the IBCLC exam?

As I’ve said many times, I’m not employed by IBLCE. I have no inside information. But I can give you some fact-based information.

It’s a big expense for a very small chance

The IBLCE charges between $70 and $100 USD, depending on your country, for a hand scoring. If there’s no change in your score, you don’t get your $100 back.  

It’s not unusual for test-takers to fail by 1 point

Each year, the IBLCE determines what the passing score should be. In recent years, the passing score has been about 75% — give or take a little. This results in about 70% or more of exam-takers passing.

Based on the graphs they’ve published in the past few years the exam scores reflect an asymmetric rather than typical bell-shaped curve. (There’s a long “tail” to the left.)

If your score is in that tail, you fail.

Whether you fail by 1 point or 50 points, you fail. And since the tail tapers off, many candidates who were 1 point short of passing are in that part of the tail.

In fact, for a smooth curve, failing by one point is the most common failing score.  

(I’ve had only a basic college stats course, and a little help from ThoughtCo, but I am fairly confident I’ve presented this accurately.)

Past test-takers haven’t been successful in getting a different score

Since around 2004, many candidates have failed by 1 point and requested for their exam to be hand scored. No one – not even one person that I know of – ever claimed a change in score after the receiving a hand scoring of the IBCLC exam.

“Hand scoring” makes no sense to me

In the old days when we all took paper-and-pencil exams, it might have made sense to request hand scoring of the IBCLC exam. It’s entirely thinkable that the mark the candidate made on the paper was not correctly picked up on the scan.

But presuming you took a computerized exam, I don’t see how hand scoring makes any sense.

Here’s what the Candidate Information Guide says:

Basically, that just means that if the correct response was option “B,” they look to see if you picked “B.”

For computer-based testing, the candidate’s response is electronically evaluated against the answer key provided by IBLCE.

You just paid them $100 USD to check that. 

Any candidate may request hand scoring of the IBCLC exam

If you truly feel that rescoring will help you, submit your request. Remember that you must submit your request within 30 days of the dissemination of exam results.

But I’ll repeat what I said earlier: I’ve never known of anyone whose score changed after the exam was hand scored. Nope. Even in the paper-and-pencil days when there was a higher likelihood that a scoring error might occur —no.

Where did I hear these stories of failures about the hand scoring of the IBCLC exam? At least in part from people who have asked for my help. I’ve noted two pervasive trends among them:

  1. They’ve completed their initial requirements through a hodge-podge approach. (To qualify for the exam it’s human nature for candidates to pick out the hours they find interesting, cheap, and convenient but the IBCLC exam is boring, expensive, and tough.)    
  2. They haven’t taken a true practice exam. Notice I said, a true practice exam.

If you’re gonna spend money after failing the exam, buy something that has a track record for making a difference for thousands of people:

  • Get my all Online Lactation Exam Review. Past results don’t guarantee future outcomes, but we’ve had raving fans for my review courses during the past 18 years I’ve offered them.
  • Take my practice exams. Unlike many “practice” exams out there, mine give application-level test items that past candidates have told me, over and over, are very much like the “real” ones on the real exam. And, to my knowledge, mine are the only practice exams that give a computerized analysis of your strengths and weaknesses. They are also reusable. You can even shuffle the order.
  • Try my Cure for Failure package. (Note that many of those are not application-level questions.)

If you do decide to request a hand score and receive results in your favor, please do let us know!

Before you spend money for rescoring, think about its history. Then, consider something that has a track record for delivering at least some value to each user! I feel very sure I can offer you a better value a hand scoring of the IBCLC exam.

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