**Updated May 2020**

NAPLEX Study Guide and Resources

Hello, and welcome to www.75orbetter.com where my goal is to help you pass the NAPLEX.  Now, you may ask what qualifies me to help you reach that goal, which is a valid question.  I would recommend going to the About Me page, which will provide my qualifications.  If you want the short version, I have been a pharmacist for 15 years, with the last 8 working in a Mail Order Pharmacy where I am currently the Pharmacy Director.  I am licensed in 16 states which required passing 16 MPJEs and 1 NAPLEX exam (proof).  Over the past 15 years, I have compiled specific learning techniques that have produced great results when it comes to passing pharmacy exams.  My objective is to share these methods with you, and hopefully, they will help you pass your exam on the next attempt.

The guide below includes the steps I took to pass the NAPLEX with a score of 110 along with the methods I learned from passing many MPJEs.  I have also included other resources that are available on the market.  The NAPLEX is a unique exam due to the breadth of the content and the fact it is testing your pharmacy practice knowledge.  Hopefully you find value in the information provided and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask here.  It may take me up to 72 hours to respond, but I will respond.  I enjoy helping people succeed and pass the NAPLEX or MPJE.  It is a very rewarding experience.  To see some of the testimonials of the pharmacists I have helped since starting this website, please click here.

The NAPLEX is one of the greatest challenges a pharmacist will face as they start their career.  The good news, you have spent the last 3-4 years learning the content of the exam.  This is how the NAPLEX differs from the MPJE.  The NAPLEX is a general exam that covers pharmacy practice and can include topics from hypertension to HIV to Over-the-Counter medications, while the MPJE is state specific and the study material is limited and easy to identify.  If you are also planning on taking the MPJE, click here for my MPJE study guide which has helped many pass the MPJE.  The NAPLEX exam is detailed here by the NABP, the organization that oversees the exams on behalf of each state.  Essentially, the state where you will practice and the NABP are making sure you paid attention during pharmacy school and are competent enough to practice pharmacy in most setting.

I recommend  that newly graduated Pharm.D.’s take the NAPLEX first before the MPJE.  I also recommend having at least three to four weeks in between exams as each exam is a great undertaking.  The main reason to take the NAPLEX first, is the longer you wait, the more clinical information you may not retain.  Ideally, you are working as a graduate intern which helps keep your pharmacy practice skills sharp in the industry you work in.  You would then focus on the areas that you are not as familiar with.  Personally, I had to focus on Oncology and HIV as they are very involved pharmacy subjects, and they were covered on a high level during my tenure in school.  Also, I did not have much exposure during my time as a retail intern so I had to make sure I was very familiar with those subjects before taking the exam.

The study methods and resources I recommend may not work for everyone, but I feel very confident that you will find some value.  I promise that reading this guide will not be a waste of your time.  I also want to disclose that the links in this guide are affiliated.  They help support the website at no cost to the reader.  If you do purchase a book or resource through the website’s link, thank you.  It is greatly appreciated.  This is a passion project that I invest in on a monthly basis; my goal is not to get rich of the the site, but rather continue to provide free educational guides that help students become pharmacists.

Planning for the NAPLEX:

You have to make sure that you allow three to four weeks to study for the NAPLEX depending on how much time you are able to study each day.  Ideally, you allow a full 30 days of planned time to prepare for the NAPLEX.  This may seem excessive, but due to the update a few years ago and the potential of having to wait 45 days to retake the exam if you do not pass, it is better to over prepare and pass versus receiving a failing score.  A quick comment on the recent change, on November 1st, 2016, the NAPLEX total questions increased from 185 to 250 which also increased test time to six hours.  After this update, it was reported that the pass rate declined from an average of ~90% down to ~79% in 2017.  You can find more on the update on Pharmacy Today’s website.  Please heed my advice and allow enough time to study.  Do not make lack of preparation the reason you did not pass the NAPLEX.

The NAPLEX will test a student’s knowledge, judgment and skills in two areas.  According the NABP, the first section: Ensure Safe and Effective Pharmacotherapy and Health Outcomes accounts for 67% of the exam.  Second section: Safe and Accurate Preparation, Compounding, Dispensing, and Administration of Medications and Provision of Health Care Products, accounts for 33%.  More information about what to expect from signing up for the NAPLEX can be found on the NABP’s website.

Based on this breakdown, there is a great deal of focus safety so know your doses, side effects, contraindications and high risk drugs that require black box warning, or are part of REMS programs.  Get to know the concept of Patient Cases and how to handle answering multiple questions related to one case.  Your school should have prepared you for these types of cases and questions, especially during the your last year of rotations.  If you are not comfortable with these concepts, that is the more reason you may want to consider investing in reputable resources to help assist in your review.  You should also become very comfortable with calculations and pharmacokinetics; you need to know how to manage patient doses and adjust based on their profile.  You will need to take into account all factors that can impact drug dosing (elderly, hepatic function, renal function…).  Lastly, learn the most commonly used drugs and learn them inside out.  As a pharmacist, remembering the top 100-200 drugs is a must; do not forego this step.  You can find this information in the resources below.  You will need to learn brand and generic names, drug categories, subcategories and how they work within the body.

Where to Start:

The first step you want to take is plan a countdown from the day you schedule your NAPLEX (hopefully a month in advance) down to present day.  From there, you need to come up with a study schedule that you will adhere to.  The schedule will depend on various factors such as work schedule, school commitments and family life.  You may schedule 1 hour in the morning and 2 in the evening on weekdays, while dedicating four hours each day on the weekends.  Whatever you come up with, you need to be disciplined enough to commit to studying each day as much as you can AND make sure part of your studying (if not all) is done first thing in the morning.  More on that later.  I will say this again, do not wait until last minute to study and cram for this exam.  It is now a 250-question, six hour exam, that your career depends on.  After you set up your study schedule, you need to assign what you will study during those times.  You might split the time between reviewing class material, reading the comprehensive NAPLEX book you bought (hopefully from a link below) and completing practice question.  That would be my strategy if I was taking the exam today.  I was not aware of the resources available, so I only used class material and a review book.  Practice exams have become part of my MPJE routine (I take 1-2 per year for work) and they provide you with two benefits.  First, it is a great way to learn the material as you remember things when they are the answer to a question.  Second, it prepares you for the experience of the exam, where you can time yourself, and go through the process so you reduce the anxiety level before taking the actual exam.

When I was preparing for the NAPLEX, I started by reviewing class notes and material from first year pharmacy school to the third year.  Each student will have a different knowledge background depending on their school’s curriculum.  I was lucky enough to go to a top tier school that provided a great learning environment and I had a very good foundation to start preparing for the exam.  As you review class content and notes, make sure you are focusing on areas that you do not believe are your strengths.  It is important to review all the material, but bringing up your weak points will allow for a margin of safety for passing the exam.  For example, if you work in retail as an intern, you will be familiar with Brand/Generic drug names, antibiotics course regimens and drug schedules, but you might be deficient in Pharmacokinetics, Compounding and Oncology.

The next step is to review available resources and determine what works best for you.  I provided my thoughts below, but ultimately, you have to make the decision about which resource to use.  There are plenty of resources on the market; I only included ones that I would recommend or use.  The recommendation is based on my research and/or first hand use of the actual material.

Resources:

The first resource that I recommend is published by Manan Shroff, who created www.pharmacyexam.com.  The book I used is listed last on this list since it is now outdated as it has not been updated recently.  I wanted to review other available resources since there were fewer options during my time.  I reached out to www.pharmacyexam.com and they were kind enough to provide me with their NAPLEX review books .  If you had a chance to read my MPJE Comprehensive Free Study Guide, you know that I recommend PharmacyExam for their MPJE practice quizzes and exams.   I have used their services for the past 10 years or so since I had to become licensed in 15 additional states.  I did not want to recommend their NAPLEX resources simply because they have great MPJE resources.  That is why I asked for a copy of their books so I can review and provide honest feedback.  Well, the results are what you would expect.  I recommend their NAPLEX material as well.  I outlined by feedback below for you to read and make your own judgment.  PharmacyExam provides three books along with practice quizzes along with other options.  Their cost is also very reasonable for the amount of material you receive.  Here is the breakdown:

  • Pharmacy Licensing Theory – Part I:

    • Over 70 chapters that review the basics of pharmacology.  The format is very user-friendly where it lists the drug names, doses and special notes on each one.  Very comprehensive and organized.

    • The book is newly published and is the 2017-2018 edition.  It has updated drug information on newly released medications.

    • It refers to top brand and generic drugs currently in use.

    • It also covers OTCs and TPN.

  • Pharmacy Licensing Theory – Part II:

    • Same points as above where it completes the information since there is a great deal of material to cover.

  • Pharmacy Licensing Questions & Answers

    • Over 1200 (yes, 1200) questions with answers and detailed explanations.  Great way to prepare for the NAPLEX especially since some of the questions related to 35 patient-profile reviews.

    • The author covers OTCs and TPNs more in-depth with this book and in a case-study format.

    • The one constructive feedback I will provide is all the questions are listed in a row and then the answers are provided.  I would have broken down each section where after each 50 questions, the answer would have been provided.  That is a personal preference and may not impact you.  It is a small concern when compared to the amount of information provided.

  • Naplex Question Bank Subscription

    • This is a new offering from PharmacyExam that I was fortunate to Beta test and was very impressed with the results.  The customization of the questions and quizzes allows category specific review that will help strengthen your weakest areas.

    • The question bank will work on all devices including smartphone and tablets.

    • Create unlimited Naplex Type quizzes and track your progress.

    • More than 2500 Naplex Questions including questions based on patient profile.

    • New questions will be added regularly. Database is always up to date.

    • Review, learn and study questions for more than 50 different therapeutic categories.

  • They offer a great combo pack which is what I recommend since it is so comprehensive.  It includes all three books, a calculations book, seven practice tests and their Sterile Compounding and Hazardous Drugs.  Like I said, it is very comprehensive.  All of www.pharmacyexam.com’s NAPLEX resources are listed here if you are interested in buying more than one tool but not the combo pack.


The next resource on my list is the gold standard for exam prep and that is the Kaplan Test Prep books and resources.  I have used their books for other non-pharmacy exams I have taken related to business school and they delivered.  I can only assume that their NAPLEX material is also of high standard and can be of great value to the reader.  It can be used as a standalone or in conjunction with the resources mentioned above.  My goal is to reach out to Kaplan and have the oppurtunity to review their online courses and provide a comprehensive review and feedback so I can provide a more in-depth analysis of their NAPLEX material.  If you used Kaplan for your PCAT exam and did well, I would recommend using their resources for the NAPLEX as well.  I will keep you posted if I do partner with them to review their NAPLEX material.  For a complete list of what they have to offer, you can visit their website, https://www.kaptest.com/naplex, or order directly through the links provided below.


The final resource I will reference is RxPrep which has gained a great reputation for providing quality content when it comes to NAPLEX review.  My experience with RxPrep has been positive.  Before starting the website, I did help a pharmacist pass the NAPLEX and she used the RxPrep books which allowed her to have a comprehensive review of the NAPLEX as she studied pharmacy in another country.  Here is the list of books they offer:


This is the book resource I used when I studied for the NAPLEX because  it had a great overview and details on the drug groups and therapy categories and subcategories.  I found great value in the book as it combined all the material into one reference, which made it easier to have a succinct review process in addition to reviewing pharmacy class material.  It is a large book, over 1400 or so pages, so when they are using “comprehensive” in the title for a reason.  I should note that the last publication I could find is from 2012, which is outdated, so you will need to make sure you brush up on newer drugs if you only go with this option.  Another concern is the cost.  The price has gone up due to limited supply.  I thought it was worth mentioning since it is a large investment.

Here is an excerpt from the publisher’s note:

Updated to conform with USP 797 regulations, the text provides expanded coverage of ever-developing areas of practice, including pain management, hepatic disorders, migraines, women’s health, prescription dermatologic agents, geriatrics, and pediatrics.
More than 60 print and online chapters—spanning chemistry, pharmaceutics, pharmacology, pharmacy practice, and drug therapy—are presented in outline form for easy use and offer helpful practice questions to aid your study.
Comprehensive Pharmacy Review provides guidelines and tips for taking the NAPLEX, along with the NAPLEX blueprint. Furthermore, it lists the actual competency statements that the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) uses in evaluation.


Final Thoughts

Schedule enough time to PREPARE FOR THIS EXAM.  Do not rely on the fact that you just completed pharmacy school and passed your classes; this approach will, more than likely, result in a failed attempt.  You may get lucky and pass with a score in the 70s, but it is not worth the risk.  There is zero upside to this approach and plenty of downside.  Make time to study, use your class notes and material and one or two of the resources referenced above.  I did not think of the money I spent on resources as an expense, but rather as an investment that will have a great return since it will allow me to start earning as a pharmacist.  They are also resources that can be used throughout your career (e.g. you start a new job in oncology and you use a resource to freshen up on cancer medications).

Helpful Tips Based on My Experience:

  • The two weeks leading up to the exam, wake up an hour or two early and study.  It has been my experience that learning and retaining new information works best first thing in the morning.  This time would be on top of any other study times you have scheduled later in day.

  • The day of the exam, I wake up early and usually take practice quizzes in areas that I focused on.  It helps get you in the right mindset and provides a refresher right before the exam.

  • Eat a good breakfast but not too heavy.  You do not want to be digesting food while taking the exam.

  • Arrive at the exam site 30-45 minutes before your assigned time.  It reduces any anxiety of not being there on time. In certain cases, they may allow you to start the exam early depending on seat availability.

  • Eat a full sized candy bar upon arrival 30 minutes before you start your exam.  My choice of candy is M&Ms but any high sugar bar should do.  Your brain will use a lot of glucose during the exam and the candy has helped me tremendously.  Also, bring a few extra or a light high carb lunch to eat during the exam, since it may take up to six hours to complete and you will have breaks.  Your brain will need fuel, that is a guarantee.  Do not go the entire exam without having something to eat.  Makes sure that your choice is compatible with your stomach and something that you eat regularly.  The last thing you need is to eat something that may upset your stomach and cause a distraction.  It may be part superstition, part science, but it has now become a tradition.  Thanks mom for this tip early in life, it has worked flawlessly.

  • The exam is now 250 questions long which changed in the last couple of years.  It is a long exam and requires brain power.  Be ready.  ANSWER EVERY QUESTION.  you will not get credit for unanswered questions.  Do not second guess. Read each question and case study very carefully and go with your first response.  I have made the error of misreading the question and not answering correctly.

  • …and remember, all you need is 75 or better.

And now, a small favor.  If this guide has helped you with preparing for the NAPLEX, I would greatly appreciate your feedback (positive or constructive) and testimonial.  Please submit your comments here, and I will post to this site.  You can also email me directly at [email protected]  It will help validate my mission and improve the next pharmacist’s experience.  It would be great if you can let me know how this guide helped and how your scored.  I have been able to help many of my colleagues pass the MPJE and NAPLEX along with a few of you so far through this site.  My goal is for everyone to pass on their first try or their next try after reading this guide.

Best of Luck,

Hazem

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