The first step of the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination, known as NPLEX Part I or NPLEX 1, is the first of two steps required for Naturopathic licensure in North America. The exam is regulated by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE). The process of completing NPLEX 1 is similar to a first kiss. For some, it is smooth and wonderful. For some, they spend weeks preparing by practicing on various objects. And for others, they just wing it and go with the flow. When all is said and done, it can be uncomfortable and clumsy, but you get through it. Here are some actionable steps that can maximize your success on NPLEX 1 and reduce the chances of failure.
The first thing to point out is that NABNE themselves actually provides you with suggestions for a study strategy and suggestions for writing multiple choice exams. All of their tips can be found in their study guide. Be smart and read the whole study guide while paying special attention to the sections highlighted below. Some of the key points I will share with you here are:
Anatomy is detailed. Of all the sections that you may be concerned about, anatomy is one that has a lot of details. This is because every muscle and every bone can have a number of differently worded questions asked about them. Some will require critical thinking, but many are simply a test of memorization. I’d recommend ensuring you know your anatomy in heavy detail so that you can answer any questions that come your way. This includes all origin, insertion-type details.
In Microbiology, focus on pathognomonic content. When it comes to microbiology, you may be able to score some easy marks just by linking two concepts together. There are many opportunities for this especially when it comes to rare conditions. For example, a cytomegalovirus infection may show owl’s eye appearance of inclusion bodies, or measles may show koplik’s spots. If you see one term, you can pretty much instantly associate it with the other.
All topic sections are equally important. If anyone tells you that you need to spend more time on physiology, don’t listen to them! Everyone experiences NPLEX 1 differently, based on their individual strengths and weaknesses. The categories are well-divided and well-represented across the exam. If you have specific weaknesses, you may opt to spend more time on those topics – and that’s perfectly acceptable.
Familiarize yourself with the test and the testing procedure. This means knowing what you are actually going to be doing, when, where, and how. What are you allowed to bring? What is not allowed? This will ensure that you maintain efficiency and have nothing to worry about regarding any of the administrative aspects of the examination. That is the last thing you want to spend time worrying about because you want your brain to be focused on content.
Begin your review early. NABNE suggests spending 6-8 hours per day studying in the months before the exam. It is my experience that this is a good amount of time to study on a daily basis, that is, to treat studying like a full-time job. But how long should you study for? I very strongly recommend 6 weeks. Having not written NPLEX 1 before, you have no idea how difficult it is or how hard you have to study. As a result, most students are fairly keen and put a lot of effort into it and end up over-studying. That’s not a bad thing. Unlike with the clinical sciences exam, this basic science exam can easily be over-studied. 6 weeks of full-time studying is more than enough time to make sure you are well-prepared and perhaps to over-study a little, but not too much.
Plan your resources before you start studying. There are a number of potential resources available to utilize for NPLEX 1 and even this selection process can be confusing and overwhelming for some. But you’re in luck. I’ve listed all of the absolute best resources here. I select these resources only based on what has worked for students in the past and taking into account all the research data that I’ve studied on NPLEX (I’m the only person that’s ever done this… so take my word for it). If you like flashcards, I strongly recommend them. You have the option of digital or print and the library of content is excellent. Once you are nearing the end of your study, I strongly recommend practice exams. This will allow you to see where your strengths and weaknesses are and will give you a reality check on whether or not you are prepared. BoardVitals offers one of the best NPLEX question banks available, consider implementing it into your study routine.
All that being said, I know Part 1 of the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination can be a stressful process. Follow these recommendations and you’ll be on the path to success in no time. Good luck!
Dr. Habib is an evidence-based Naturopathic Doctor with over a decade of education in healthcare. He is a Clinic Director and the Sales Director of the herbal company Perfect Herbs. He is also involved in teaching, research, and publishing. He is a Clinic Supervisor at the Naturopathic College and teaches the board exam preparation course. Dr. Habib created the one stop shop for NPLEX resources, PassNPLEX.com.