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NAPLEX 2016 Changes – What You Should Know

There are some NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination) changes that are happening that pharmacy students need to be aware of.  The changes are scheduled to take place on November 1st, 2015.  So what are the NAPLEX 2016 changes and why are they happening?

The length of the exam as well as the NAPLEX content outline is changing.

  • The length of the exam is going from 185 to 250 questions
  • Assessing Pharmacotherapy to Assure Safe ad Effective Therapeutic Outcomes section goes from approximately 56% of the exam to 67% of the exam
  • The “Recommend, and Provide Health care Information that Promotes Public Health” section of the exam will disappear

Here is some speculation on why the NAPLEX changes are happening:

  1. I believe the primary goal of this change is to make the exam more “clinical” in nature.  What I would speculate this means for NAPLEX exam takers is more clinical scenarios where you are asked to recommend the “best” medication.  With the pharmacist’s role in the healthcare system evolving, I suspect NABP’s intent is to make sure graduates are ready to handle making recommendations and understanding how to optimize medication therapy.
  2. Why is the length changing?  I suspect that the consensus on the length would be that most would feel like 250 questions is brutally long.  I’m pretty weird compared to most folks, but I actually like the idea of a longer exam and maybe that is just the statistics part of my brain.  If you know your stuff well, the more questions asked, the more opportunity to put your knowledge on display.  The other advantage of more questions is you should be able to get more wrong (or at least that is what I would think) and still pass.
  3. Black Helicopter Conspiracy Theory:  Is the “new” NAPLEX going to be more difficult?  What is one of the most common frustrations of current pharmacists? The pharamcy education news I’ve seen all over social media is about the massive increase in pharmacy graduates over the last few years. I’m not an expert on the rapid expansion of the number of pharmacy graduates, but in my mind, there are three major ways to prevent the rapid increase in new pharmacists.  The first one is to reduce the number of pharmacy schools and/or class sizes.  Again, not an expert, but overall, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen anytime soon.  The second one is to make it more difficult to pass pharmacy school. That could possibly happen at isolated colleges of pharmacy, but I doubt that will ever cause a significant reduction in the number of graduates.  The other obvious way is to make the final bar (NAPLEX) more difficult to hurdle.  So is this the master NABP plan to reduce the number of new pharmacists?  Only time will tell.  It will be interesting to follow the NAPLEX pass rates over the next few years.

What do you think?

Eric Christianson, PharmD, BCPS, CGP

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Written By Eric Christianson

October 11, 2015

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