You've registered for the NABNE NPLEX, either Part 1 (Basic Biomedical Science) or Part 2 (Clinical Science). Congratulations on making it this far! You shelled out several hundred dollars for this thing, so what happens next? Should you register for an NPLEX review course, an NPLEX board review, or an online NPLEX course? In this article, we'll explain exactly what you should look for in an NPLEX course.
Well, if you're like most students, you'll go study for several weeks and months, and then go right the exam. You better hope that you are not a Category 3 student.
"Category what?"... you might be asking.
You see, there are exactly THREE KINDS OF STUDENTS. They fall into Category 1, Category 2, or Category 3.
A Category 1 NPLEX student is the best kind to be. If you fall into this category, you are super smart, you consistently have a high GPA, you are a pro at multiple choice exams, you are probably a perfectionist, you are basically an academic superstar. So what happens to Category 1 students on NPLEX? It's pretty simple. They pass. This shouldn't surprise you at all. This type of person has good study habits, they are focused and motivated, they are the ones always in class and always acing tests. Chances are if you are in this category you will actually over-prepare. Over-preparing for a board exam like NPLEX is a good thing. Better you get as many right as possible and feel good about it rather than teetering the grey area of possible failure.
So what about Categories 2 and 3?
A Category 2 NPLEX student is an above average, average, or below average student. Yes, this is a very large group indeed. You see, Category 2 students are bright and competent (you kind of have to be to make it this far, don't you?)
The key determining factor about a Category 2 student is their passing potential. A Category 2 student is someone who if they don't take a preparatory course, they will fail NPLEX... whereas if they take a preparatory course (a good one, as we'll see below), they will pass. In other words, this large group of students includes students of varying academic success, varying motivations, varying study habits, and varying abilities to focus on what's important. But the key is that they might pass and they might fail, depending on what course they choose to take.
If you are reading this, chances are you are a Category 2 student because very simply put: that's where the majority of students are when it comes to the NABNE NPLEX exams. From my perspective, it is SO IMPORTANT that these students take a NPLEX review course because it is worth the investment. Courses cost a few hundred dollars. But failing costs two to three times as much (to re-write) and that's not including any of the inconvenience or time of having to study again. It's a smart investment no matter how you look at it because you are investing in yourself.
So what about Category 3 NPLEX students? Well, if you know anything about NPLEX pass rates (we discuss them in another post), you know that there are just some people that can't cut it. It doesn't matter whether or not they take a course, they are doomed for failure. Why? Probably many reasons. Maybe bad study habits, maybe poor test writing, maybe an inability to critically synthesize case information. At the end of the day it's really hard to say exactly why, but we know that this category of student is highly likely to fail, and moreso likely to fail multiple times. It's a sad situation and a bad place to be.
So what can Category 3 students do to avoid failure? Well, there are several NPLEX resources. One step in the right direction would be selecting the top resources and devoting a hefty amount of time to NPLEX studying.
Other ways to increase the odds of success are by using NPLEX practice questions, using NPLEX Flashcards, focusing on knowing everything from the NPLEX study guide, and ensuring a complete reading of the NABNE or NPLEX blueprint. A course for these people, by definition, will not help. But it may decrease the number of times the exam needs to be re-written if a good foundation is built.
So you might have a sense of what Category you are in, but the truth is that unless you are one of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers (on either far end of the spectrum), it's almost impossible to know ahead of time. The most prudent way to proceed is to buy yourself some insurance: take an NPLEX course. Then do your absolute best to focus and study hard with the best NPLEX resources.
We'll describe some of the various course offerings available. I want to stress that my personal approach to marketing involves education and transparency. Do I want you to become one of our students and register for our courses? Absolutely. But I say that not only because it generates revenue, but because I fully stand behind our brand. I truly believe that as a group of instructors here we are offering the absolute best NPLEX courses available, and below I'll describe exactly why.
There are a few things you absolutely want to look for in an NPLEX course and a few things you absolutely want to avoid.
And this is a particularly important decision to make because chances are that you are unlikely to take multiple courses (though if you really want to part with your money, go nuts and take multiple courses). This means you want to make an EDUCATED DECISION and one that is right for you.
I've mentioned that I want to proceed with transparency. However, I respect our competitors and I absolutely refuse to be one of those people who say bad things about others. I believe that someone's track record and reputation says a lot, but I'll be talking in generalities with an end-goal of equipping you with the knowledge you need to make a good decision about NPLEX review, not to bash other people.
Obviously, we'll candidly go right ahead and suggest that we are option 1. We'll discuss more NPLEX course differentiating details below.
Another reasonable offering for NPLEX board review is Dr. Paul Anderson. Dr. Anderson is an amazing Naturopath and instructor. We sincerely appreciate him when it comes to everything he does for our profession. You can find out more about him on his website. He calls his service Medical Board Review Services, or MBRS for short.
Depending on your geographic location, you may have access to other lesser known courses. Every year different individuals decide they have something to offer. Most of the time these are short-lived offerings (either due to lack of student interest, or due to lack of quality). Sometimes quality is there, but the instructors just decide they don't want to work in this capacity any longer.
If you are located in Canada, you may have access to Dr. Jay Grossman. He is an excellent doctor and instructor. He describes himself (in his words) as "not everyone's flavour" (in other words, students report that he tends to polarize them). He doesn't always offer courses and sometimes his courses have not had enough student interest to be viable (as was the case in 2016 in Toronto). He can be accessed on his website. He calls his services Naturopathic Board Review Experts, or NBRE for short. In the latest attempted offering, it was also referred to as NPLEX Success.
Two other possibly lesser known offerings (we discuss them on our resources page as well) are NPLEX Crash and NPLEX Crunch. All of these people are wonderful. In the latest offering in 2016, NPLEX Crash was not viable, similar to Jay Grossman above. However, if you are interested in finding out more about them, they do have a website. NPLEX Crunch offers an online course for NPLEX 1 and their website is available here. They also strive to build an NPLEX Community, which they appropriately call the NPLEX Crunch Community.
We'll start by discussing NPLEX Course Red Flags, or land mines. In other words, if you see one of these things - RUN. Run far far away.
#1 New Or Lesser Known Offerings: Be extremely cautious about new course offerings. It easily takes AT LEAST 10 deliveries before a course starts to gain traction, addresses its weak points, starts to have statistical data to report on, and where course registrants can provide trusting testimonials. Most new course offerings fizzle out or cease operations after a couple of years because they simply couldn't provide enough value.
What exactly does this mean? That means if you see a new service next year called "Smash NPLEX" or "The NPLEX Prep Guys" (I just made those up right now), it's very likely that there's a better reputable alternative. You would be taking excessive amounts of risk by betting a new service will do a better job than one that has a long track record of success. You would be the crash test dummy. To be clear, that doesn't mean that every new service is bad. Not at all. Everyone has to start somewhere. The key here is that for you as an individual, you want to get this right on the first try, and you want to increase your odds of success as much as possible. That can be accomplished by going with a long-standing provider.
#2 Don't Use Price As The Only Factor: Many course providers who are not doing well will drop their prices significantly to appear more appealing. Other course providers may try to sell their course at a super high price so that you equate the offering with high value. How much is an NPLEX course worth to you? As I mentioned above, I believe the investment in a course is excellent insurance and a no-brainer from an investment perspective. What does it cost you if you fail and have to rewrite it? Up to $1000 perhaps in admin fees, 6 months study time, anxiety, more test-writing time, and perhaps a delayed license (which could translate to thousands of dollars in lost revenue). In other words, it costs A LOT if you fail. Therefore, is paying a few hundred dollars worth increasing your chances of successes? ABSOLUTELY. But don't use the cost of a course as your only determining factor. Instead, aim for the course that will provide you with the most value and the highest chance of success on NPLEX, whether it be the biomedical sciences exam or the clinical sciences exam.
#3 Lack Of True Statistics: When presented with multiple NPLEX course options (like the Pass NPLEX Courses, Dr. Anderson's NPLEX Board Review, Dr. Jay Grossman's NPLEX Prep, NPLEX Crunch, NPLEX Crash, etc), you deserve to know whether or not these courses have actually been shown to help anyone! It's all well and dandy that they provide content and support, but what is the point of spending your money on something that might just end up wasting your time? A good provider should openly disclose exactly what outcomes they have provided in the past. Things like "pass rates went up 10%" or "our students have improved pass rates."
But you also want to watch out for bogus statistics too. This can be really difficult to do. This can be extremely difficult to do actually, as most people are typically uninformed and unequipped to assess the validity of statements being made. But I'll tell you what, if someone is citing "this course improves pass rates by 20%" - run away. One year, the average pass rate for NPLEX Part II was 82%. If the course improves pass rates by 20%, I guess they must have had a 102% pass rate after taking the course... Make sure statements about statistics are as qualified as possible. It would shock you the types of things people will say that have absolutely no basis in truth.
#4 Lack Of Transparency With Student Feedback: Ideally, you would want to know what other students thought of the course. Not just one testimonial or one specific subset, but an ongoing transparent record of student feedback. To my knowledge, only one course does this (surprise, it's us). If a course provider doesn't show you their feedback, what do you think that means? Don't be fooled. It means the feedback was probably not good. Otherwise, they'd advertise it proudly. Here's an example of course feedback we obtained from one of the popular competing course offerings (with details removed to prevent identification and because we want to educate).
And here's an example of some of the student comments from a competing NPLEX review instructor. You think these are being advertised? No way. They sweep these under the rug. The problem is it keeps YOU, the key decider, uninformed. We hope this changes that.
So what exactly should you be looking for in an NPLEX Course?
Here is one excellent tip: Try to find an instructor who has been an NPLEX question writer. This should be advertised. If you've written 100's of NPLEX questions, guess what? You know the ins and outs. If you have never written for NPLEX before, that means you have only your experience to go on. One person's experience is just not good enough because everyone is different.
Another tip: Look for a course that has been affiliated in some capacity with multiple schools. Why? The institutions are more informed than others. They know who is good and they are the ones that get the student pass rates after the exam, so they know the impact of the courses. Try to look for someone who has worked with schools over time.
Look for someone who is providing value. What do you get with the NPLEX course you are interested in? How many slides? How many lectures? Do you get videos? What does the content focus on? Try to match the delivery as closely as possible to the exam. Sometimes instructors will say "this course is built for the new format of NPLEX." The last time NPLEX changed was 5 years ago. How new is their material? It's 5 years old; it may not be appropriate. Do your research and make an educated decision.
Finally, I'll suggest you take a course where the instructor is trust-worthy and reputable. How do you know that? Look at their remaining body of work. Are they instructing at institutions? Are they supervising in clinic? Are they publishing articles? Check their personal website and get a sense for who they are. If you can't find any of that information, guess what? They are not established and they are less likely to provide value. Established instructors openly share their body of work because they are proud of it.
Thank you so much for taking some time to get yourself educated. We truly hope that this information has been useful for you and has given you some great tips.
The key messages were:
#1 Take an NPLEX Course
It's insurance and it's an investment in yourself. It will save you time and money in the long-run.
#2 Make an educated decision about the NPLEX Review you choose
There are a few options out there. Watch out for new offerings, lack of transparency on outcomes, student feedback, and bogus statistics. Aim for a course that has stood the test of time, been affiliated with multiple schools, with a trustworthy instructor who will provide value.
As always, we wish you the best of luck no matter how you proceed!
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This site has been built, developed, and is continually updated by licensed Naturopathic Doctors. We are not associated with NABNE or NPLEX and the views represented here are solely our own opinions.