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NAPLEX Exam: Everything Pharmacy Students Need To Know

Friday, May 1, 2020
By The TrueLearn Team

Exam Overview: What is the NAPLEX Exam?

The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam® (NAPLEX®) is a pharmacy practice knowledge exam that is required in order for candidates to become licensed as a pharmacist in the United States. It is developed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies and measures the test taker’s knowledge of pharmacy practice. It is intended to serve as a tool to help boards of pharmacy assess the level of a candidate’s preparedness to practice as an entry-level pharmacist. 

In order to be eligible to take the NAPLEX exam, you must have graduated from an ACPE-accredited pharmacy school. Foreign pharmacy graduates who wish to become licensed in the USA must have earned their Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination CommitteeTM (FPGEC®) certification to be eligible for the NAPLEX. 

NAPLEX Content and Structure 

The exam covers the following two major competency areas: 

  • Ensuring safe and effective pharmacotherapy and health outcomes
    • About ⅔ of the questions come from this area 
  • Safe and accurate preparation, compounding, dispensing, and administration of medications and provision of health care products 
    • About ⅓ of the questions come from this area

Questions may come in a variety of formats, including:

  • Scenario-based – These questions will present you with a patient case and include information such as a medication list, physical exam results, labs and imaging results, and require you to assess the information presented in order to select your answer. There might be several questions dedicated to a specific case.
  • Multiple-choice – You can improve your chance of being correct through the process of elimination.
  • Multiple-response – These questions have multiple correct answers and you must select all correct ones to get full points.
  • Free entry response – e.g. calculations for which you must write a numerical answer.
  • Ordered-response – e.g., ordering a list of topical corticosteroids in ascending order of potency

How many questions are on the exam?

The computerized exam has 250 questions.  Exams are taken at Pearson Vue Testing Centers.

Candidates are given six hours to complete the exam, with the option of taking up to two 10-minute breaks. 50 of the questions are pre-test questions and are not used to calculate your score. You will not know which questions are being used for the purpose of pre-test The exam is scored out of 150, and the scaled passing score is 75. 

When Are Results Released? 

Per the NABP, your scores will be available on the NABP online portal within 7 business days of your test date, if your primary jurisdiction participates in the online score interface. Check the NABP website to see if your jurisdiction participates in the online score reporting. If it does not, contact your board of pharmacy to find out how and when the results will be released. 

How Long Do I Need to Study? 

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Your four years of pharmacy school, all the tests and quizzes you took, your rotations, and any pharmacy work experience all have played a role in preparing you for this exam. Some students start as soon as their fourth year of pharmacy school begins, while others may wait until after graduation, when they can dedicate several weeks to months specifically to NAPLEX studying.

Instead of quantity, the quality of your studying is key. Make sure to download the NABP’s Competency Statements and Sample Questions to get a more thorough idea of the topics covered. There are a lot of study materials available, including study books and online question banks like TrueLearn. 

What Happens if I Don’t Pass? 

If you fail the NAPLEX on your first attempt, you can retake it up to four times. However, after each failed attempt, there might be certain restrictions you must adhere to, such as a waiting period. Check the NABP website for specifics on retaking the test.

Top Three Tips 

1. Download the current NABP NAPLEX Candidate Application Bulletin: The NABP NAPLEX Candidate Application Bulletin is updated yearly by the NABP and contains the most current logistical information that you will need to know before you take the NAPLEX, including how to apply for eligibility, how to purchase the exam, scheduling information, and other examination procedures. Download the current one and familiarize yourself with the process so that you are more prepared. 

2. Utilize all the resources available to you :As a recent pharmacy graduate, you will have many resources available to you that will help you excel at the NAPLEX exam. If you graduated from an ACPE-accredited pharmacy school, your school may have access to online study materials, including textbooks and practice questions, free of charge to you. Even if you don’t have access to study materials through your school, there are a wealth of NAPLEX study materials available for purchase online and in bookstores. There are also free study notecards available on online notecard engines like Quizlet. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pharmacy classmates to form a study group. Study groups can help keep you motivated and accountable to sticking to a study schedule. Your professors may also be willing to assist you if you encounter questions while studying certain subjects. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help!

3. Take practice exams:  Studying for a big exam like the NAPLEX can be a long, arduous process, and it can be easy to get intimidated by it all. Practice exams are a great way to gauge your level of preparation and help ease text anxiety. Taking a practice exam before you start studying for the NAPLEX will give you a baseline for understanding where you are starting from. Taking exams at regular intervals during your studying will allow you to monitor your progress and identify areas of strengths and areas of improvement, which will then allow you to tailor the rest of your studying. Finally, taking a practice exam towards the end of your dedicated study time could give you a boost of confidence by allowing you to realize that you are prepared and you can ace the test! Practice NAPLEX exams are available at various sources online, including TrueLearn.  TrueLearn lets you take questions by topic area and also shows you graphs that track your improvement over time. You can also use TrueLearn’s charting functionality to benchmark your performance against peers across the nation.

Author: Ira Gupta, Pharm.D. 


Catizone, Carmen A. NAPLEX and MPJE Candidate Application Bulletin. National Association of Boards  of Pharmacy®. Prospect, IL. Updated 2020. Accessed April 28, 2020.

NAPLEX. National Association of Boards of Pharmacy®. Updated 2020. Accessed April 28, 2020

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