IBCLC Examination Administrations- Twice Per Year FAQs
When are the exams offered each year and in which languages?
The IBCLC exam is offered in April and October each year. The exam administration dates are listed on the Key Dates page. Please note that the April exam is only offered via Computer-Based Testing (CBT) in the English language. The October exam is offered via CBT in all of the following languages. Paper and pencil (PPT) exams are only offered in remote areas where CBT is not available:
- Chinese Traditional
Is the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) application available?
The last year for the MOU application was 2015. MOU applications were used for candidates that did not have their 90 hours of lactation specific education or Pathway 2 IBLCE verified academic program completed at the time of exam application. Starting with the 2016 application, as there are two exams per year, the MOU option will not be available; you must meet all of the eligibly requirements at the time you apply.
What happens if I don’t pass the exam can I take the next exam offered?
You will be able to apply to resit the exam at the next exam seating in that language. If you are taking the exam in English via CBT then you have the option of the April or October exam. If you are taking the exam in a non-English language and/or by Paper and Pencil, you will be able to apply to sit the October exam. Information about reapplying will be provided at the time of the exam results.
When will exam results be available?
April exam: End of June, with a certification start date of July 1
October exam: End of December, with a certification start date of January 1
I’m an IBCLC, what happens if I don’t pass an exam?
If you don’t pass the April exam, your IBCLC certification will expire on June 30 of that year.
If you don’t pass the October exam, your IBCLC certification will expire on December 31 of that year.
How are current IBCLC credential expiration dates affected?
Due to the transition to exams twice year, all current IBCLCs will be receiving a new expiration date of December 31 of the year you are expiring. You will receive further information about the expiration date transition and an updated certificate within the year that you are expiring.
For IBCLCs that are not due to recertify in 2015, you will receive further information about the expiration date transition within the year that you are expiring.
If you are due to recertify in 2015 and do not recertify, your expiration date will remain October 31, 2015.
How do I know if I live in an area where CBT is not offered?
CBT is offered in many countries all over the world. In some states of specific countries like Australia (Tasmania, Queensland, Northern Territories and South Australia) you may need to sit paper and pencil exam in October until new centres are established. Otherwise you may choose to sit the exam in states where CBT is offered. Check with your regional office as the numbers of centres that offer the IBLCE exam are increasing.
Am I eligible for a discounted exam retake fee?
When you don’t pass the exam, then you are eligible to receive a discounted exam retake fee for your next three exams attempts or up to three years following the first time you don’t pass. Both initial and recertification exam candidates are eligible for the discounted rate. This discount is not retroactive, as it applies to anyone that did not pass the 2015 exam and going forward.
If I let my IBCLC certification lapse, do I need to meet the clinical hour and education requirements to sit the exam?
If you let your IBCLC certification lapse, then you have one exam attempt or one year, whichever comes first, in which to sit the exam without having to meet the clinical hour and education requirements.
How often is the IBLCE exam given?
The IBLCE certification examination is given twice a year. Visit the Key Dates page for details.
What topics are tested on the examination and does IBLCE offer an assessment guide?
The Detailed Content Outline outlines the subject matter that is tested on the certification examination. Each item, or question, on the examination is referenced to a particular discipline and chronological period listed on the blueprint. IBLCE does not currently offer an assessment guide.
Where will the examination be given?
The vast majority of candidates will take the examination by computer-based testing (CBT). Testing centres are provided by a major testing vendor and appointments for a seat at the testing centre of your choice must be made. In localities where CBT centres are not available, the exam will be offered by paper and pencil at exam sites determined by IBLCE.
IBLCE is one of many certification boards and organisations for which the CBT vendor provides testing centres. For this reason, reservation blocks for IBLCE exam appointments are available for a specified period of time each year and it is important that candidates take responsibility for making their appointments promptly. Neither IBLCE nor the CBT vendor can guarantee IBLCE exam candidates appointments close to their home.
How can I obtain the application form for the exam?
Application forms can be found on the Application Information page of this website.
I’m not sure I qualify to become an IBCLC. What other credentials in breastfeeding care does IBLCE offer?
IBLCE offers only one certification. The International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) certification is the only credential awarded by IBLCE.
I am a clinical health professional but my profession is not listed on the Recognised Health Professions List. What do I need to do to demonstrate completion of the Health Sciences Education courses?
The Recognised Health Professions List reflects credentials held worldwide by clinical health professionals. There are other professions that are recognised as clinical health professionals at a state, provincial or country level. If you have questions about your profession, please contact IBLCE.
I am a nurse, but I’m not a Registered Nurse. Do I qualify as a Recognised Health Professional?
Yes, nurses, regardless of the credential they hold in nursing, are considered recognised health professionals.
I’m not a Recognised Health Professional. How do I demonstrate completion of the Health Sciences Education?
Copies of your transcripts and/or certificates showing that you have a passing grade in each of the 14 health science subjects are the supporting documentation that you will need. Please read the Health Sciences Education Guide for details.
I’m confused. Does the Health Sciences Education need to be completed within the five years immediately prior to applying for the IBLCE exam?
No. There is no time limit on when the health science courses must be completed.
I’ve reviewed my transcripts against the descriptions in the Health Sciences Education Guide but I still have some questions about some of my courses. Will IBLCE take a look at my transcripts and tell me if my courses qualify?
Unfortunately, IBLCE staff does not review courses prior to application submission.
How do I demonstrate completion of the Health Sciences Education? Is there a special form I need to fill out?
When you fill out the application form to take the IBLCE exam, you will need to answer certain questions about the Health Sciences Education. In addition, you should retain copies of the supporting documentation that you will need if your application is randomly chosen for audit. Please see the Health Sciences Education Guide for details.
How do I obtain the required clinical experience in lactation and breastfeeding care?
IBLCE has provided 3 ways that candidates can obtain the required clinical practice in lactation and breastfeeding care:
- By reporting 1000 hours of appropriately supervised experience gained from personal paid or volunteer clinical practice in providing care to breastfeeding families (Pathway 1)
- Graduating from an academic program that includes at least 300 hours of directly supervised clinical practice in breastfeeding and lactation care in its curriculum (Pathway 2)
- Completing a verified Pathway 3 Plan of at least 500 hours of directly supervised clinical practice in lactation and breastfeed care
Which eligibility pathway should I follow?
When considering the three pathways to IBLCE examination eligibility, it is helpful to give thoughtful consideration to the following questions.
- Are you educated in one of the Recognised Health Professions?
If you answered “Yes,” you have already completed the required 14 health science subjects.
If you answered “No,” you should review your higher education transcripts against the courses described in the Health Sciences Education Guide to determine whether or not you need to take some of these courses.
- Are you currently working or volunteering as a recognized health professional or mother support counsellor in which your job involves providing care to breastfeeding families? Or, have you worked or volunteered in such a job in the past five years? Or, is it likely that you can obtain paid or volunteer experience as a recognised health professional or recognized mother support counsellor who provides care to breastfeeding families?
If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, you may be able to use your experience in lactation and breastfeeding care to qualify through Pathway 1.
If you answered “No” to these questions, Pathway 2 or Pathway 3 is probably a more reasonable option for you.
See the Pathways page for more information.
Does my personal experience breastfeeding my own children count toward meeting the clinical practice requirement? Or, may I count experience helping family members or friends?
No. Personal experience breastfeeding your own children and experience helping family members and friends may not be used to qualify for the IBLCE examination.
I work as a recognised health professional in a hospital. May I use the time that I spend helping breastfeeding mothers during my normal work hours to meet the lactation specific clinical experience requirement for Pathway 1?
Yes. You may use the hours that you spend helping breastfeeding mothers to qualify through Pathway 1. The hours that you report must have been obtained within the 5 years immediately prior to applying for the IBLCE examination.
I am a volunteer mother-to-mother breastfeeding support counsellor. How many years of volunteer experience do I need to qualify through Pathway 1?
First of all, your volunteer work must be with one or more of the organisations listed as a Recognised Mother Support Counsellor Organisation. In addition, please take the following factors into consideration.
- If your volunteer service is primarily through in-person contact with mothers, you can receive 500 hours clinical practice credit for each full year of volunteer service. Therefore, you would need 2 full years of volunteer service.
- If your volunteer service is mostly email, telephone or web-based counselling, you can receive 250 hours clinical practice credit for each full year of volunteer service. This means you would need 4 full years of volunteer service.
- Please Note: IBLCE does not pro-rate volunteer mother-to-mother support counsellor service; only full years of volunteer service may be reported.The flat rate 500 and 250 hours may not be combined within the 12 month period.
May I use my work experience as a breastfeeding peer counsellor to qualify through Pathway 1?
If your supervisor is an IBCLC or other health professional who works in the same location where you work and your supervisor can verify the accuracy of the hours that you report, you may use your work experience as a breastfeeding peer counsellor to qualify through Pathway 1. The hours that you report must have been obtained within the 5 years immediately prior to applying for the IBLCE examination.
I have experience as a volunteer mother-to-mother support counsellor and experience working as a recognised health professional. May I use experience from both of these roles to qualify through Pathway 1?
Yes, you may use a combination of experience from different jobs or volunteer positions to qualify through Pathway 1 so long as the experience was obtained within the 5 years immediately prior to applying for the IBLCE examination.
I want to qualify though Pathway 1 but I spend only a portion of my time each day helping mothers with breastfeeding concerns. How do I calculate my lactation specific clinical practice hours?
The hours that you report will be based upon a good faith estimate that you make about the amount of time you spend providing lactation and breastfeeding care. Keeping a weekly time log for several weeks can help you determine how many hours, on average, you spend helping breastfeeding families. You may find the Lactation Specific Clinical Practice Calculator found on the IBLCE Documents page helpful in calculating your hours.
I am not a health professional nor do I have any experience as a mother support counsellor. How can I obtain the lactation specific clinical practice hours that I need to qualify through Pathway 1?
Unless you can find a position in which you work or volunteer for a Recognised Mother Support Counsellor Organisation, you should consider following Pathway 2 or Pathway 3. Please see the Pathways page for more information.
I provide breastfeeding counselling and support to families in my job. I am not a health professional and I do not have an on-site supervisor. May I use my on-the-job experience to qualify for the IBLCE examination through Pathway 1?
No. Your work experience may not be used to qualify for the IBLCE examination through Pathway 1. Supervision by an IBCLC or other health professional who works on-site with you is required.
I work in a store that sells and rents breastfeeding supplies and equipment. I help customers with their breastfeeding questions and problems. I am not a health professional. May I use this experience to qualify for the IBLCE examination through Pathway 1?
No. You may not use this experience to qualify through Pathway 1. IBLCE requires that you work or volunteer for a Recognised Mother Support Counsellor Organisation
Ten years ago, I worked as a health professional in a local hospital. May I use my experience helping breastfeeding families to qualify for the IBLCE examination through Pathway 1?
No. You may not use this experience to qualify through Pathway 1. Your clinical experience must have been obtained with the 5 years immediately prior to applying for the IBLCE examination.
I need to sign up for a course in human lactation and breastfeeding. Which course do you recommend?
IBLCE does not require, recommend or endorse any particular course. Some candidates take courses that are approved by the Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee and others complete courses that have been awarded Continuing Education Recognition Points. In addition, you may use lactation specific education that is provided by health professional education approval boards and/or lactation specific education offered by your employer or volunteer organization.
What types of education will count toward meeting the lactation specific education requirement?
Education that covers the disciplines and chronological periods listed on the Detailed Content Outline may be used to meet the lactation specific education requirement. This education may be offered in the classroom or through distance learning such as online courses and independent study modules.
May I use my self-study hours to count toward the lactation specific education requirement?
No. Self-study is important but it may not be counted toward meeting the required lactation specific education.
How do I document my lactation specific education? Is there a special form I need to complete?
On the exam application form, you will be required to provide information about the lactation specific education that you have completed. In addition, you should retain copies of certificates that prove your attendance at each of the courses you completed. If your application is randomly chosen for audit, you will be required to provide these certificates to IBLCE as proof that you completed the required 90 hours of lactation specific education.
I want to take the IBLCE exam this year but I will not complete the required lactation specific education by the exam application deadline. May I apply before I complete the lactation specific education requirement?
No. Lactation specific education must be completed at the time of application submission.
Where are the computer-based testing (CBT) centres located?
IBLCE contracts with a third-party testing vendor to provide the computer-based testing centres. The vendor has testing centres in many countries around the world.
How will I know whether or not I will be taking the exam at a CBT centre?
The majority of exam candidates will take the exam at a CBT centre. There are some locations around the world where there are not sufficient CBT centres to accommodate IBLCE exam candidates. In those cases, IBLCE will provide paper and pencil exam sites. If you are one of the candidates who will need to take the exam by paper and pencil administration, IBLCE will notify you.
Last year, I took the exam by CBT but a friend of mine who lives in another city in my country took the exam by paper and pencil. Why did that happen?
In some situations, even in the same country, there are not sufficient CBT centres to register all IBLCE exam candidates. The CBT vendor may be able to handle all candidates in one large city but not in another. In such situations, it is necessary for IBLCE to offer the exam by paper and pencil administration in the metropolitan area where there are not sufficient CBT centres.
Will the CBT centre provide all the equipment I need for the exam?
Yes, the centre will provide you with all the equipment and materials you need to take the IBLCE exam.
How will I know the location of the CBT centre where I will take the exam?
Once your appointment at the CBT centre is made, a confirmation email will be sent to you. This email will include the location of the CBT centre where you are scheduled.
When I make my appointment with the CBT centre, will I need to pay a fee?
No. You will not owe any money when you make your appointment.
My CBT centre appointment is for 2:00 PM but my colleague has a 9:00 AM appointment. Why is my appointment so late in the day?
CBT centres deliver exams for many different organizations. The IBLCE exam is not the only exam being given at the CBT centre where you are scheduled to take the exam. Each CBT centre establishes its hours of operation and makes appointments on the basis of the length of the exam for which an appointment is being scheduled. Some IBLCE exam candidates will start the exam in the morning and others will start the exam later in the day.
What can I expect when I arrive at the CBT centre?
You should take 2 forms of identification with you to the CBT centre and at least one form of identification must include your photo. When you arrive at the CBT centre, you will need to register with the test centre supervisor, your identification will be inspected and your picture will be taken. In addition, you will be required to store your personal items in a locked locker or cabinet designated by the test centre supervisor. Also, please note that you may be asked to demonstrate that your pockets are empty. Candidates who are wearing a cast due to a fractured limb may be subject to inspection as are candidates with tattoos. In some cases, candidates may be asked to remove jewelry or other adornments. Please understand that these measures are part of standard test centre security procedures.
May I reschedule my appointment for a different CBT centre?
Rescheduling is possible until a date specified by IBLCE so long as appointments are available.
What time should I arrive at the CBT centre?
Please plan on arriving 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time.
What will happen if I am late for my appointment?
If you are late, you are subject to being dismissed, will not be able to take the exam and will forfeit all rights to any refund of your exam fee.
What if I have an emergency on the day of the exam and cannot make my appointment?
Please contact IBLCE as soon as possible with details about the nature of your emergency. Depending upon the nature of your circumstances, you may be required to provide documentation that supports your report of the emergency.
Will I be allowed to bring water or a snack to the test center?
You may bring bottled water and/or a small snack to the CBT centre but you will be required to keep the water and snack in your assigned locker, along with your purse, backpack, mobile phone and other personal belongings. Please ask the test centre supervisor about where you are permitted to eat and drink.
Why cannot I not keep a bottle of water with me while taking the exam?
Liquids can damage keyboards and other computer equipment. Therefore, you may not have water at your examination seat.
Will I be allowed to take a break to use the restroom?
Yes, you may take a break to use the restroom. You will not be given any additional time on the exam to make up for the time used. When you return from the restroom, the test centre supervisor must re-admit you to the testing room.
What is the exam format?
The exam is composed of multiple choice questions. Part 1 of the exam is multiple choice questions without images and Part 2 is multiple choice questions with images.
How long will I be given to take the exam?
The examination is typically 4 hours. However, if there are accommodations, additional time will be given.
Will I be allowed to go back and review questions that I have already read and/or answered?
Yes. You will be permitted to review questions in each exam session. If your exam is being administered as one session, you may review any question that you wish. If your exam is administered in two parts due to accommodation(s), you will be able to review questions in each part of the exam, i. e., once you have submitted Part 1, those questions can no longer be reviewed.
I’ve never taken an exam by computer. Can you tell me what to expect?
IBLCE’s CBT vendor provides a tutorial and practice exam that will familiarize you with how to navigate through an exam. This tutorial and practice exam is not specifically about the IBLCE examination but it will give you a good idea of what to expect. Please note that the tutorial will not run on a Macintosh computer.
Will I be allowed to use my mobile phone when I take a break during the exam administration?
No. Mobile phone use is prohibited during breaks. Breaks are part of your exam appointment and using your mobile phone during a break is cause for dismissal from the examination. The Candidate Information Guide states, “Use of electronic devices such as cell phones is not allowed during the exam. Candidates found in possession of and/or using such devices during the exam will be dismissed and their examinations will not be scored. There are no exceptions to this rule.”
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Can I choose to sit paper and pencil exam?
IBLCE is rolling out computer based examinations worldwide. Paper and pencil exams are only offered where computer testing centres are not available.
What is the difference between computer exam and paper and pencil?
The exam is essentially the same content whether you sit the exam using a computer or by paper and pencil.
What is the exam format?
The exam is composed of multiple choice questions. Part 1 of the exam is multiple choice questions without images and Part 2 is multiple choice questions with images.
How much time do I have to complete the exam?
Exam candidates taking the exam in paper and pencil will be given 2 hours and 30 minutes for Part 1 and the same amount of time for Part 2.
I would prefer to take the exam by computer, can I?
If you have been allocated to a paper and pencil exam site, it is because there are no computer centres in your vicinity. You can take the exam by computer and you would need to travel to the closest computer centre which may mean interstate or international travel, (IBLCE does not cover the cost of your travel expenses). If you would prefer to sit the exam by computer contact your Regional IBLCE office as soon as possible to discuss the possibility.
How do I know where the paper and pencil exam is being held?
Around 5-8 weeks before the exam you will receive your exam admission pack. This pack will contain all the information you need. Please read the information and if you have any questions please contact your Regional IBLCE office.
I know that people sitting the computer exam can chose their exam day, can I?
The paper and pencil exam is only held one day within the exam window period, so if you can’t make that day you have the choice of travelling to a computer exam centre (which may mean travel) or sitting a following exam. Check the Key Dates on the website for the next exam dates.
What do I need to bring to the paper and pencil exam?
Around 5-8 weeks before the exam you will receive an exam admission pack in the mail. This pack will contain all the information you need. Please read the information and if you have any concerns contact your Regional IBLCE office.