Let’s talk NCLEX. Being a former nursing student and a former student instructor for Medical-Surgical Nursing, I know that the biggest concern nursing students have as they get close to the end of the program is the NCLEX-RN (dun dun DUNNNN). I have had so many students come to me for advice about what I did to pass the NCLEX exam. This is the final exam that tests all your knowledge throughout the last two years in nursing school. It’s the most nerve-wracking exam, but if you’ve prepared well, you’ll ace it and be done with it for good!
So, lets get down to the details.
According to the NCSBN website (the maker of the NCLEX), the NCLEX is designed as a screening tool used to identify candidates that can demonstrate that their nursing ability is sufficient to be competent in practice.
Basically, it’s a test that is based on levels; the harder the questions you’re getting, the higher the score. According to a recent release from the NCSBN, the passing score for the NCLEX-RN (through 2019) is 0.00. This means that you need to be answering the medium difficulty questions correctly at least 50% of the time to pass. If you’re getting easier questions, you’re at a lower level and you need to answer them right in order to get up to the next level. Also, the dreaded select all that apply questions are higher-level questions, so if you get those on your exam, it’s a good sign! Here is the NCLEX-RN April 2016 Test Plan from the NCSBN website that you can check out! This article shows the category of the exam and the distribution of content (ex: pharmacological and parenteral therapies is 12-18% of the NCLEX).
I’m sure all of you nursing students know the anything and everything about this exam already, so let’s get down to what I did to prepare and how I passed in 75 questions!
First, my nursing school, Indiana State University, prepared us extremely well. We had an entire class during our last semester of the program just on NCLEX questions and computer programs to prepare us for this beast. We did hundreds of questions a week and reviewed content online. It was tiresome, but a necessity for success. But it was totally up to us if we utilized it well. I’m sure lots of programs have something like this to prepare their students. Sure, in the beginning of the semester everybody is SUPER motivated, but then…
“Heck yeah, I’m going to study every night doing question after question. Simple!”
… “Oh wait, tonight is dollar wells! I can’t miss that, obvi. I’ll do them tomorrow.”
Tomorrow: “Well, there’s a house party tonight. I’ll do a ton of questions tomorrow to make up for yesterday and today!”
The day after: Laying in bed all day because I stayed out a little too late.
OKAY you get it, once it actually comes time to do questions and prepare for this exam, you will literally do ANYTHING to not sit down and start. So start RIGHT NOW.
Let’s get down to how to prepare on your own.
The best thing I did to prepare for the NCLEX was purchase UWORLD. It’s a little pricey, but 100% worth it. It’s an online website that has QBANK questions, assessments, and nursing forums in order to allow users to share study content and advice with each other. (I really liked the forums, which I’m usually not really into, but some people had awesome advice on it.) I honestly think this is what made me walk out of the NCLEX in less than an hour, knowing with 99% confidence that I passed. I purchased UWORLD after I graduated. I think it would have been smarter if I got it in the last month of nursing school, but hey, better late than never, right?
There are two AMAZING things about UWORLD:
1. The Rationales
The rationales aren’t just a few words. They’re literally a paragraph (or more) explaining everything you need to know about the topic!! HOW AMAZING! Some even have pictures used to explain, which really helped me. If there is a medical term within the rationale, it’ll be underlined so you can click on the word to see what it means! We used Kaplan in school, which personally didn’t help me at all. I didn’t use it at all after graduation. I know plenty of people who passed using Kaplan, but the rationales are only a few words. I need more than that to understand why I got a question wrong.
2. The screen set up is the EXACT SAME AS THE NCLEX
You’re probably thinking WHAAAAATTT?!?! Yes, it’s true. The moment you sit down at the computer to take the NCLEX, it’s going to feel like you’re just doing UWORLD QBANK questions because they look the exact same. This is what calmed my nerves the most. This is the only NCLEX prep company that has this. And I swear, some of the questions are very similar to questions I had when I sat for the exam. Boom.
The thing is, you won’t get as much out of doing questions if you just do questions. You need to read the rationale and move on. Well, maybe you all can, but I know I’ll forget it within a week. That’s when I decided I would write a few sentences from the rationale about that topic in a notebook when I got a question wrong. After I finished all of my questions for the day, I would turn the notebook to the very first page and review all of it. Of course, the longer you’re doing questions, reviewing the notebook took longer and longer. But that’s what you need to do in order to be successful and learn the necessary material. Here is the UWORLD NCLEX-RN information and pricing.
REVIEW. REVIEW. REVIEW.
Review before starting any questions for the day.
Review your rationale and write down information when you get a question
Review after you finish all of your questions for the day.
Next, do not do hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of questions a day. I would do 100 or 150, and then review everything at the end. It takes longer, but it’s how I learned the best. I don’t do well cramming. And I think almost every nursing student would agree with that (Besides you annoyingly smart people who study for 15 minutes before the exam and still do well). I studied for approximately 3-4 hours a day, some days longer, some days shorter. And I took a day or two off a week. The closer it got to the exam, the more I studied. It’s a grind, but I promise, it’ll be over soon.
Lastly, I used a study guide that has been passed around the Internet like crazy. It’s long, but I liked to review it after I reviewed my own UWORLD content. I split the study guide in half and studied each part separately. I honestly can say that content is crucial to review before you sit for the exam. You can find the study guide here.
The day of:
I know you’ve heard “DON’T STUDY THE NIGHT BEFORE THE EXAM, YOU’LL FREAK YOURSELF OUT.”
You know what would freak me out? Sitting on my couch or getting my nails done knowing there is something I can be doing to prepare for that exam. Everybody is different when it comes to this, though. I literally studied until I walked through the front door of that testing center. I put my papers in my bag, and walked through those doors knowing I’m about to make this exam my b-word.
And I walked out feeling like I did just that.
But this is totally your preference. The morning of the exam, I got up at a decent time to review my content. After eating a good breakfast, I went to the train station and studied on the train ride to downtown Chicago. Once I got to the front lobby of the building (not the lobby of the Kaplan testing center), I took one last look at my material. I didn’t do any questions that morning. I did do questions the day before, though. Like I said, this is just my personal preference. If you’re the type where your anxiety grows the more you study, maybe you shouldn’t study the day before the exam. Go get a massage and try to relax the most you can!
But what I am sure of….
You need to walk into that testing center knowing you’re going to pass. That confidence will guide you throughout the exam. Say a quick prayer as you sit down at that computer, and crank that test out!!!
So nurslings (As my dad used to call me when I was a new grad), I think that’s all I have to share! I hope this helped ease your anxiety at least a little bit! Be confident in your knowledge and skills that you have acquired throughout these last few years in school! Feel free to comment or contact me with any questions!
What has been the best study tool for you while studying for the NCLEX?!