I cannot believe it has been 3 years since I graduated from nursing school and took the NCLEX-RN. With many of my nursing assistant colleagues graduating and preparing to take the NCLEX, I thought now would be a good time to share my plan for studying. **Using this plan does not guarantee you will pass; this plan is what I found to work for me. I passed the NCLEX on my first try with just 75 questions. Only you can know what will work for you**
The best advice I have for anyone preparing to take the NCLEX is to learn to dissect the questions. There are going to be questions that you just do not know the answer to. By learning to pick apart the question and really identify what it is asking, you will have a better chance with an educated guess. The thing I found most helpful was to answer as many NCLEX questions as I possibly could.
I mostly only used two resources when preparing. I used the book Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination and Saunders Q & A Review Cards for the NCLEX-RN Exam, which was a box of flashcards. First, I took the review exam at the end of each chapter of the Saunders book. For any chapter I didn’t score an 85% or better, I read the chapter. After reviewing the chapter in depth, I took the exam again. I originally wanted to read each chapter as a review, but I received my Authorization to Test a lot quicker than I had expected, and I scheduled my test for right away, so I didn’t have enough time to read each one. I think I got a pretty good grasp on each subject with this method.
I used the flashcards a lot. I reviewed EVERY SINGLE CARD. First I would answer all of the questions on the card. I would then look at the answer and the rationale of each question. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to read the rationale, even if you answer the question right. Trust me, it helps! The flashcards have different formats of questions in addition to multiple choice: multiple response, prioritizing, fill-in-the-blank, chart/exhibit, and figure/illustration. A huge bonus when using these is they are very portable. I used them when I had down-time at work, on my lunch breaks, while cooking a meal, before bed. I’m even took them to restaurants when eating out (fortunately my family and friends tolerated my obsessive reviewing). I probably would have taken them on car rides if reading didn’t make me horribly carsick!
I bought the Saunders book new about halfway through nursing school. The review cards I bought used from a student a semester ahead of me. For any review materials you choose to use, you can usually get them gently used. I loved half.com for my textbooks. I discovered it when I started having to buy huge stacks of books when nursing school began, and I wish I had used it sooner. I cringe when I think of how much money I spent on books in college! When you are done reviewing, you can sell them and lose very little money. Before I sold the review cards, I let my friends borrow them in the order they were taking the exam, since I was one of the first to take it.
On the night before the exam, DO NOT CRAM! It will not benefit you. The best thing to do is have a relaxing dinner, and get to bed early. In the morning, make sure you have a good breakfast. Go in to the testing center with a positive attitude. Don’t be alarmed when you feel like you are being treated like a criminal. 😉 They are very strict at the center in order to prevent cheating. Just follow the rules and you will be fine! Make sure you read each question completely, and try to think about what the answer may be before reading any of the options. Also, go with your first instinct. I find that on any tests I have taken, when I changed my mind about an answer, I was usually right the first time. Don’t panic when the computer shuts off. I walked out of the testing center sure that I failed, but in reality, I passed. Make sure you treat yourself in some way after!
If you have any questions about the techniques I used for preparing for the NCLEX, feel free to ask! If you have taken the NCLEX and have any advice, leave it in the comments section!