The stories of both successful and unsuccessful examinees on how difficult the NCLEX-RN® exam is, give us a sense of foreboding and ultimately lead us to doubting our capabilities. What little confidence we have left is easily shattered by sob stories of friends and acquaintances who were less than lucky with the exam. Ironically, luck is not actually a factor in passing the NCLEX-RN® exam.
Successful examinees point out that the key to conquering the NCLEX-RN® is preparation, preparation, and more preparation. So, how does one prepare for the NCLEX-RN® exam?
Listed are some of the practical preparation tips culled from reputable review guides for the NCLEX-RN® exam.
- Know the Test Plan. Be familiar about the exam content, topics, question format, and most importantly, the manner of how the exam is administered.
- Identify Strengths and Weaknesses. Make an honest assessment of your knowledge in nursing content by taking as many diagnostic exams as possible. Identify strengths and weaknesses in test-taking strategies as well.
- Decide on the Need to Take Review Classes. In enrolling for a review program, find out if the course includes test-taking techniques and strategies as well as opportunities for practice tests on application-level questions.
- Prepare Physically, Emotionally, and Mentally. Maintain a nutritionally-balanced diet, get enough rest and sleep, and engage in a moderate but stimulating exercise. Confidence can also be boosted by a constant visualization of passing the NCLEX-RN® exam.
- Establish a Study Plan. Having a study schedule is a must. Maintaining a calendar or a planner is a good way of keeping track of your progress and with how much time is left before the scheduled exam. Study schedules must be realistic and goals set must be those that can be met.
- Find a Suitable Study Space. The study area must be conducive for learning, meaning, it is located in a quiet space away from the bed, radio, telephone, and television. It must also be well-lit and well-ventilated with a chair that encourages good posture.
- Concentrate. The key to maintaining concentration is to approach studying with commitment and to study continuously without interruptions but with periodic short breaks. It is best to study difficult topics when one is most alert.
- Maximize Study Time. Studying can be maximized by having a to-do list. For example, 2-3 months before the NCLEX-RN® exam, begin studying notes and review materials, answer as many practice exams as possible to diagnose strong and weak areas. 4-6 weeks prior to the exam date, focus on the identified areas of weakness. A week into the exam, answer as many computer adaptive test-type practice questions to evaluate progress.
- Jazz Up. Having a study partner and joining a study group are excellent ways to energize studying as solitary studying can be grueling in the long haul. Using audio-visual review materials are good tools for supplementing the review.
- Practice, Practice and More Practice. Take as many practice questions as possible to become test-wise and develop critical thinking skills. Strategies include:
- Correctly identify what the question is asking by rewording or paraphrasing the question.
- Focus on the information needed to answer the question.
- Eliminate choices that do not answer the reworded question.
- Never predict or guess answers.
- Read answer choices for clues to the topic being asked.
- When prioritizing, remember Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs, ABC (Airway, Breathing, Circulation), the Nursing Process, and Safety.
- In answering questions on therapeutic communication, eliminate responses with "Don't Worry","Why","Let's Explore". Nurse-focused answers and authoritarian responses should also be eliminated. Choose responses that reflect the patient's feelings and those that provide information to the client.
- Remember the rules of nursing management. Only the care of stable patients with expected outcomes and standard, unchanging procedures can be delegated. Assessment, Health teachings, and Evaluation cannot be delegated.
- Be sure to avoid common pitfalls in answering test questions such as: Relying on recall and recognition. Most, if not all, NCLEX-RN® questions deal with analysis in the clinical application of nursing theories and principles; Basing answers on personal clinical experience rather than on established nursing theories and principles; NCLEX-RN® questions are based on standardized clinical principles and not on institutional protocols. Choosing the longest or lengthy response or option; and Answering on impulse to familiar questions. Take time to analyze each option.
- Positive Outlook, Positive Results. Surround yourself with individuals with positive outlook. Accomplishing all the aforementioned things will boost one's confidence on the day of the exam so it is imperative that one remain committed to the plan of action. On the examination day, be at the exam site early, rested, nourished, focused yet relaxed with only one thing in mind, "I will pass the NCLEX-RN® exam!"
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Note: Article written with contributions from my study partner who prefer to remain anonymous.