NCLEX Prep Reflections

Now that Nurse Teeny is a bona fide RN, I thought I’d share some of my own tips/tricks about the NCLEX process. Hopefully I will be able to provide you with a few pearls of wisdom that will offer some comfort. I remember the experience like it was yesterday, because, well, it practically was… 😉

  1. DO study for this test! Yes, any nursing school worth its salt has equipped you with the knowledge you will need, but the NCLEX is unlike any test you ever took in school (even the ATI, I hate to tell ya). Make sure you are familiar and comfortable with NCLEX-style questions, do the online tutorial that Pearson Vue offers, take a virtual tour of the testing center, DON’T FORGET YOUR ATT (someone did when I was there), do everything in your power to have no surprises when you arrive.
  2. DON’T rely on strategy to get you through the test but DO learn some tricks. Kaplan’s book has a lot of good tips on process of elimination, rewording the question, etc. Getting the choices down to three (or even two) improves your odds, but you need to still think critically and access your nursing knowledge to pick the right answer.
  3. DO make a study plan. And DO stick to it. Obviously life happens, clinical happens, and you have other things on your plate. But assuming that you can wait til the end of the semester to start preparing is a serious miscalculation. If your nursing school conducts a comprehensive exit exam like the ATI or HESI, then study for that while you’re studying for the NCLEX. Do it in manageable chunks – a hour or two a day, and give yourself some days off. But try to schedule it into your routine, as if it’s a class or a shift or anything else you pencil into your calendar.
  4. DO take a review class if you can. There are a lot of good ones out there, depending on your own learning needs. I did the Hurst online program and it was perfect for me. It helped me focus on the core content I needed to know and then provided a boatload of questions along the way, and I could review the lectures on my own time. Plus it was very entertaining! But everyone is different, so do some research before you shell out any cash.
  5. DO find creative ways to study. One of my classmates bought an NCLEX review board game by Mosby’s, and we had a blast while we also helped each other think through 3 hours’ worth of content.
  6. DO know your pharm! Some review classes have added content on pharmacology because a) it freaks people out, and b) there is a general consensus that pharmacology is being featured more prominently on the NCLEX these days. The 2010 Test Plan does not show an increase in the proportion of “Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies” questions. However, if you feel weak in one area, then do what you can to make yourself stronger. Buy a review book, make flash cards (or download them to your PDA), learn mnemonics and other mind tricks, and seek out a review course that covers it. But DON’T assume that the NCLEX people understand pharm as drugs alone. It includes blood administration, central line management, IV fluids, and calculations.
  7. DON’T pay attention to online discussion threads that analyze the types of questions you get (delegation, alternate-item format, calculations) and correspond these categories to whether you pass or fail. They’re out there – I found them after the fact, thank goodness – and you will waste valuable time in the testing room trying to analyze your chance of failing because you got 3 calculation questions, while your friend got a bunch of delegation questions. There are categories and sub-categories on the Test Plan that must all be covered. And there are 30,000 questions for the computer to choose from. Don’t try to out-think it.
  8. DON’T take the NCLEX with a friend. You will constantly worry about who finishes first (even if you promise that you won’t), and if your buddy finishes first, you will unconsciously rush through the rest of the test to avoid making him/her wait. Fly this one solo.
  9. DON’T hope that it cuts off at 75. It may or may not, but if you click “Next” after 75 questions and the test continues, you are going to freak and have to regroup. Assume that you are there for the long haul – 265 questions, 6 hours. This means bring a snack, take your breaks, and study for a marathon, not a sprint.
  10. DO expect to feel like a complete idiot when you finish your test. And DO expect that this self-assessment will only get worse until you are able to view your results. I second-guessed myself like crazy, looked up questions I could remember to reinforce my growing self-doubt, and generally believed that my nursing intelligence was at a level BELOW where I started nursing school. Don’t be surprised if you feel the same. Distract yourself (but know that you’ll probably stalk the Internet anyway), but accept the fact that you are going to think you failed, even if you passed with flying colors. And if you do fail the first time, it’s not the end of the world. A lot of really incredible nurses did not pass their boards on the first go-round. Shake it off, read the profile you get from NCSBN about what you missed, and focus your review. You’ll get there. And I’ll be excited to work with you when you do!

Please continue sharing your tips with one another – the giveaway revealed so many awesome ideas and I hope it’s just the beginning of what we can share! And feel free to contact me if you have any questions you want to ask privately or just want to say hi!

And on that note, Nurse Teeny is off to Mexico for a week of umbrella drinks by the pool. Tip #11 – DO give yourself a vacation when it’s all over! 🙂


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