Looming at the end of every nursing student’s program of study is that final hurtle between “student” and “professional nurse”… the NCLEX exam. All your hard work in classes, labs, and projects comes down to one final test, so it’s only natural that many test takers feel a little nervous going in. Fortunately, anyone preparing to take the test in the near future already has something big in their favor—they aren’t the first to take the test. Thousands have taken (and passed) the exam, and many have shared tips from their experience to help those following behind. Here are a few we’ve found to help you excel at that final certification and achieve that goal of becoming a nurse.
- Prepare Early – Cramming may have worked in high school, but you don’t want to rely on a last minute study “sprint” when your career is on the line. Instead, treat your studying and your test as more of a marathon—study early, study often, as far in advance as possible. “Even though you’ve done well in nursing school and you’ve had a great education, you must still prepare—and that means practicing,” says Jan Jones-Schenk (DHSc, RN, NE-BC). “Take 100 questions per day for two to three weeks leading up to your exam date.”
- Take Your Test ASAP – The longer you wait after graduation, the more chances you have to forget things you’ve learned. Make sure and take the test while the knowledge is still fresh in your mind. “The sooner you take it, with good preparation, the better your odds are for a first-time pass,” advises Jones-Schenk. “Two to three weeks should be enough time to prepare.”
- Know What You’re Getting Into – It’s natural to worry about a test like the NCLEX, but the more you know about the exam and exam requirements ahead of time, the more you can concentrate on actually taking the test (and remembering everything you studied). Check out https://www.ncsbn.org/nclex.htm early for a good idea of what’s ahead.
- Practice, Practice, Practice – The best way to prepare for what’s ahead is to actually experience what’s ahead, and there are plenty of practice tests available to help you do just that. Take advantage of the NCSBN’s practice exams to give yourself a head start on exam day.
- Get A Good Night’s Sleep – Resist the urge to stay up cramming the night before the test, and instead focus on getting seven to eight hours of sleep. Not only will the sleep be of greater benefit, but the cramming? Turns out it doesn’t work.
- Pick Up A Good Book – You can find a thorough and descriptive list here of books written to help nursing students prepare for the NCLEX.
- Look For The Logical Choices – There’s a great strategy guide available here to help you navigate the many multiple choice answers and use logic to narrow down the correct one. One recurring theme in the guide is to pay close attention to the wording of each question. For example, if a question uses absolute words like always, never, none, only, etc, pay extra attention to those answers. Just because an answer might apply to most situations, it doesn’t always mean all.
And while everyone wants to pass on the first try, keep in mind that not everybody does. Plenty of nurses failed their first tests only to pass later on and enjoy successful careers in health care. In California, failing the test simply means you must wait 45 days before trying again, and there’s no limitation to how many times you try. So if the first one doesn’t work out, use that waiting period to study for the second. You’ve worked hard to get this far, and your nursing career is waiting just a few correct answers away.
For more information on studying to become a nurse, contact Unitek College for more information on our multiple nursing and medical assistant progr