The Dreaded NCLEX Exam
The NCLEX, or National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses, evokes feelings of fear and curiosity in most, if not all, nursing students across the United States. I sat down in a Pearson Vue testing center on June 20, 2016, to take on this savage beast and this is how I passed the first try.
1. Choose a Nursing School
The first step that most people overlook is choosing and applying to the right nursing school. Not all nursing schools are created equal. You want to sit down and research the programs in your area and just outside, then weigh the pros and cons. Look at the nursing program’s pass rate as well as the NCLEX pass rate. A solid nursing education will greatly enhance your chances of passing the NCLEX.
I attended nursing school at Marion Technical College and earned my associate’s degree in nursing.
- This program had limited enrollment.
- The pass rate for the nursing program was about 50%. Approximately 100 students were accepted per year in the Fall. Only 54 in my class were left standing for graduation.
- The NCLEX pass rate was consistently over 90% each year. This shows it is a tough program that prepares students for the NCLEX.
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
Currently, 47 students in my class have taken the NCLEX and I am ecstatic to announce that all have passed so far!!
2. Choose an NCLEX Study Strategy and Stick to it.
There are several NCLEX prep courses, books, and seminars.
- Choose one that you believe will be the best fit for you and stick with that method.Do not jump back and forth between different methods, this can become confusing because programs use unique rationales and have their own writing style.
- Know what kind of learner you are; visual, auditory, kinesthetic
I am very visual, so Uworld’s rationales having pictures, bullet points and bolded text was perfect for me.Those who are auditory may prefer Kaplan’s videos to listen to.
The nursing school I attended used lab fees during the last semester (included in tuition) to provide Kaplan to us lasting a week.
- Kaplan – Kaplan teaches a Decision Tree Model. I noticed when I took the time to go through the Decision Tree, I ended up choosing the incorrect answer. I was more successful going with my gut. Kaplan’s approach did work for some of my classmates. We all have a different way of thinking and learning. Always choose the program you are most comfortable with.
- Kaplan’s rationales were confusing to me. I often found them lengthy and sometimes a bit daunting.
- I did like that the Kaplan questions looked exactly like the NCLEX. After doing questions from Kaplan and Uworld, sitting at the NCLEX wasn’t a surprise.
After graduation, I hopped on the internet and did tons of research on different study methods and which ones were working for new grads. I read countless message board posts and Facebook groups to see which program was benefiting the majority. After my research, I decided on these:
- Uworld – I sing praises about Uworld. The questions were set up very similar to NCLEX and the rationales were short, sweet and to the point. I am also a visual learner and the rationales included pictures which helped tremendously.
- LaCharity’s Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment Book – A lot of NCLEX questions focus on prioritization and delegation. This is a thin book and does not take long to go through. It really helped me tackle those questions.
3. Practice NCLEX Questions and Read the Rationales
Do questions and read the rationales. Even if I answered questions correctly, I still reviewed the rationales to strengthen my critical thinking.
- 150-500 questions per day
- I did not review any content.
Reviewing content would have taken way too long. Besides, I had spent the past two years doing content. You want to study smarter, not harder. Also, NCLEX is less about content and more about critical thinking.
4. Know your lab values
NCLEX loves lab values. Know them and you will be much more comfortable with the questions. I made a blank template of lab values and would periodically fill it in to test my knowledge.
5. Test ASAP
I have heard there is a direct correlation between early testing and chances of passing the NCLEX. Schedule your test as soon as possible. I graduated May 7, 2016, and took the NCLEX on June 20, 2016. This gave me about 6 weeks to study. Ideally, I would have only allowed about 2-3 weeks of study time. I felt most prepared about 2 weeks after graduation and was scoring the highest on Uworld.
6. Do Not Study the Day Before
The day before you take the exam, allow yourself to relax. Go out with some friends, get a mani/pedi, have a massage. Try not to focus on the NCLEX and enjoy yourself. This gives you brain some time to soak in all the information you have been putting into it over the past few weeks and helps to cut down on anxiety.
I personally did not study for two days before the NCLEX, my brain just couldn’t fathom answering even one more question.
Are you preparing for the NCLEX-RN? What study materials did you use?