How to Pass the NCLEX the First Time
Graduating from nursing school is an important accomplishment, but only the first step towards your nursing career. The second step is passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and become a registered nurse.
But don’t assume that just because you’ve been a brilliant student, you can pass the NCLEX without worries.
This standardized test requires effective and targeted studying – or you might fail. Considering that each exam attempt costs $200, passing it the first time can save you from an expensive affair.
Luckily, achieving your goals and passing the examination the first time is absolutely doable. Besides studying hard, here are a few tips to help you in your quest.
1. Don’t Change Your Studying Style
Throughout your school years, you’ve likely developed a personal studying style. Maybe you learn better when you can visualize the concepts, or when you hear them out loud. Or perhaps you’re a conversational learner who needs a study buddy to make the most out of the studying sessions.
Whatever your style, changing it right before NCLEX is not the wisest thing to do. Instead, follow the style you’re already used to.
For instance, you can draw images or plans to remember concepts, listen to podcasts or audiobooks, read, write down concepts, watch videos on YouTube, or set up a study group.
2. But Do Come Up with a Study Plan
No matter what your studying style is, coming up with a study plan is essential. Set up study and rest days, as well as goals.
In fact, setting goals and achieving them is one of the most important steps towards passing the NCLEX the first time.
Because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how many hours of study you put into, but how you use them. So, make sure you reach each goal before passing to the next studying step.
3. Learn the Test Strategies
As important as setting goals is learning the test strategies. That’s because NCLEX expects you to always act in the patient’s best interest, even if that doesn’t involve acting exactly as you were taught in nursing school.
A simple trick to know is that most questions won’t have definitive answers, such as all or none.
All it takes is a bit of question practice to notice themes repeating themselves. For instance, you should always assess the patient’s conditions before calling a doctor, rely on your nurse intuition, and so on.
The best thing to do is to use a systematic approach to eliminate incorrect answers and score some points.
4. Forget What You Learned During Practice
Your school practice or intern work experience has probably taught you already that real nursing has nothing to do with textbooks. However, NCLEX couldn’t care less about that.
So, if you want to pass the examination the first time, put aside what you learned in a facility setting and only use what you know from your courses.
That’s because the National Council requires you to follow tested and proven methods while caring for patients.
Sure, no one says that the methods you learned during your practice are incorrect or harmful; they’re just not accountable for this type of exam.
5. Understand the Examination Format
Another important thing before taking the test is to fully understand the examination format. Luckily, that’s pretty easy.
NCLEX uses a computerized adaptive testing format, which means each exam is unique. The algorithm produces new questions based on your performance for the previous questions, from a minimum of 75 to a maximum of 265 questions.
The candidate passes when they have answered enough questions correctly to achieve over 95% confidence interval. If you didn’t answer enough questions correctly to achieve 95%, you fail.
With this in mind, prepare to focus on each question independently and give the same importance to each question. This is key to passing the test.
6. Invest in Resources
Once you’ve understood the examination format, it’s time to start investing in resources. Spending money on NCLEX prep books might seem useless, but these guides can actually help you understand how you’re expected to answer.
There are loads of free resources, too; just make sure the sources are reputable. For instance, you can watch videos or join forums and blogs dedicated to passing this test.
7. Practice Questions
Another important asset to use before taking the exam is practice questions. You can answer online questions, buy test books, or ask your friends who already passed the examination to prepare a test for you.
Most online sources and test books will let you know if you responded right or wrong; always focus on the incorrect answers and try to understand what went wrong. This will help you better understand the philosophy and strategies used during the examination.
8. Learn How to Manage Stress
Last but not least, learn how to manage stress. Even the most prepared candidates can fail due to a lack of focus.
Stress is your biggest enemy, as it might determine you to give a wrong answer even when you know what is the correct one.
For this reason, ask your friends to test you as often as possible before the exam. Remember that it’s also important to balance studying with your personal life.
Exercise, sleep properly, have a healthy diet, and make sure to focus on your social life too.
Right before the exam, have a proper breakfast, shower, then dress up while listening to music or relax through breathing.
With proper study and these tips in mind, you’ll surely be able to pass the NCLEX the first time. Good luck!