The NCLEX, or the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurse, is a Computer Adaptive Test, meaning it will continue to get harder if you answer the question right — or ease up if you get the question wrong. It also includes "select all that apply", interactive and "put the steps in the right order" questions. The exam is notorious for questions that ask for the "most right" answer, even when all the choices are technically correct. It is one of the most difficult tests out there by design.
Passing the NCLEX can seem like an insurmountable task, but there are some tried and true strategies to improve your chances and get you the RN license that you have worked so hard for.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Just like anything, practice makes perfect. Practice questions until you can answer them in your sleep.You should study the rationale behind the answer to each question; try to see into the NCLEX question writer's head. There are many preparation courses and programs, and if those programs don't include a massive bank of test questions providing rationale, they are not worth the time or money.
Additionally, you should understand that there may be a disparity between what the "correct" answer is and what you have experienced in clinicals. Know what that "correct answer" is according to the question writers and answer accordingly.
Have a Study Plan
The NCSBN, the organization that develops the questions, generously provides a test plan, which includes the rundown of what will be on the test. You can use this to help you make a study plan for yourself.
You know your learning style better than anyone else. You will also know what areas are your weakest based on your constant subjection to practice questions. Design a study program that will cover all the material you want to review. Focus on your gaps in knowledge at the beginning, with a light review of what you already know later on. You have developed study habits all through nursing school and you know what works for you! Let it continue to work for you as you make your study plan.
Don't Wait Too Long to Test
Allow a reasonable amount of time from when you graduate to take the test, but not too long. Remember those study habits? After a month or two of vacation and graduation celebrations, those habits can prove difficult to get back. It's a good idea to test when you are freshly out of nursing school and raring to go.
Relieve Your Test Anxiety
The NCLEX is a nerve-wracking experience. The whole process of arriving at the testing center, signing in, getting your palm veins read (to identify that you are who you say you are), the silence of the room and the level of anxiety amongst your fellow testers can be very unnerving. Take a deep, cleansing breath. Remember that you have prepared for this test for years throughout nursing school and that most people (83% in 2013) pass on the first try. Think of your favorite song, visualize celebrating your success with a loved one, and do your best.
The NCLEX is not impossible; thousands pass every year. With these tips and a lot of hard work, you can be one of them!
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