12 Tips to Help You Prepare for the NCLEX-RN

The next step after graduating nursing school is tackling and passing the NCLEX-RN. It is finally the time to test the concepts and skills studied. As intimidating as the exam can be, determining the correct amount of time between graduating and taking the exam is established on an individual basis. Wait too long and there may be trouble recalling specific details, but taking the exam too quickly may risk a passing score. The best route to venture down is the one that will prepare you to confidently take the NCLEX-RN. As a guide to help you prepare, try these techniques.

Take a stab at practice exams. Taking practice exams can easily relax students who, overtime, become more comfortable with the specific testing strategies used on the NCLEX-RN. Learn to understand fill-in-the-blank questions, multiple choice and multiple response, hot spots, and ordered response question types since these are seen most often on the exam.

The College’s ADN Program Manager Linda Flynn, RN, MSN, recommended the following techniques:

  1. Complete all three phases of the Kaplan review, including
    1. Q trainer questions 1, 2, 3 and then 4 and 5 at 65 percent or higher and questions 6 and 7 at 60 percent or higher
    2. 1000+ Q Bank questions with at least 60 percent of the cores being at a 60 or above
    3. 50 questions a day—at least—of test questions
  2. Review Saunders’ Silvestri NCLEX study books
    1. Review the chapters and complete the chapter review questions
    2. Review the rationales
    3. Analyze why the answer chosen was not as good as the correct answer (presuming an incorrect answer was selected)
    4. Re-word questions to use the information learned from the rationales
  3. Identify what type of learner you are and use the recommended learning devices.
    1. Visual and auditory: listen/watch videos
    2. Kinesthetic: flashcards
    3. Visual: charts, tables, create your own
    4. Practice case studies, visualize the client

Reread topics that cause confusion. Nursing school instructors expect students to know the information and be able to respond quickly in warranted situations. So, spend the needed time reviewing puzzling topics and difficult skills, and don’t underestimate the benefit of speaking with instructors when a question arises. It will pay off.

Make study tools. Whether it is outlining each section, placing post-it notes throughout textbooks, or printing out online notes and quizzes on concepts, go the extra mile to ensure that the best personalized studying techniques and tools are in place, and stop wasting energy on methods that do not help.

Alternate study spots. During an experiment, psychologists found that college students who studied a list of 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms — one windowless and cluttered, the other modern, with a view on a courtyard — did far better on a test than students who studied the words twice, in the same room. Why? Supposedly, the brain makes subtle associations between what it is studying and the background sensations it has at the time. Try alternating study spots between the library, a study room, and a quiet coffee house.

Know where improvement is needed. Areas of improvement need to be recognized and handled prior to taking the exam. Weaknesses are only obstacles that can be overcome with some determination to improve. Jot down the areas that need an upgrade and diligently seek out solutions. Visit Nightingale College’s blog (http://nightingale.edu/blog/) to read topics such as test anxiety and time management.

Utilize Nightingale’s helpful resources. Nightingale College molds its instruction to help prepare students to tackle the NCLEX-RN. The College puts forth a great effort in delivering helpful strategies to its students throughout their time in school. It is important to take advantage of the resources Nightingale has to offer and attend workshops and the Live Review to help further the exam preparation process.

Allow enough time to prepare. Carefully prepare for the NCLEX-RN. It is not meant to be easy and don’t do an injustice by racing to take it quickly without the proper preparation. Take the time that is needed to adequately plan and study for the exam.

But don’t take too much time. Take the time needed to prepare, but don’t postpone the exam. It is advisable to take it within the 30 days after graduation to maximize the opportunity of doing better on the exam.

Become familiar with the exam’s organization. Understanding how the exam works and is organized truly will help on the comfort scale. For example, know to never skip a question on the NCLEX-RN because the exam is graded on the number of correct answers, not on the number of questions that were wrong. Question organization is just as important. Know that with each correct answer, the next will be a bit more difficult and will continue in such a way until a question is answered wrong, which the following question will slightly decrease in difficulty. Being familiar with the exam can alleviate some of the stress that may occur on test day.

Be mindful of the little things. Little things matter when taking an exam such as eating healthy, staying hydrated, being active, getting enough sleep, and always eating a wholesome breakfast the day of the exam. Exercising only twenty minutes a day can improve memory so say YES to cardio.

Don’t study within two days of the exam. Research shows that studying the day before the exam can crowd short-term memory with last minute information that can interfere with long-term memory or bias decision making skills.

Be confident. Confidence can make or break it, so don’t give in to the doubts. Students have accomplished a big journey when they reach the exam. Remember to always look back to see where it all started and it will be the inspiration needed to build up the confidence to take on the NCLEX-RN.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” –Helen Keller

Good luck!