All registered nurses must take and pass the NCLEX-RN in order to apply for state licensure and to practice legally in their state. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website contains a wealth of information needed for preparing for the exam. According to the NCSBN 2021 NCLEX Examination Candidate Bulletin, "The NCLEX is designed to test knowledge, skills, and abilities essential to the safe and effective practice of nursing at the entry level."
After graduating nursing school, I scheduled my NCLEX exam for 1 month later. I did all of the following below during my time leading up to my exam date. I wanted to share my techniques that helped me pass the NCLEX-RN the first time. If you are preparing to sit for the NCLEX, I hope this helps you on your journey to becoming a nurse.
1. Understand the NCLEX test
This first thing you will want to do it truly understand the NCLEX exam. This is what nursing school was preparing us for the whole time. You have to go into the exam knowing that every answer choice is correct. It is up to you to choose which correct answer is the best answer for that particular situation. Also remember that each scenario is given in perfect conditions meaning that anything that could go wrong in the real world more than likely wouldn't happen in that scenario.
Do your research and read through the most up-to-date NCLEX Candidate Handbook and NCLEX Test Plan available on the exam registration website and make note of what topics and skills the exam will be testing you on.
2. Create a study schedule and stick to it
It is important to start studying early and frequently. Don't wait too long after nursing school to study or too close to your exam date to try to cram before the exam. Make it a priority to set aside a few hours a day, with breaks every 45 minutes, dedicated to studying for this exam.
Write down your study schedule in either a planner or input it into your calendar on your phone or computer. Whatever you have to so to keep track of your planned study time. It is easy to get side tracked and put off studying. Keep that same discipline and dedication you had during nursing school and finish strong with the exam that will determine whether you will be able to practice as a nurse or not.
3. Take practice tests and read rationales
I like to say, "perfect practice makes perfect." I know you are probably thinking that it's suppose to be "practice makes perfect." I never liked that saying because if you practice something incorrectly over and over again, then you will likely do that thing incorrectly later on.
When applying this to the national exam or anything you do in life, "perfect practice, indeed, makes perfect." You want to take as many practice tests possible to practice the types of questions you will be asked on the national exam. This will help exercise your train of thought and redirect your thinking if you got the answer wrong. Read all of the rationales, not just the correct answer. Understand the "Why" behind not only the incorrect answers, but the correct answers as well.
Below is the Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN® Examination, 8th Edition. This is the newest edition to the Saunders Comprehensive Review book that I used when preparing to take the NCLEX-RN. This book was a tremendous help with 5,200 NCLEX examination-style questions in the book and online.
4. Learn relaxation techniques
This is a no brainer because you are going in to take an exam that will change your life and catapult your career into nursing. There can be some butterflies inside you in the days leading up to the exam and especially on exam day. I would recommend not studying the day before, but use that day to totally relax and rest. No matter how prepared you may feel, if you are exhausted, you won't be at your best.
If you tend to be a nervous wreck, like myself, before exams, practice breathing techniques to help calm your nerves. Remember that you passed nursing school and got this far. You are totally capable of passing this exam.
5. Enroll in an NCLEX review course
I would absolutely recommend enrolling in an NCLEX review course. I did this with my nursing cohort, and we got a pretty hefty discount as a class for having a group enrolling together. We did our review course through Hurst, which is absolutely wonderful. I feel that I was extra prepared for the exam after that review course. It reiterated everything I already knew and gave me clarity on the topics that I needed to work on the most. There are other major prep courses such as UWorld and Kaplan. Which ever one you choose, just remember that you are investing in yourself and your future.
See my next blog on "Secrets of an Efficient Nurse"