One question is at the forefront of the mind of nearly every nursing student “How to pass the NCLEX?” Some even lust about the possibility of finishing the exam at the 75 question mark so they can be done with the agony of the dreaded “nursing boards” as quickly as possible. No one wants to pay the $300 (and up) fee to take the test again. So passing the NCLEX on the first attempt is a huge priority
Nursing school is a challenging experience. As if the rigors faced during your nursing education weren’t enough, you then have to take your professional licensure exam. Whether you have completed an RN or LPN program, you still must pass your “boards” to practice as a nurse. Nursing school is about jumping through hoops, and NCLEX is just one more to jump through.
If you’ve stumbled onto this page in a nervous effort to find any tips or advice you possibly can to do well on the NCLEX, then you’ve come to right place. If you’re worried about your NCLEX test preparation, you are not alone. You wouldn’t be a good nurse if you didn’t think things through (nursing process, anyone?). But since you’re already thinking like a nurse, then I’m sure you’ll do fine. However, just to be on the safe side, here are a few NCLEX tips and strategies that will give you a little extra confidence and help you answer the question: “How to pass the NCLEX?”
How to Pass the NCLEX
The hard part is over. You’ve completed nursing school and put in the time and effort needed in order to be worth of taking your state boards. The tests you take in nursing school are meant to mimic the types of questions you will see on the NCLEX. In my experience, the questions on nursing school test my senior year were far more difficult than 70% of what was on the NCLEX.
You passed those, right?
By now you know most of what you’re going to know. Attempting to go over every detail you’ve learned in the last 2 years in a month is not going to get you anywhere. You should retouch on areas you had difficulty during school, but only briefly. Do not attempt to memorize your entire drug book! Do not listen to MP3s of lab values when you’re going to sleep.
Review an NCLEX Strategy Guide
I think that the best NCLEX guide is Saunder Strategies for Test Success: Passing Nursing School and the NCLEX. This book will give you the foundation you need to approach any NCLEX question (whether you know the material or not) with the tools you need to select the right answer. It’s impossible to remember every single lab value or medication, but it is possible to eliminate wrong answers and then make use of deductive reasoning to find the best possible answer of those that remain. I wish I had known about this book before I started nursing school because it teaches you how to answer the types of questions that are on all the tests in nursing school. Those tests are designed to prepare you for the NCLEX.
Review Questions and Take Practice Tests
Don’t spend every waking hour of every day with your nose in a book or computer screen taking practice tests. But do spend some time keeping your testing skills in peak performance. There are several good resources online for practice NCLEX questions as well as books. When you want to know how to pass the NCLEX you must first focus on what the important subject matter is and the mechanisms to get this information as quickly and easily as possible.
- Medmaster Course – A fantastic online Pharmacology program that will prepare you for the meds you will see on the NCLEX. Pharmacology is one of the hardest portions of the NCLEX, and this course really gives you the confidence you need to succeed.
- Lab Values Course – Lab values are something you need to know like the back of your hand. This course teaches you what you need to know to effectively manage patients in critical situations where you don’t have time to look up lab values.
- Cardiac Essentials Course – Cardiology is a complicated area of nursing and once you can’t mess around in. Knowing this information will not only give you what you need to pass the NCLEX, it will also drastically increase your confidence when caring for patients with any cardiac conditions.
- NCLEX Practice Questions – This resource is from NRSNG. This is a great resource with over 3500 NCLEX style questions as a super affordable price.
- Brilliant Nurse – A collection of online NCLEX study resources that are affordable and extensive
- BoardVitals – “3300 NCLEX-RN board review questions with detailed explanations to help you prepare for your nursing certification exam.” This is a great option because the questions distribution in the question bank mirrors that of the actual NCLEX. Get 10% off using code NERDY
- Lippincott’s NCLEX 10,000
- Kaplan – Nursing
- NCLEX Mastery
- NCLEX PREP
- ATI RN Mentor – NCLEX Exam Preparation
- UWORLD Qbank
- RN Crush! NCLEX® Prep App
- NRSNG’s NCLEX Quick-Reference Books
- Lippincott’s Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN® (Lippincott’s Review for Nclex-Rn)
- NCLEX-RN® Questions & Answers Made Incredibly Easy! (Incredibly Easy! Series)
- Saunders Q & A Review for the NCLEX-RN® Examination, 5e (Silvestri, Saunders Q & A Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination)
Study, But Don’t Over Study
Determine a study routine and stick to it. I caution you not to overdo it here. If your study routine consists spending every waking hour from now until test day trying to cover every single item you may have touched on in the last two years, you need to seriously reconsider. Spend a few hours each day reviewing what you struggled with during nursing school. Make sure you focus on test taking strategies as well. These strategies are actually what you need to know how to pass the NCLEX, rather than just the raw data that will make up the questions. The question banks are a great resource, but you need to ensure that you are training your brain to think critically rather than trying to memorize answers. This is one of the biggest mistakes many NCLEX preppers make.
Focus on Your Problem Areas
You should try to touch every area but spend more time on the areas that you really struggled with. One area that most students are challenged by is Pharmacology. Consider looking at some different resources outside of the class notes and books you already have. For Pharmacology NCLEX prep, I recommend the Medmaster Course. It is very affordable and it’s video and audio lessons can save you a lot of time and effort trying to find the pharmacology information you need to know from multiple resources. You can get more information about this course, as well as some pharmacology study tips in our post 3 Pharmacology Tips to Help You Pass the NCLEX.
Don’t Study On Your NCLEX Test Day
Just don’t study on test day. You aren’t going to find some magical formula on how to pass the NCLEX the day of your test. You’ll just end up stressing yourself out if you try to cram in “just a few more questions.” We’ve already discussed how at this point you really shouldn’t be attempting to cram in content. Try to find a relaxing activity to fill your day with. But avoid anything NCLEX on NCLEX day, except well… the NCLEX itself.
Show Up Early
The last thing you want to do to do is fail your test by missing your appointment. Make sure that you know your way to your destination and arrive in enough time to use the restroom, drink some water, and sit down and relax. You don’t want to be running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to get to your testing appointment.
Go with Your Gut and Don’t Doubt Yourself
I cannot tell you the number of times I thought to myself “It’s supposed to be harder than this,” while I was taking the NCLEX. I found myself in doubt of answers that I knew; I just had to stop and tell myself to stop doubting. If I knew the answer, then why would I try and tell myself I didn’t? You have to be confident in your decisions on the test. Read all the answers and use critical thinking, but don’t be afraid to go with your gut.
CAT : Computerized Adaptive Testing
The NCLEX uses computerized adaptive testing technology. What that basically means is that is choosing your next question based upon if you successfully answered a question. Once you answer a certain amount correct in a certain level you bump up to the next level. You then have to answer a certain amount correct to bump up again until you get to a minimum of 75 questions. Every question you answer makes the computer recalculate your probability of success. So based upon how many you get correct it predicts if giving you more questions will help you pass or not. So getting past 75 questions does not mean you fail the NCLEX, it actually means it’s pretty sure you can pass it. However, it needs you to answer a few more questions correct before it can be sure.
Don’t Psych Yourself Out Trying to Figure Out the CAT Process
Don’t freak yourself out trying to figure out if the question you are answering is easier or harder than the one you just answered. In addition to the fact that you’re just wasting time, and it doesn’t make a difference, somewhere along the lines of 30 questions will be “test” question for use in future NCLEX exams. So you may be freaking out because you got an easy question after a serious of select all that apply and thinking that you bombed them, when in reality the computer is just throwing in a “test” question (that doesn’t count) at random.
Do Your Best and Forget the Rest
Do your very best and have confidence in yourself. There is no use trying to incorporate any and all what-if’s. You know this stuff, and you can and will pass the NCLEX and practice as a nurse.
Use your critical thinking skills you’ve developed in nursing school. They teach you exactly how to pass the NCLEX. All those hoops and ridiculous questions did have some justification. Trust me when I tell you that nursing school won’t be the last time you use your brain.
Hang on tight; this nursing ride can be a crazy one, but we are thrilled to have you!
How was your NCLEX experience?
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