How to Feel Prepared for the NCLEX : Tips for Student Nurses

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By The Gypsy Nurse

October 26, 2020



How to Feel Prepared for the NCLEX

Have you recently graduated from a nursing degree program and are now studying for the NCLEX-RN? Congratulations! You’re one step closer to becoming a registered nurse! 

Nurses report high job satisfaction and enjoy the variety of the many available specializations. Some of these include pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, and mental health nursing; some nurses may also look into public health, clinical research, or hospital administration.  

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the crucial role of nurses in healthcare. When isolated patients cannot receive visits from their families, nurses are there to comfort them. Perhaps this is exactly why you are going into nursing right now – to make a difference!  

Passing the NCLEX-RN is a significant milestone in the nursing profession. The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is the standardized test all prospective nurses must pass to demonstrate readiness as an entry-level nurse.  Studying for the exam may feel daunting at first, but there are plenty of ways to take charge of your studying and prepare yourself!

What Is the NCLEX, Anyway?

It is crucial to know what to expect from the NCLEX.  Most of the exam comprises multiple-choice and drag-and-drop questions, along with some fill-in-the-blank responses. The NCLEX is a standardized exam that is offered throughout the year. 

The exam utilizes Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT), so all prospective registered nurses take the test on a computer. Each subsequent question is based on your prior answers. While the test bank is comprehensive, the order of the questions you receive will differ from your nursing peers. You will answer somewhere between 75 and 265 questions, depending on how you perform as the test progresses. 

You will pass the test when the computer is “95 percent certain” you are above the standard. This is also called the “confidence interval rule.” If you do not meet the confidence interval rule, or if you run out of time, you will fail the NCLEX and have to wait 45 days before attempting it again. 

There is no way to know how you are doing until you see the end results. Keep in mind that receiving a string of easy questions doesn’t necessarily mean you’re underperforming; conversely, receiving difficult questions doesn’t indicate that you’re breezing through. 

Be prepared to sit for up to 265 questions. The test might conclude at a minimum of 75 questions, or it might not. The one thing you can control is all the preparation leading up to the exam.   

Establish Effective Study Habits 

If you want to be fully prepared for the NCLEX, test preparation must become your daily priority. 

You’ve probably successfully completed nursing school, so you already know about the importance of good study habits. Continue to incorporate studying into your daily routine by reviewing NCLEX questions throughout the day. 

NCLEX preparation requires a lot of focus, so it is critical to minimize distractions in your workspace. The smartphone is a common distraction; you may want to turn it screen-down on the desk or table, silencing it or putting the device on the “Do Not Disturb” mode. Better yet, consider leaving your phone in another room or your backpack until it’s time to take a break.  

Protect Your Physical and Mental Health 

If you don’t prepare your mind and body to study, you’ll likely tire yourself out and forget information. Think of yourself as an athlete building mental endurance, resting when you need to, and building strength over time. Move around each hour and take regular, short rest breaks to sharpen your mental alertness and improve your memory. Yoga and mini walks do wonders for studying! These strategies will come in handy on the day of the NCLEX when you’ll need speed and mental endurance. 

Take care of your mental health by connecting with others. On top of the stress of preparing for the NCLEX, you’re likely putting high expectations on yourself. Decompress and unplug by connecting with friends and family. Laugh and do something light-hearted at some point in the day! Lean on your social network during this stressful time so you keep things in perspective while enjoying the support of those who want to see you succeed. 

Use an App

Smartphone applications are a fantastic tool for NCLEX test preparation, allowing you to study more efficiently and even on the go.

Some popular apps include NCLEX RN Mastery, Davis Mobile NCLEX-RN, and UWorld NCLEX. Choose one, open it up for a few minutes each day and review flashcards, answer questions, or take quizzes. Some apps even evaluate your practice test answers and quizzes so you know which areas of the exam you need to dedicate more study time to.

Find a Study Group 

Consider forming an NCLEX study group with other nursing school graduates. The study group can even use an online format with a video conferencing program. Not everyone finds study groups helpful, but having a group to work with can help keep you accountable, as well as provide camaraderie and support.

A potential downside of study groups is that some members might distract and waste time more than others. Choose your study partners carefully and make sure everyone understands the importance of staying on track. Think of yourself as a team reaching for the same finish line!  

Take a Complimentary Nursing Review Course 

The pandemic has affected nursing students and recent graduates waiting to take the NCLEX exam. If you are experiencing testing delays because of COVID-19, consider using the time to take a complimentary review course online. A good review course should cover all topics in the NCLEX. It will let you focus on the areas you don’t feel especially confident in, allow you to work at your own pace, and have scheduled live sessions with instructors so you have a chance to ask questions.  

Look for a nursing review course today and take advantage of every resource possible. You will find yourself retaining more information, reinforcing those crucial nursing skills, and gaining the confidence you’re looking for!   

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