Preparing for the NCLEX Exams: 8 Proven Tips for Passing

Preparing for the NCLEX Exams: 6 Proven Tips for Passing 

Preparing for the NCLEX exams is one of the most important things that any nursing student should prepare for. But the question in many nursing students’ minds is, how do you prepare for the NCLEX? If you are asking the same question, let these tips help you prepare for this upcoming exam. 

Passing the NCLEX exams is like hitting gold. It is your ticket to a better and brighter future. Before you take the exam, here are some excellent tips that you can apply to your study plan.

1. Understand the NCLEX Format.

When you understand how the NCLEX format works, the easier it will be to pass it. NCLEX uses the CAT format or computerized adaptive testing format. It means that not a single exam is identical. The algorithm produces a new set of questions based on your performance on the previous test questions. Keep in mind that the test bank is comprehensive and contains all kinds of question styles and topics of content. 

The exams will produce around 60 questions minimum plus 15 pre-questions with 145 maximum questions. The candidate can pass the test when the tester has answered enough questions with correct answers at about the 95% confidence interval. The candidate will fail if they cannot maintain or rise above the 95% confidence. 

It means, that to pass the NCLEX, you must get above the passing line that shows competency with marginal doubt. When the computer has determined your performance, the test can end at any point. You are given a maximum time allowance of 6 hours to do this. So, all you have to do is pass the 60-145 questions. 

2. Avoid self-criticism.

The questions tend to get harder as you move forward. Don’t get frustrated when you get a few wrongs in a row and don’t automatically assume you’ve failed. The best thing you can do is to stay focused on the questions you have. Remember, the NCLEX exam determines your knowledge and tests your endurance. It is best to keep answering instead of talking yourself down each time you get a wrong answer. 

3. Manage your stress.

It is expected to get worked up before the examination, but it is recommended that you find a way to manage your stress. Some test-takers get anxious before taking the NCLEX, and if you are one of them, don’t worry there are plenty of ways to deal with test stress. 

One of the first things you should do is take as much time as you can to prepare for the NCLEX but don’t make studying your entire life. There is always time for everything and balancing your studies with hobbies is a must. 

Be sure to include time for exercising, eating well, and going out. Keeping a balanced life during studying and doing the things you love helps ease your mind from any anxiety that you might feel before the exam. Some nurses say there is a rule to not study the day before the exam, only a quick skim through some notes

On the day of the exam, do not study. Do not attempt to take a glance at your notes or review anything. It will only make you more anxious. Instead, you need to relax, do a short meditation, and eat your breakfast before going to the exam center. In short, do something that will keep you grounded and calm. 

The best thing you can do is to study appropriately beforehand. When you know that you have covered everything during your study days and are confident that you will pass, taking the NCLEX exam isn’t that scary. 

4. Make a study plan.

Making a study plan means you need to create time for studying. Create a schedule for the week and set aside the hours you need for studying. Be sure to include a goal each time you are studying too. It could be as simple as answering 4 25 question practice exams or reading a few chapters on the topic you are tackling at the moment. 

Keep in mind that when you do not have any goals when studying, you are wasting time. The NCLEX is not about how long you have studied or how many hours you have put in. It is about how much you understand the context of each nursing topic. Make use of your time wisely. 

A. Not all past clinical experiences can help. 

I have bad news for those who worked as a nurse aid, tech, or even nursing students who volunteered. Your clinical experience cannot help you when you take the NCLEX exams. Why do you ask? 

The NCLEX exam is based on tested, researched, and evidence-based practices that you may have not learned in your clinical experience. Facilities will have different guidelines and protocols that are just as safe or just as effective BUT never assume that they are the same when it comes to the NCLEX. 

It is best if you answered the exam questions as if you did not have any real-life experience as a nurse. 

B. Practice your test-taking skills. 

Make use of test-taking strategies so you can eliminate the wrong answers. It will also help you with solutions like ALL THAT APPLY or NONE APPLY. Always remember to put patient safety first before considering other options. With continuous practice, you will see that there are themes in the answers. For example:

  • Be sure to assess the patient first; calling a doctor is not always the best answer. 
  • Remember your ABCs – Airway, Breathing, Circulation. 
  • Deductive reasoning can also help you even if you have no idea about the topic. 
  • If you have no exact answer, follow your gut. A nurse’s intuition can help you out. 

As you practice your test-taking skills, you will realize that there will always be “select all that apply” questions. But if you use a systematic approach and tackle the wrong answers first, you have a higher chance to answer each question correctly. 

5. Do more than just answer the practice tests.

Completing practice exams is good, but you can also go beyond that. After answering the practice questions, you can read about the answers and why they were right or wrong. Write down the concept you would like to tackle on your next study time so you are always prepared for the next day.  Take as much time as you think you need devoted to a variety of study methods, they each have their benefit and will pay off in the long run.

6. Prepare for the NCLEX Exam day. 

The night before you take the exams, go to bed early, or better yet, make sure that you have enough sleep throughout the week before the NCLEX. Hide your notes and try not to study. Be sure to put gas in your car, set your alarm for the next day, take a nice shower, and arrive early at the testing center. 

Bring snacks for your breaks during the test, and make sure to stay hydrated. If you get cold fast, bring an extra layer of clothing or a hoodie if you are allowed. In short, be as prepared as you can be. Not only will it show that you are serious about your exams, but it also shows your character as a person and perhaps as a future nurse. 

Believing in Yourself is the Key

Preparing for the NCLEX exams is not that hard. All you have to do is stay focused. You are already on your way to becoming one of the best nurses. You had proven this when you passed the nursing school. So believe that you can pass the NCLEX and you will! NCLEX is the last step towards your career as a professional nurse. Hopefully, you find these tips helpful as you are preparing for the exams, best of luck!

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