Studying for the NCLEX
Your goal should be to take the NCLEX as soon as possible after graduation and pass on the first attempt. Try not to add to your stress by not passing on your first attempt. Study hard and efficiently, and aim to take the NCLEX 1-2 months from your 1st study day and within 3 months of graduation. You don’t want to take it too early, because you need time to prepare. And you don’t want to take it too late, because you may lose some knowledge or stress yourself more than needed.
How to Prepare for the NCLEX
Familiarize yourself with the test
Look at some testing question examples online to familiarize yourself with the test format and learn some strategies on how to approach the questions. Look back at your prior exams or try to remember how they were worded. These are the type of questions you might see:
- Select all that apply
- Fill in the blank
- Drag and drop
- Auditory sound recognition
Where will you be studying?
Find a place to study, ideally a place that won’t have many distractions. (We prefer the library.) This way, you can separate your personal life from your study life. You go to the library for one specific reason: to study. Once you leave, you’re done studying. Treat it as if it’s your office and your 9-5 job. Other great places to study include:
- Study room
- Coffee shop
- Anywhere with a quiet environment
NCLEX study schedule
Create a schedule that reinforces your studying habits. For the next 1-3 months, your time will revolve around studying. Aim for 3-4 hrs a day. If you can manage more, even better. Studying for 4 hrs a day gives you 120 hrs of studying a month. Just to give you a little perspective if you think that’s a lot of studying: the average human life is a little over 700,000 hrs, and a typical work week is 40+ hours. You need to determine what schedule works best for you. Will you be going for 4 hours straight, or in increments? Most people study for 1 – 1.5 hrs, then take a 30- minute break.
Your study materials will depend on your learning style. What worked for you in nursing school? Did you prefer more auditory learning than visual? Did you learn more from the lecture, or straight off the PowerPoints?
Here are a few methods you can use when studying for the NCLEX:
- Flashcards: You can take them anywhere. Separate the ones you know and the ones you get wrong and focus more on the ones you get wrong. These are great for labs and meds.
- Sticky notes: Use these as another way to go over the things you struggle with. Write down what you keep getting wrong and post them on your bedroom mirror or a place you commonly stay in.
- Notebook: Write down key topics and rationales. Separate them into categories so you aren’t looking all over the place. Being organized is key. A notebook is great because you can quickly look back on rationales, key points, and information as a quick reference. Another benefit is you’re writing what you’re learning, which is another study trick that improves memorization.
- Qbanks: This is the best studying method. Uworld is a great way to study. It asks you NCLEX style questions, gives you exams, and also offers rationales. You can create quizzes based on the topics you struggle with, so you can just focus on those. UWorld breaks down your exams based on the topic percentages of the NCLEX. It even separates the questions you got wrong from the ones you answered correctly.
Studying for the NCLEX is no easy task. You need to properly prepare because this will be one of the most important exams you’ll ever take. The NCLEX is not something to treat lightly. Studying begins days after graduation, and you’ll need to devote at least 3 months to it. The best way to prepare for the NCLEX is to familiarize yourself with NCLEX-style questions, create a study schedule, and pick a place to study and a study method. The best way to study is by using a Qbank such as Uworld. But it’s not one-size-fits-all. You might have to use other methods as well.