You’ve successfully completed your nursing degree, and now it’s time for the NCLEX. It can be overwhelming to think that passing the NCLEX is one of the last things standing in your way before you can start your career, but it’s also exciting. The test’s main purpose is to determine if you have the knowledge and critical thinking skills to begin practicing. With that being said, you’ll be tested on how you apply your knowledge to make critical decisions about common nursing situations.
Don’t let fear and intimidation get the best of you. Use these tips for passing the NCLEX to prepare and be confident on exam day.
6 Tips for Passing the NCLEX
1. Start early
As you may already know, there are a few things you need to do before you are eligible to take the exam. First, you need to complete an accredited nursing degree, and then go through the registration steps.
You should also start studying as soon as possible. A short break after nursing school might be needed, but don’t wait too long. The knowledge will still be fresh and it’ll be easier to recall. Don’t fall into the trap where you take a longer break and then it’s like the first day of school all over again. It’ll take you longer to get back into the routine of studying.
2. Understand CAT
Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) is used for the exam, so understanding how it works is helpful in passing the NCLEX. The main goal is to increase the efficiency of the exam process. CAT helps reduce the number of “easy” questions that high-ability candidates receive, as they tell little about the candidate’s ability. For low-ability candidates, the number of “difficult” questions is reduced since these answers are usually guesses and can skew results.
Each time you answer a question, the computer re-estimates your ability. The next question will be one that you should have a 50% chance of answering correctly. Every question is targeted to your specific ability level because the objective is to get as much information as possible about your true ability level.
3. Focus on Critical Thinking
If you only needed an understanding of nursing tasks, a nursing degree would be sufficient to start practicing. But, having the knowledge is much different than being able to apply it in real situations. This is why passing the NCLEX requires critical thinking skills. Some of the questions will have multiple answers that are technically right, but you’ll have to choose the one that is “most correct” for the specific scenario. Making these quick and efficient decisions can take a lot of practice.
To help during preparation and on exam day, visualize each situation. You’re not expected to think how a nurse practicing for 10 years would. Imagine the setting and question in your head, and think about what you would do based on your level of knowledge.
4. Don’t Cram
If you haven’t already figured this out during nursing school, I’ll say it again. Don’t cram. It doesn’t work. It might seem like a lot of pressure to go right from school to studying again, but you’ll thank yourself later. If you expect to go over every detail you’ve learned in the past few years within a few weeks, and then on top of that figure out how to actually apply it, don’t be surprised when you realize you can’t.
5. Get enough sleep the night before
Again, you should have learned this while you were in school, but some people just don’t get it. Sleep is important! Your brain needs a break to process everything you’ve been studying and make sure it gets stored in the right places. You also don’t want to overload on caffeine the day of the test, as it can mess with your brain and cause you to be jittery and even more anxious.
6. Take practice tests
Taking practice tests is one of the best tips for passing the NCLEX. You’ll become familiar with the types of questions to expect, and they won’t be as shocking on exam day. There are multiple resources for practice questions, so try a few different ones.
Once you pass the NCLEX, you’ll finally be able to get your career started. You might not know what to do now that you don’t have to study for months at a time, so here are a few things you can do after the NCLEX to get the ball rolling.