I taught five of the ten sections of the Kaplan NCLEX review course (all med/surg plus the practice test and review) for several years, and this is what I did when we met for the first one. I was presented with a roomful of nervous new grads, sure that they were gonna fail. So I started out, after introductions, with this question: "Tell me about your nursing faculty. Pretty easygoing bunch, let you slide on a lot of stuff, pass-fail on your exams, right?" And they looked at me like I was out of my mind.
"OK, then. Your nursing faculty were tough, made sure you knew your stuff, brooked no sloppy habits, and minimum passing grade was what, 75? 78? You graduated? Good, then. They think you're good enough to be a nurse."
Then we discussed NCLEX passing rates. "Guesses, ladies? (all females every year I did it)" "50%?" "45%?" Nope. In our fair Commonwealth, the average pass rate of the grads from all the schools was 97%. You can go online and look yours up-- it’s not a secret and it's not hard to find. There are very, very few accredited schools with pass rates of less than 85%.
Then we talked about how the NCLEX is derived-- from errors made by new grads in their first year of practice, largely. Why do new grads make errors? Because they jump before they look and don’t think about why they are there. Read on.
General testing principles, and how to pick between the two of four answers that both look pretty good: The answer is always the one that makes your patient safer (move him out of the room before you pull the fire alarm, safe positioning before procedures, airway before anything else, privacy is a sort of protection too) or makes you obtain more information (check the labs, check color-circulation-capillary refill,ask, "Tell me more about that," or, "What do you know about a low-salt diet?"), or follows the ABCs of CPR. These are all things that if done by a new grad will save a lot of trouble.
NEVER NEVER NEVER choose the answer that turfs the situation to another discipline. They don't want to know what dietary will do, or social work, or hear you say"You'll have to ask the doctor about that." They want to know what YOU, the NURSE, will do.
Then you have to know that in every test there are items that are being trialled to see if they're any good. When you come to a bad item (or a run of items all on the same thing that's something you never heard of) or one that is impossible to figure out as above, guess, tell yourself that one will probably be thrown out of the test bank, and move on.
The day before the test, do not study. Brain research tells us that is NOT USEFUL. Champion musicians play a little of a new piece on Monday, a little more on Tuesday, finish it up on Weds, and don't look at it until Friday, at which time their brain has it settled into a comfortable place ready to access and work with. You have studied, you know stuff. What YOU do is take some R&R-- go for a hike in the woods, an art exhibit, a swim, a concert. You take a nice hot bath by candlelight. You read a trashy novel. You get a good night's sleep now that you are all tuckered out and relaxed.
The day of your test you open your refrigerator and take out the mayonnaise jar. You read the lid. It says, "Keep cool, do not freeze." You go to the testing center, you incipient RN, you.