Greetings! I figured I'd add to the NCLEX stories here
I graduated from a part-time ASN program in June - it was a career change for me and after balancing full time work at an investment bank, part-time nursing school in the evenings with clinical on weekends, and training for various endurance sports for 4 years (triathlons, marathons, etc.), I was beyond proud of my accomplishment but nervous for the NCLEX.
The last semester of nursing school was particularly tough for me for personal reasons and I found myself toeing the line of pass/fail. The final would make or break me because I was barely passing. I pulled it together and ended up making it but considered myself pretty lucky, and paid the price of just barely missing graduating with honors with my 3.28 GPA. Still, I graduated, and better yet, was really excited for a 9 week externship that awaited me in the ED of a local hospital.
While I knew the externship would give me real world experience to help me pass NCLEX, I also knew it would take more than just that. I took a 4-day Kaplan course and decided to do 150 questions a day, but barely got through a week of that once the externship started!
The externship was fantastic and I went through a little mini orientation in which I learned IV and phlebotomy skills and took every opportunity to practice my new skills while other RNs gradually started calling me their little vampire. Physicians were thrilled to have me watch and assist with procedures, I was involved in 3 codes and witnessed incredible things I learned in school like drug overdoses, CVAs, even gun shot wounds and DIC.
Well, during all the excitement, I wasn't really studying for NCLEX and instead began researching ED nursing and went on to get re-certified in BLS and certified in ACLS and PALS figuring it would be good for NCLEX and my resume. What a huge help! A lot of people questioned why I would do these things instead of just focusing on NCLEX and I realized in explaining myself to them that I simply learn better from a variety of sources!
This lead to my quest for different resources. I found a pocket guide called Pathophysiology Made Incredibly Easy particularly helpful in reviewing the different pathologies of all the body systems. I also got these Barron's NCLEX medication cards, as well as the Saunders and Chicago Review books. Lastly, I downloaded several free NCLEX apps on my iPad and would practice questions everywhere I went, even if it were only a few while I waited in line at the store.
Now I was consistently getting 55-70% on these tests and would constantly encounter things I didn't know. This is where content review and rationales become important. I personally wouldn't bother with most med/surg and trauma but OB and peds? Yeah, I don't even know how I passed those semesters - I had forgotten it all! As you notice areas you're weak in in answering questions, make note of them to review later - I literally created a review list and would go down it when there were 3 or more items on it.
About a week before my exam, I asked my neighbor who is an ICU nurse to review and do questions with me and this really helped. Getting info from SO many types of sources really helped me see the common safe and effective care theme. I knew I needed to memorize vaccines and precautions so I did, but really that's all I memorized and found mnemonics very helpful. The rest is truly all about reading the question ONCE very SLOWLY and CAREFULLY and answering it in your own words before even looking at the answers - this truly worked for me. The NCLEX is NOT about memorization, it's about basic knowledge and effective critical thinking.
On the day of my exam I took time to get a coffee and clear my head and review some lab values. I was nervous but not overly so. I realized that I was either going to pass or fail and either would be just fine. But sure, I had that little voice in the back of my head screaming YOU HAVE TO PASS! Because I had interviewed for and gotten a job in the same ED I externed at and my license was the only thing standing in the way!
The actual exam was way easier than I expected - 75 questions in about 75 minutes, but I still walked out thinking I failed because there were 25+ SATA questions and I'm awful at those. I got home and received a neutral pop up saying my test results were on hold! They kept my test results on hold for almost a week but as time went on, I realized I must have passed since why the heck would they hold anyone's test results that long if they failed? It was explained to me that because I tested with an insulin pump on me, they had to review footage and make sure I didn't cheat!
The wait was awful, but last Tues evening I found out I indeed did pass and the next day my name and license number were listed on my state's BON website! Once I get my physical license in the mail, I will begin my new career as an ED nurse
For me, I didnt do all the Kaplan tests - not even test 5, 6 and 7 in their entirety. I would bounce back and forth between all resources and it worked for me so maybe I'd suggest that. Oh, also a great review resource is the NCSBN's learningext.com access. But overall, I didn't finish any book or CD or set of flash cards in its entirety - and in terms of dedicated study days? Maybe 5 for me. Other times it was just when I'd get a free moment here or there.
So maybe I got lucky or maybe I'm a good test taker, but keep my suggestions in mind when you prepare to take the exam and hopefully they'll help - best of luck guys!!