I took my exam June 13th, finished at 75 questions and got my license today. I'm just going to write about my personal experience. There are many that are like mine, and many that are different!
*Warning, I like to write a lot. TLDR; is at bottom.
Stats about me:
Pennsylvania, Traditional BSN. 2.9 GPA for all of college, but 3.5 for just nursing classes (I had mono freshman year, ugh.) I graduated May 6th from a program of 120 students. We used ATI throughout school and had the 3 day ATI live review.
Before the test:
I used a couple of things to study.
- I took the in person Kaplan class which comes with online practice tests and questions. Their questions are really hard in my opinion, but helpful. Kaplan is not very content based and is very much based in strategy.
- I used some ATI. Not much, this was content based and I knew content.
- I also had two question books. The first was "Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment: Practice Exercises for the NCLEX Examination." This was by teacher recommendation. The other was "Saunders Q&A review for the NCLEX." I really liked the Saunders book. It has all of the categories of the test. For example, if you're not good at safety and infection control, they have an entire test just for that.
I tried to do a good amount of questions every day. Sometimes I would get discouraged and thought I wasn't studying enough because I wasn't doing a ton of questions every day, religiously like my friend. They would not rest until they did whatever amount they said they would do. I told myself that I knew the extent to which needed to study, and trusted that. Some days I did 50. One day I did 500. The important part was that when I did the questions,I took my time,
especially in thinking of the answer. For me, mindfulness was key. I did one question at a time. I did not answer all of them like a test and review after I was done. After I chose my answer, I checked it. Then I read through all the rationales. I did this because sure, we read them when we get the question wrong, but we should also know why the answers are right when we choose them. I got more out of it this way because the question was still fresh on my mind.
(I know on Kaplan you do not get answers right away. But the answers to all of the question trainers are on quizlet, so I would answer one question, find the answer and rationales on quizlet, and repeat.) When I finished the tests on Kaplan, I looked at the analysis and determined my three poorest areas (physiologic adaptation, etc.) I would use Kaplan's qbank and make them only those categories. I also would go back to the Saunders book and do around 20 questions per each category.
I did not study the day before my test. I went to the spa. TREAT YOSELF. There supposedly are studies that show if you relax the day before and do things you enjoy, you will do better. It's important for you to listen to your body. If you're tired, sleep. Don't force yourself to stay up, because I promise you won't be thinking as well. I felt guilty plenty of times because I would fall asleep doing questions. My mom and my therapist both told me that if I'm falling asleep, it means I need to sleep. It's true. I felt my studying was much more effective when I listened to my body, even if I did not get much done.
I'll move on to the actual test now. If you are familiar with the procedures, skip this list.
- I got there an hour early, so I wouldn’t feel rushed. Leave everything you can in the car. Leave your phone in the car because otherwise they make you put it in this special bag and they hold on to it. The rest of your stuff goes in a locker and you can get it at any time. I brought my wallet, a water, and chapstick (I wound up not taking any breaks.)
- When you get there, they will ask for your ID, and then scan the palms of your hands, like a fingerprint. Then they take a picture of you. They tell you all the rules and give you a sheet of the rules to read. You then sign saying you read all of them. After this, they send you to a waiting area.
- The TA called on me to come over. He explained the rules again, especially about breaks. If you have pockets, they will ask you to turn them inside out at this time. The TA also had me turn around and lift my hair up to expose my neck to make sure I did not have a bluetooth on. You can get earplugs from the TA if you want. I did; I hate noises like sniffles and coughing when I'm taking tests. He then gave me my whiteboard. The whiteboard I was given was a laminated piece of paper that looked like graph paper. If you run out of space, raise your hand and they will bring you a new one. You don't erase it.
- Once you are told that you enter the test area, they palmscan you to go into the room. The TA will take you in and they set the computer up for you. Then the computer tells you the terms and conditions of the test. Then there's a tutorial. Then you get your questions.
At the beginning of the test, I was a mess and I couldn't stop shaking. So I did cleansing breaths for a minute or two. I reminded myself that I've been practicing and I am perfectly capable. I was determined to end at 75, but I prepared to take all 265. Don't get scared, but I'm not kidding, my test was 50% select all that apply, and I was so pissed. Some people say that was because I was doing well, but some people get SATA and fail, so I didn’t want to think that. I got two drag and drop questions that were insanely easy. I got a lot of prioritization, delegation and who to see first. I also got a lot of therapeutic communication. I just focused on the question I was currently on. Do not worry about the one you had before (not worth it, you can't go back and change.) The best tip I heard was that if you get stuck on a question, think "if I can do one thing for this patient before leaving, what would it be?" I used the Kaplan decision tree the whole time. Look it up.
I was on question 75. I took a deep breath and prepared myself to be disappointed and to continue. I pressed next, and it shut off. Then I left. I was honestly very discouraged because the questions were so hard. I let myself cry, I went home, called my bff who also took it that day, watched funny videos and ate ice cream. I also promised myself that I wouldn't look on the license website until way later because I didn't want to think that I failed because it wasn't posted yet. I just kept telling myself that I made it through nursing school, and that the first time pass rate for BSN's is high 80's-low 90's.
(The PA license board this year has been putting the license up in the morning the day after the test. Mine wound up being posted today around 9:00 am, and on Pearson it still says processing. Also, the Pearson trick is not reliable and does not work for everyone
, so wait the 48 hours to get the preliminary result if your licensing board isn’t as quick as mine.) Today I woke up to my best friend calling me. She checked the license site for me and we both passed!
TLDR; The main idea I'm getting to is this:
- Not everyone studies the same. Some people will do hundreds of questions a day. Some will just read their textbooks. Some people do a few questions and take a break. You know yourself, and do what feels right for you. Don't drive yourself crazy.
- Listen to your body and respect yourself. Don’t talk down to yourself. Take the day before the exam off.
- Remember how far you've come. You finished nursing school! Nursing school is hard and if you were not capable of being a nurse, you wouldn't be here right now. Don't let it get to your head when people pass at 75 and you're in the test at question 260. You can still pass. A pass is a pass, employers and patients do not care when you finished.
- Give yourself a variety of resources. It was nice for me to be able to switch to a book after doing Kaplan for a while. Don't get discouraged when you get lots of questions wrong. Keep going!
- Go on the ncsbn website and get yourself familiar with the bulletin. Know the testing procedures. It will make you so much more comfortable.
- Prepare to be there for the whole time and prepare to do all 265 questions. If you hit #265, that’s okay, because you can still pass!
If you read all of this, thanks! Please ask me questions if you would like. I don’t know what to do with my free time now, lol.