Here is my plan for NCLEX success:
STEP ONE: KNOW THYSELF!
1. Know how you best learn. Are you a visual, auditory or tactile learner?
I am a combination of a visual and tactile learner. The second time around, I made sure to tailor my study habits to how I best learn by drawing pictures of diseases, watching videos etc. Check out the links below to find your learning style and get some tips on how you can study best for your type:
*Visual learners… There are a set of books out there just for our learning style… It’s called the “Memory Notebook of Nursing” by JoAnn Zerwekh
. The books are filled with cartoon drawings. (Note: The books are not extremely detailed. Supplement these texts with something more substantial like Saunders or even create your own pics.)*
2. What are your areas of weakness?
Take a diagnostic test to see the areas you are most weak in. Both Saunders and Kaplan have diagnostic tests.
The first time I took the NCLEX, I prepared with Saunders and ATI cds. I must have taken about 8,000 – 10,000 questions in preparation for the test. When I was ready to try again I compared my NCLEX test result with Kaplan Diagnostic Test/Q Bank, my lowest scores tended to be Physiologic Adaptation (PA). So, I decided to devote about half of my study time each day to PA. Study enough to make your areas of weakness a source of strength.
Learning how to think through questions is just as important as learning the content. This is where Kaplan made all the difference for me. It is also especially important to review the questions you got right as much as the ones you got wrong. You may have gotten an answer right but that doesn’t mean you thought things through properly.
Reviewing questions serves a dual purpose. You can evaluate your test taking skills and review content at the same time.
3. Are you your own worst enemy?
I had to get through my feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and pressure to pass because of my finances. Every time I wanted to give up studying, I would pray. I had to encourage myself every day so beginning the day with prayer/bible study became a source of strength and gave me a healthy perspective on things. So if you need to read uplifting stories and positive quotations to keep yourself motivated. One of the most encouraging stories I ever read was on allnurses.com I Passed!!!-Ever felt down about NCLEX You Must ReadThis!!!!!!!!!!!
Listening to white noise while studying also distracted me from my anxiety. The sounds of the ocean or rain somehow calmed me down and allowed me to study for several hours at a time. One of my favorites on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0gsduLrfSU
STEP TWO: CREATE A STUDY PLAN
1. The great debate… Saunders vs. Kaplan
I used both Saunders and Kaplan extensively. The first time I took my NCLEX, I primarily used Saunders. What freaked me out was how hard the NCLEX questions seemed in comparison with what I had been preparing with. The second time I began preparing for the NCLEX, I decided to continue to use Saunders for review and change what resources I used for questions. That turned out to be the best thing for me because when I took the NCLEX for the 2nd time, the questions actually seemed quite easy in comparison to Kaplan, Exam Cram, NCLEX Made Incredibly Easy and Prioritization, Delegation & Assignment.
+ The best comprehensive review
+ Lots of questions available on CD
- Questions not difficult enough
- Pharmacology chapters are way too detailed
+ Great for a variety of learning styles
+ Questions harder than NCLEX exam
+ Pharm section had just the right amt of info
- Not quite as comprehensive as Saunders
Conclusion: Is Saunders necessary? Yes. Is it worth getting the online Kaplan review
? YES! They both complement each other well.
My study plan
(sometimes reading a chapter 4 – 5 times) then doing the questions in the back of the chapter. Then following up the content area with questions from NCLEX-RN Questions and Answers Made Incredibly Easy.
If I happened to get less than 75% on the Saunders chapter review, I knew to review the material again. The only exception was the pharm chapters – I used the Kaplan book for that!
-READ ALL QUESTION RATIONALES. After taking a set of questions, I reviewed the rationales (sometimes more than 2x). A mistake I made the first time was just reading the rationales for the questions I got wrong. You must read rationales for ALL questions – right/wrong in order to find out if you missed the question because you did not know the content, correctly identify the topic of the question or did you miss the question even though you correctly identified the topic? You may have gotten the question correct but was it with the wrong thought process?!?
-Watching Kaplan guided review of questions helped me to understand the rationale behind how a particular answer was chosen. After a few weeks of watching the guided reviews, it was much easier to approach the questions.
* After I was finished reading the ENTIRE Saunders book and made sure that my end of chapter question scores were above 75% then I began to do more comprehensive questions.
-Exam Cram (excellent questions and cd provided with NCLEX CAT)
-Kaplan Question Trainers and Q Bank
-Prioritization, Delegation & Assignment by Linda LaCharity (abbreviated PD&A) Thin book but jam packed with important info. An absolute must for anyone taking the NCLEX. You will see questions like this on the NCLEX.
* My Question Trainer Scores: 1) 52%, 2) 64%, 3) 55%, 4) 61%, 5) 56%, 6) 64%, 7) 61%. Diagnostic Score 56%. Readiness Score 71%. Average Q Bank Score 1st Time 58%, Q Bank Score 2nd Time 67%*
2. Don’t be afraid to edit your study plan.
When I was reviewing the Saunders pharm chapters, I wasn’t making any headway because there was too much detail. All of the information began to blend together in my head. Some chapters I would consistently get 30% on as months passed by! It just wasn’t working for me. So, I made the choice to focus on Kaplan’s review of pharm instead.
3. Evaluate your progress objectively and realistically
I was initially set to take my exam in March 09 but I postponed it because I wasn’t getting through Saunders quick enough (and my job at the time required too many hours). Then I thought about taking it in May 09 but again… I didn’t feel that I had progressed enough in my studying. By the time I had set my NCLEX date for July 09, I had already been through the Saunders book and almost all of Kaplan. By the time I took my NCLEX, I had reviewed Saunders several times, finished reviewing Exam Cram, PD&A, and completed all Kaplan question trainers and did the Kaplan q bank twice!!
Had I been scoring in the 40s on my Kaplan q bank, I would not have taken the NCLEX. (Most recommend getting over 57% in Kaplan). If I didn’t get through all of the other question resources and had been scoring within their recommended range, I also would not have taken the NCLEX.
4. Make notes and create study sheets for yourself.
I found that between all the resources I used, there were certain questions/topics that kept coming up. I felt these were high-yield content areas and there was a good chance that I would probably see these topics on the NCLEX. I also made notes on topics that I had a hard time remembering. Then I reviewed my notes several days before and even on the day of my exam!!
One of my weaknesses was memorizing the labs values so I rewrote the labs every morning until I got it down 100% each time. I began to do that for other difficult areas like childhood milestones and symptoms of electrolytes imbalances (difficult to understand endocrine without knowing your electrolytes well!).
STEP THREE: COMMIT TO A SCHEDULE.
Treat your study schedule like you would a full-time job. My goal each day was to get between 4 – 6 hours of studying in with a break on Sundays. Back in January when I began preparing for the NCLEX again, my job at the time continually kept my working hours above 50+ hours per week. So I quit. I quit after finding another job that was more accommodating to my study schedule. I knew that I needed to study first thing in the morning because I would just be too tired after working a long shift. At my new job, there were days my coworkers would ask if I could come in earlier or on weekends to help out. Again, I was faced with a choice between doing what others wanted me to do versus what I knew my priorities should be. Passing the test was #1. I felt guilty. Some of my coworkers got mad at me when I refused their requests. However, I kept reminding myself how my family’s future was at stake. I couldn’t choose anyone else’s feelings (including my own) above what I needed to do.