I just wanted to share my experience and study tips with you since this forum has helped me a lot and I wanted to help other nurses out there trying to overcome this obstacle!
I took the NCLEX-RN for the first time on Monday, 7/1 and ended up stopping at 205 questions and went over the whole cliche "Oh crap, I failed my NCLEX!" Then I looked up my name on the board of registered nursing at my state two days later and there it was, my name and my license info! I also did the Pearson Vue Trick beforehand and I got to tell you that it worked for me, but as everyone has felt, I also felt in disbelief at first and waited until my name was on the website to confirm.
Anywho, for those curious, this is how I studied for 3 weeks and here are also some helpful tips on studying and when taking the test:
Kaplan NCLEX-RN 2013-2014: Strategies, Practice, and Review (4 out of 5)
I honestly felt like I didn't need to take the actual Kaplan class because I heard it only focused solely on test-taking strategies and increasing the confidence to answer different types of question. So I would save your couple hundred bucks and buy this book, unless you know that your test-taking skills isn't that great and need extra help. However, this book covers those test-taking strategies in the first few chapters, and it is easy to understand since they break it down on how to answer certain questions step-by-step. They also briefly cover some content, but was pretty vague so do not use this book to review content. However, it comes with a CD with a question bank, and also has review questions after each chapter, and a 265 question test to help you get an idea on how prepared are you for the NCLEX. Overall, this is a book that covers really well test-taking strategies and a resource for questions.
Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment 2nd edition by Lacharity. (5 out of 5)
This is an awesome book that was highly recommended on these forums and I still recommend it to you all now because I got a lot of prioritization and assignment-type questions on the NCLEX. I barely got delegation questions on my test, but then again, all tests are different so do NOT take my word for it. This is a workbook that has questions for various topics focusing on those three areas, and also common case scenarios that are worth doing since you also go over some content as well. So it is really good practice and review, and the questions are pretty challenging. It also has a lot of select-all-that-apply and put-steps-in order type questions as well so you will get good practice for those types of questions. Overall, great workbook for doing questions.
Saunders Q&A Review for the NCLEX Examination 5th edition. (5 out of 5)
I would say you're pretty much buying this book for the CD since the questions on the CD are the same as the one's in the book. I would do most of my practice questions from this CD because a lot of the questions I answered here were similar to the ones I saw on NCLEX. For some reason, some were exactly the same/similar, which is why I am glad I bought this book/CD. Overall, this CD access is great because you can practice taking a test on a computer which you will be doing on the day of the exam, and it provides different modes of practice such as exam-mode (won't give you the rationales until you finish the test) and study-mode (provides you quick feedback after answering a question). The only turn off is that some of the rationale are vague, but it gives you straightforward, basic info about how to answer the question and explains the content of the question.
Honorable mentions: HURST Review and Maryann Hogan's Comprehensive Review for NCLEX-RN. First of all, I did not take the HURST review course but my friend lent me really helpful notes from HURST and I must say those notes helped me A LOT when it came down to reviewing content. So if you know a friend who took it and is kind enough to make you copies of his/her notes then that would be ideal. I also knew two other people who took HURST to review for NCLEX after taking Kaplan and failing the first test, and they ended up passing confidently the second time around. It is also one of the reasons why I passed HESI my third time (after not passing the first two...). It pretty much breaks down all the systems in straight-forward detail focusing on only the important stuff you need to know for NCLEX. The Maryann Hogan's Comprehensive Review book I bought, but I barely used unfortunately, but from the looks of it I think I should have used it more because the end-of-chapter review questions and topics I saw on the NCLEX when I went over it after. And it also has another 265 question test to help sort of predict if you are prepared for NCLEX or not. So I would say this book is probably worth your time in reviewing BOTH content and test-taking.
Tip #1: Start out doing 100+ questions per day and slowly going up to taking 265+ questions in one sitting. This is important in building up every aspect of the test; your test-taking skills, your confidence, your endurance, and also your knowledge base.
Tip #2: Apply yourself! You will need to sacrifice the next 3-4 weeks to prepare for the exam. That doesn't mean you cannot relax, but it means you need to focus, and not waste any extra time you can use for studying! I really had to be a hermit in my room and tell my friends, family, and girlfriend to not bother me when I was studying. Also, your cell phone, video games, TV and social networking sites will be your worst enemies during that 1 month trial.
Tip #3: Don't forget to take breaks to eat and chill while studying! This is important because it will keep you sane throughout the whole process. I know studying for a test as big as this can be stressful, so letting yourself cool off for an hour or two would is always nice. I would either watch an episode of Game of Thrones, treat myself out to some lunch/dinner, go outside to swim or play basketball, or take a nice nap (though do not oversleep)!
Tip #4: Do not focus too much on maternity and peds! Maternity and peds are probably the worst topics for most people but they do not ask a lot of questions on the NCLEX, though this is saying from my experience. However, the point is, don't focus all of your studying on just these two topics. The other topics have more questions compared to these two so you will pretty much dig yourself a hole if you don't go over the other major topics in-depth such as med-surg, geriatrics, psychiatric, community health, orthopedics, ethical/legal issues, infection control, etc.
Tip #5: Pray or reflect often. If you're religious, praying is a good form of keeping yourself composed and sane, as well as keeping yourself focused. If you're not religious, then just close your eyes, take a deep breath, relax your mind, and talk to yourself. I know it may sound dumb, but this really helps me out, my friends and teachers also told me to do it. Not only a good tip for a test taking but for life in general.
Tip #6: Go to the location before the exam, and aim to be there an hour early before the test time. This is so you do not get lost the day of the exam. And why an hour? Because stuff happens. You can get stuck in traffic, get pulled over by a cop (hopefully this is not the case), etc. and the registration/waiting process can take a while.
Tip #7: Go into the test confident! Tell yourself that you will pass and if you don't that it is not the end of the world! One of the hardest things to do probably... is building up the confidence going into the exam. I say this is one of the most important things because you can't let yourself be jaded during the exam otherwise your mind will go blank and you will lose yourself. And if that happens. Close your eyes for a few minutes, breath deeply, and reflect... and until you are mentally focused again, then continue to take the exam.
Tip #8: Always go with your gut and never second-guess yourself! I would take my time during the exam, but honestly just spend a minute on a question, do your strategy, click on an answer that you believe is right and move on. The more you time you spend on a question, the more you will over-think and overanalyze it and make it harder than it really is. I cannot emphasize how important this is because I do this ALL the time before when I took my HESI and probably the reason why I did not pass the first two times.
Tip #9: Go in there thinking you are going to get 265 questions. Honestly, I was so focused on passing the NCLEX with 75 questions so that I can get it over with.. but that wasn't the case for me. It really distracts you during the test and makes you think like "oh crap... I didn't pass at 75/135/165/205" etc. and will throw you off mentally so do yourself a favor and go in there thinking it's a 265-question test.
Tip #10: Relax on the day before the test! I recommend not studying on the last day. But if it calms your nerves, I would do some questions since that's what I did. I couldn't relax so I knew doing questions would help me relieve my stress for some reason. But other than that, I watched a funny movie, made myself a steak, and played some video games. And sleep early so you get enough rest!
Tip #11: Make flashcards or a cram sheet for lab values! Flashcards may take a bit of time to make but they are worth it! They also have a cram sheet available on this forum if I can find it again..
Tip #12: Make mnemonics. One of my favorite things to do because you can get creative and get funny with it. It sucks memorizing a bunch of things, but if you create a mnemonic like VEALCHOP, MONA, RACE, and that ridiculous sentence we had to learn to memorize the cranial nerves, then it makes memorization that much easier and tolerable.
Anyways, I think that's pretty much it! Hopefully I've helped you guys out! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reply to this thread! If I missed anything I will edit this later.
Good luck everyone!