3 Expert NCLEX Test-Taking Strategies

There are several steps that test-takers must follow in order to be sure that they are understanding what NCLEX questions are really asking. NCLEX questions are often written in a way that can cause test-takers to get confused and lose focus on the topic of the question. This article will discuss 3 expert NCLEX test-taking strategies that will help you weed through all of the fluff and get straight to the point of answering NCLEX questions successfully.


3 Expert NCLEX Test-Taking Strategies

Expert NCLEX Strategy #1 - Nail down the topic

If you don’t understand what the question is asking, then how can you confidently answer it? Now, identifying the topic isn’t always an easy task. The creators of the NCLEX are very talented and spend a great deal of time designing questions that are difficult and challenge candidates to use high levels of critical thinking.

In order to help you nail down the topic of the question, you must be able to follow the following steps:

First - Read the question carefully and thoroughly. Do not skip words, and read the question slowly. You may feel like you have to rush through the question so you don’t run out of time during testing, but answering the questions incorrectly is worse than running out of time. So slow down so you don’t miss any important details.

Second - After reading the question, you should be able to identify the topic/focus/problem. Sometimes this is also known as the nursing concept. Once you identify the topic or nursing concept within the question, it makes it much easier for you to stay focused on the thing you need to address and avoid getting distracted by all other information that is not important.

Expert NCLEX Strategy #2 - Decide what’s important

Now that you have identified the focus of the question, it is important to take a few moments to think about all of the things you remember to be true about the topic. For example, if the topic of the question is asking about appropriate delegation, you want to list out all the things you remember to be true related to delegation.

What is true about delegation?

  • Do not delegate assessment
  • Do not delegate teaching
  • Do not delegate evaluation
  • Do not delegate tasks for unstable patients
  • Do not delegate patients with unexpected outcomes

Once you take a few seconds to remind yourself of the details regarding delegation, it makes answering the question so much easier! When you use criteria like the “rules of delegation” to compare against the answer choices, it helps you stay focused on the topic, and helps you to decide if the answer meets the criteria or not. If you find that the answer choices do not match the rules of delegation, then it is not the correct answer and you should eliminate it!

Expert NCLEX Strategy #3 - Focus on the facts

Nursing school teaches that nurses must remain objective at all times. This is helpful because it allows nurses to follow standards of practice that are evidence-based and proven to be effective. Nursing actions and skills that are implemented should have expected outcomes that can be measured and reproduced by others.

NCLEX questions are often written in a way that challenges test-takers to make decisions about objective and subjective data. Many times, subjective data provided in the scenarios may elicit a strong emotional response from the candidate, which may cause them to focus on the wrong information. This is known as an NCLEX trap, and you must be vigilant to not fall for it.

Since NCLEX questions often contain a lot of distracting information that causes test-takers to focus on the wrong answer, it is important for you to scrutinize all of the data by asking yourself the following clarifying questions:

  • Does the answer solve the problem in the question?
  • Does the answer meet the needs of the patient?
  • Does the answer meet the criteria of the concept?
  • Does the answer make sense?

After asking yourself these questions, you should be able to confidently eliminate incorrect answer choices, and hold onto answer choices that are contenders for the correct answer.

As you continue to move through your NCLEX journey, be sure to take the time to celebrate how far you’ve come. We all know that nursing school is not easy. We can all agree that the NCLEX is not easy. No matter how difficult it may be, with continued determination, we will be joining you in the celebration of your success and welcoming you into the wonderful nursing profession!

Are you struggling with figuring out what the NCLEX questions are actually asking? Post your questions below and I will help you understand.

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NCLEX Columnist

Damion Jenkins, RN, MSN is an NCLEX Prep Expert and CEO of The Nurse Speak. Named the "NCLEX Whisperer" in an article by Nurse Beth, Damion provides individualized tutoring and mentoring services for nursing students, new graduate nurses and professional nurses alike. For more information about Damion and the services he provides, check out thenursespeak.com.

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