I Am Not Alone

Where should I start? 5 days ago, Friday, July 24th, 2009, I took the most agonizing exam known to nurse-kind; the infamous NCLEX-RN. We, as new graduates, dread the life-altering exam that determines our next step towards a nursing career, allowing us to officially graduate from nursing school with a $130 license (depending on what state you’re from). As if the time and effort we put towards nursing school aren’t good enough. Despite all that we’ve learned through the 2-4 year program, we’re required to sit yet again for an exam consisting of 75-265 questions. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

I Am Not Alone

CAT, a computer adaptive test, allows the individual to be tested on their weak areas rather than their strengths. Based on how well the questions are answered, the CAT and one other individual can determine whether or not the graduate nurse is safe to become a licensed nurse. Does taking a test really entail a safe nurse? This is a bit controversial within the nursing community being that there have been complaints about some nurses who end up passing not appearing safe in their nursing atmosphere, and vice versa for the non-passing nurse. With any examination, especially the NCLEX-RN, there is no doubt you need to be somewhat of a good test taker to pass. I am not one of them.

Now, where does the agonizing part come in? The agonizing aspect of taking this NCLEX-RN examination includes not only the studying prior to the exam, but it also includes the examination itself and the process afterward. Whether you sit at home or Barnes & Noble's, the task of taking question after question eventually tires you out. Your mind is filled with information obtained through nursing school and now through additional preparation for the NCLEX examination. There is so much information out there, old and new, that it's hard to know when studying has sufficed. It gets to the point where you're tired of doing questions and your mind can no longer hold any new information. You are now 'ready' to take the NCLEX-RN exam, or as ready as can be.

The day of the exam is mentally exhausting. You try to eat breakfast but can't keep it down, you try to tell yourself that you're going to pass but the dread of failing still lingers, especially if you're a horrible test taker like myself. Blasting music in the car on the way to the exam center temporarily calms you down as you scream "I'm a survivor" at the top of your lungs, but the dread returns as soon as you park and realize you're about to take a nerve-wracking exam. As you enter the building and walk up to the front desk of the testing center, you're required to have your identification reviewed, and a picture, as well as fingerprint, taken. You literally feel like a felon about to enter a jail cell; as if we didn't have enough anxiety as it is. You're asked to take everything out of your pockets and all items placed in a locker, except for your identification. Lip gloss, watch, water etc are prohibited. And if you're like me with wanting a lucky pin nearby, even that is questioned. You then resume to another checkpoint where another individual also checks your identification and fingerprint before entering the 'CAT room'. Thankfully, they offer you earplugs. Although, in some cases, I've heard that earplugs were not helpful being that a fire siren remained nearby. I was lucky the building remained somewhat quiet despite the shuffling of new victims or individuals with GI issues walking in and out of the testing center.

The exam has begun. With deep breaths, you sit there as the time goes by, faster than what it seems when practicing with Kaplan. Each question seems hard within itself, which to you, seems like a great sign with hard questions meaning you're above 'the line'. But how does one really know if NCLEX considers this and that question hard or easy? After talking to most GN's, it seems impossible to tell. They ALL seem hard. When the computer reaches question number 75, your heart races as you anticipate the computer to go blank when clicking next. When question 76 appears instead, your heart drops for you fear that you've already failed. You take a deep breath and keep trucking on. You can't give up because people still pass after the 75 marks. (My best friend passed with more or less than 120 questions and another passed at 265.) After this point, you need to just have faith in yourself, only thinking positively. Easier said than done, I know. Question after question, you're anticipating the computer to go blank. Your eyes strain and get tired of looking at a bright screen, but you seem to be used to this because you've been doing this for at least a month now, preparing for the exam. All those Kaplan users out there know exactly what I'm talking about. At the two hour mark, the computer goes blank and your heart races thinking "this is it". Instead, 2-3 seconds after the screen goes blank, a pop-up says a bathroom break is permitted at this time. Your heart feels as though it's palpitating out of your chest because you had thought the exam was over. Instead, you contemplate whether or not you should take a break to calm down, or if you should keep attacking the questions. You decide to keep on going. At this point, you don't even realize what exam question you're on. I was at about 160 something when the screen went blank for a second time. This time, it remained blank and I actually thought something went wrong with my computer. As I was about to raise my hand for assistance, a survey popped up. I had officially finished my examination. With heart racing and hands shaking, you just want to get out of the testing center and call the first person you can think of. Instead, you have to remain for the 20-30 something question survey NCLEX has provided after the examination. By this time, you're sick of answering questions and quickly scan the answers, clicking on whatever deems appropriate within 1 second of seeing it. The exam is finally over.

You would think finishing an exam would bring a sigh of relief, but you are wrong! The agonizing continues. Depending on what state you're from, some if not most support the 'fast results' website in which you can pretty much find out the results (PASS or FAIL) within 2 days, that is, with a payment of about $8.00. This is considered unofficial but assumed to be guaranteed. In other states, you find out 2-3 business days via automated phone or by looking at the Board of Nursing (BON) website. This is only a pass result determined by entering your social security number and looking up your license number. If no license number appears when entering your social security number and/or name, you can assume you failed. They also send a letter officially confirming your pass or fail status within 7-10 days through the mail. What a long wait!

If you live in a state that does not support the 'fast results' website, like me, you are waiting for what seems like a long time, especially if you decided to take your test during the weekend. After your examination, you literally live at your computer's side with a phone nearby, calling and checking online at every half-hour mark. Each time, the anticipation builds up and the long wait slowly gets taken over by a feeling of impending doom. Seeing Facebook status' being changed to include the words 'RN', only increases the anticipation and anxiety. For me, the time waiting for any sort of result, was mentally and physically draining. I saw more and more of my classmates becoming RNs while I was still waiting on my results and hoping for the best. My anticipation turned into depression with each and every call/online checkup stating no license could be found under my name/SSN. My days were filled with tears with each disappointing day. At one point, I wouldn't even get out of bed. As the days went by with no word of a license number, my gut was telling me I actually failed. It is now day #5 after examination and business day #3. I have been checking the BON systems since the morning, and there are only four more hours until closing time. At this point, I'm almost positive I have failed. With lingering hope, I continue to check their systems for any sort of a license number, but continue to be disappointed when hearing the words "This number does not identify..." or seeing "sorry, no matches were found" when entering my information.

I felt alone up until a couple of days ago. There has been no word of anyone failing within my class which makes a person feel awful. But, I came upon the allnurses.com website and fell in love with the tremendous amount of support coming from all angles, and the stories pouring out from other individuals who have also experienced what I have. I then realized, "I am not alone". Although I am still heartbroken from the idea that this exam has caused a setback in my life, I have also realized that I cannot let an exam control it. I realized from reading other heart-felt blogs that I have so much to appreciate for in my life. For one, I am healthy when many are not. I am reminded that my passion for people and helping those in need, is the sole reason why I kept with the 4-year nursing program instead of quitting as some had. My goal is to be the best patient advocate possible, and an exam isn't going to stop me from reaching that goal. I remind myself that I have come this far with a nursing degree in hand. I am just a few feet away from my next goal of achieving a license and becoming a registered nurse. I am a caterpillar dreaming of becoming a butterfly, and I will not give up. If others can do it, I can do it! And so can you...


It is now 5 PM on October 7th, 2009. Approximately 3 months after the first time I've taken the NCLEX-RN examination. Why is today a significant day? I just took my examination for the 2nd time, and the computer shut off at 75 questions instead of the 160 I had originally taken with the first exam. I'm unsure of whether or not I did well enough to pass at 75 or if I did horribly instead. For now, I can only hope for the best, but it's hard when the known statistic for second-time test takers actually passing is extremely low compared to first-time test takers. I'm currently awaiting my results in VA, which are only available on the board of nursing website, hoping to see the results that will enable me to do what I've wanted to do since grade school. To be a nurse! I hope that by changing my studying pattern and having the faith of my friends and family, that I have indeed reached that goal. My prayer goes out to those who not only need it but are also in the same stressful shoes as myself. Only time will tell...

15 hours later...and...I PASSED! How proud I am to say that I'm an RN

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so have you got your results yet? I really enjoyed reading your article!

Specializes in Home Health, Post-Opt Rehab, Med Surge.

Kudos! Myself and a good friend of mine felt the same way, we had both talked of taking boards the same day back in school days. The wk before she called me freaking about Diabetes, she couldnt remember the diff between the types. I fully went through and explained it and couldnt figure out why she was freaking out so bad. I found out the day before she had scheduled her exam an hr before mine, that was awsome to find out. Her exam was at 1 mine was at 2 on 7/14/2009. We met up afterwards and we both were mentally shot. We thought shopping at a local mall would help cheer us up, no where close. We were a nervous reck the next 2 days and couldnt leave our houses. I called her two days later to find out we had both passed. Moral of this: every GN goes through horrible anxiety the day before and day of ither the NCLEX PN or RN. They tell you to relax but come on, its a make or break thing. Who really is all calm n cool 48 hrs before boards?!

Specializes in interested in NICU!!.

welcome to allnurses!!

nice story, so did you pass?

You are right. Never give up. A lady in my class who was very smart didn't pass because her daughter ran away the night before. She was just stressed. Next time you go, do some relaxing therapy first.

Specializes in Telemetry.

mrsanderton2205: Thank you for the kudos!! I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I figured some could relate and others could see how it felt to sit through the Nclex-RN examination from one perspective-mine. It also feels soooo good writing to get emotions out. Sadly, but surely, I did not pass. I am waiting for the official papers to tell me so through mail. I'm only assuming because my license does not show up on the Board of Nursing website. :( Hopefully the 2nd time will be more successful (fingers crossed)

BlueEyesLPN: You are so right! No matter what you do, you're going to stress. I even got a massage the day before the examination, slept the entire day because it tired me out and as soon as exam day hit, my heart started beating out of my chest again. All we can do is strive to be great and hope for the best. Congrats to both of you for passing the first time!!! It's very stress-relieving and quite a wonderful accomplishment.

Chapis: Thank you for the welcoming words!! I definitely love this website and am sad I just recently found it!! I am still waiting for my results in the mail. I am to assume that I have NOT passed my first try :( Very disappointed but slowly picking myself off the floor and striving to achieve that RN title. I've wanted to do this since I was a little girl, so nothing will stop me from trying again. Let's just hope the 2nd time will be the last time lol Seeing people take the exam 4-6 times scares me a bit. :/

Hope4us: I absolutely love your screen-name. Hope and Faith, are my two favorite words. I cannot believe her daughter had the audacity to run away when her mother had such an important exam the next day!! I hope she passed the 2nd time. Relaxing therapy is definitely a great idea. I had a massage the day before but that still didn't help. My problem is being a bad test taker...I hope Kaplan classes can help with that.

Specializes in Telemetry.

Oh, to those of you out there who just graduated nursing school and are about to study for the NCLEX: I'd advise against the Kaplan online course and FOR the live-class instead. The online course is apparently mostly made up of comprehensive material whereas the live class focuses on the question/test taking aspect of the NCLEX examination.


I should clarify that this information is in accordance to what a Kaplan employee told me. Online is great for those of you looking for comprehensive material...all else, I would recommend live.

waterpaint:yeah:- your story was really heart felt, i am glad i found this website. i will be entering the nursing field next month. i understand state exams and i wanted to really arm myself by reading articles like yours so that i can get help that i need. i too am not a great multiple choice test taker. it is part how our brain processes writing. i read everything literally. i don't see the "tricks" to many questions.

in preparation for the nclex, i hope to begin a book on test questions for each nursing class. i will prepare to study the test for the entire time in nursing school. i am praying i will learn how to master test taking along with learning how to be a nurse. i am ordering the book "saunders strategies" and i will use an ati set i found on ebay. seems like i may be overdoing it, but, i was a middle school science teacher who took the state test 10 times, missed it by 1-3 points each time. thank god nclex does not have essays yet, i would get the same questions and write 2x as much and get a lower score. i would get 100 on several science categories. the human factor can really do you in. i won awards in private school and could write grants, but since va. had the highest praxis score in the nation, i passed my test in almost every state but the one i live in.

i feel va lost a really dedicated middle school teacher, it was their loss. not too may people that pass the test can "manage" a middle school classroom. thank you for your essay.

next time nursing!!

Specializes in Home Hlth, Psych, Nsg Hm, Plasma Med Sup.

A good way to figure out which review to take is to look at Amazon for the top rated books. The Saunders Review is by far the best-rated. There are even some reviews by those who passed in 75 questions even after failing miserably the first time (see below). The online review "courses" & materials are pretty much a scam (and even make you actually believe you can never pass :nono:), but you can use the internet to your advantage to see which review books are the best. I excerpted some reviews below.

The main thing is not to get sucked in by your own desperation and panic. Spending 5 years in school and then failing the exam is a terrible thing to go through. (I have NO affiliation with any publishing company.) Many nursing school students have used this book throughout nursing school to ace their tests in school and to help them focus on the important things that help you pass the NCLEX - when it's all said and done. What I did before I even enrolled in nursing school was to see how good I was at test taking, nursing style! I did well with most of the nursing board exam questions (as it was called back then) - and I had not even taken a single nursing class. If you think it's stressful taking the NCLEX all nice and isolated with a computer, think about what it was like to take the test in a roomful of GN's the size of a football field.

Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN



Specializes in Psychiatric Nurse.


i enjoyed your story but have do disagree with you on your description of kaplan. on my own, i paid for the kaplan online course. at the time, it was easier for me to study around my work schedule as i prepared for my nclex. after i was hired as an rn-applicant, my employer paid the fee for the full kaplan program (2 weeks in class, plus access to online services, etc.).

they are both the same. the only difference....in class, you have the opportunity to speak directly to your instructor if you need additional clarification as you review each content area. you don't have that ability with the online video instruction; however, i found the online speaker/instructor to be more informative. while in class, i noticed the in-class instructor was merely "reading," from a kaplan sheet which contained the same information that is heard on the online video!! each night that i left the kaplan classroom setting, i would go online to do the same group of questions that were covered in the classroom. low and behold...the exact same thing (same questions, same answer rationales)!!! i found that i just had more time to digest the information--at home, online...

keep in mind that if you attend the classroom program, it is the responsibility of the student to have read the material; prior to the start of class. most students don't do this because they are not aware of how the class will run. additionally, several people in my classroom program, were extremely upset to find that they had paid $499 just to sit in a classroom for 5-hours a night/4-nights a week, for two weeks....just to review questions...nothing else in done during the classroom program...it's all up to you to do this at home--on your own. furthermore, in the classroom, when you complete the initial kaplan diagnostic test on the first day of class, there is no review. this was very disappointing to me (and many others in the classroom). you must review on your own before/during class time with the answer booklet which has no rationales!!! at least with the online version, you can review your scores, review your rationales, understand where you made a mistake and move on to additional studying.

i am soo happy that my employer paid for the classroom program. even though i had already started the online videos, it was nice to attend the classes. it allowed me to compare the two options. due to boredom, i didn't attend all of the kaplan classes (i missed one class each week :crying2:), i found it easier to watch the videos, at home, at my own pace. on the first day of my kaplan classroom course there were about 20 people. by the last content review day there were only 10 students :bluecry1:; but on the final day, everyone showed up for the readiness test !!! :)

anyway, to those who may be interested in paying for kaplan, determine what study process works best for you.

  • classroom setting: there is no chapter review of kaplan course book content. there is "brief" course material information at the start of class (instructor identifies the content to be discussed for the night and gives some insight about the material). the in-class program only allows you to sit with other students for 5 hours day/4 days a week (for 2 weeks...but classes usually ended 1-2 hours early) as you "review" nclex style questions and go over rationales. you also have access to everything that is online (question trainers, qbank questions).
  • online only: the online option obviously omits the classroom setting but still gives you access to the same exact information that is covered in the classroom; however it includes a complete chapter-by-chapter content review on video, along with the question trainers and qbank questions).

...just my two cents about the kaplan review course (classroom vs online).... :twocents: :twocents:

as someone else stated, once you have the "delivery successful" notation in your account, i hope the pearsonvue trick works for you. :up:

Specializes in PICU.

dear waterpaint

intersting story.and strong personality:nono:never give up dear:clphnds:

iam sure you well do it one day.

best wishes 4 u

Specializes in Telemetry.

smn2009, I appreciate your two-cents. Everyone has their own opinions or personal stories about their nursing experience and yours was well appreciated. I'm sorry if you took offense to my opinion of the online course. I just haven't been as successful with it as you have. And in accordance to another Kaplan employee, she thought live would be more beneficial for a bad test taker like myself. Let's just hope that she's not JUST trying to get more money out of me.

I agree and disagree on what you said about the diagnostic test/review aspect of Kaplan's live course. I just had my diagnostic test yesterday and the "professor" didn't review the exam with us, just like you said. However, neither does the online course. I found that the online course wouldn't even allow me to review the questions and answers. Maybe my computer wasn't working? With the live course, we were able to read packets that had not only the right answers but also rationales. I wonder if they just started providing those to us. I'm thankful they did, because I also would've been angry if no rationales were provided after paying so-and-so dollars. I just hope that my classroom experience will be beneficial. I'm going to be heart-broken if I find that I just wasted money on the live course after already taking the online.

Sowinsis: I would recommend you get the Saunders comprehensive book if you would like to review nursing material throughout nursing school. They have wonderful pictures as well as a CD to enhance your knowledge. I also found that our professors pulled a lot of questions out of that book our senior year. Also Saunders Q&A and Exam Cram. Exam Cram is $30, and has the CAT style exam on a CD that will tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are (much the same way Kaplan does). Good luck with Nursing School! It will become your life