Three Things Everyone Should Know About the NCLEX

  1. The NCLEX causes many nursing students and new nurse graduates a great deal of anxiety and frustration. They are eager to hear about the experiences of others, and will seek out stories, tips and advice provided by NCLEX veterans. Unfortunately, there is a lot of really unhelpful data floating around that may confuse or even distract test-takers from focusing on the most important components of the exam.

    Three Things Everyone Should Know About the NCLEX

    To help prevent distraction from the many urban legends and individual horror stories that are only adding to increased test-anxiety, I have created a list of the 3 things everyone should know about the NCLEX.

    #1 - The NCLEX is all about challenging CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS

    The NCLEX is designed to challenge one's ability to critically think through information provided to make safe and sound judgments about patient care. If you are a student that focuses primarily on memorizing every drug, every nursing intervention, and every disease process, then you may miss the mark. However, if you are a student that can identify potential and actual risks for patient harm, can analyze trends in lab values and vital signs, and can plan to intervene when you recognize something as abnormal, then you are likely to pass on the first attempt. Utilizing a systematic approach to reading the question, analyzing the answer choices, and eliminating incorrect answers requires advanced critical thinking skills. The NCLEX does not care what your GPA in nursing school was, nor does it discriminate against those who cannot remember everything there is to know about pharmacokinetics. The NCLEX only cares about one's ability to carefully decipher what the questions are asking, so that the correct answer choice can be selected. Since the exam is written at the application and analysis level, it challenges test-takers to master the level of critical thinking which is necessary for delivering safe and effective patient care.

    #2 - The questions within the NCLEX are leveled and will continue to get harder as you answer them correctly

    The NCLEX is a computerized adaptive test (CAT), which means that the computer chooses the difficulty level of each question based on your previous answer choices. You must remain above the passing threshold in order to successfully pass the NCLEX. Therefore if you feel that the questions in the exam are getting easier as you are going along, you should STOP, take a deep breath and focus because you are probably not doing well. The exam questions should feel challenging from beginning to end. The first question of the exam is leveled right at the passing line, and if you answer it correctly, then the next question will be more challenging. You should also pay attention to the types of questions you are getting in a row. For example, if you get four or five priority questions in a row, you should slow down and consider your answer choices more carefully. The CAT exam offers multiple chances to improve your score before it decides whether you have or have not met the passing threshold. Remember that the harder the questions get, the better you are doing - so be sure to take your time and apply learned NCLEX test-taking strategy for every single question.

    #3 - You do not have to remember everything from nursing school in order to pass the NCLEX

    If I told you that I remembered every medication, every disease process, and every nursing diagnosis when I sat for my NCLEX-RN licensure exam, I would be telling a very big lie. The beautiful truth is that you do not need to solely rely on memorization and recall to correctly answer NCLEX questions. However, you must be comfortable in your knowledge of the basic components of nursing, especially when it's concerning the focus areas of: prioritization, delegation, therapeutic communication, medication administration, nursing scope of practice, safety, and the nursing process.

    By fully understanding these complex nursing roles and responsibilities, you will find that answering the NCLEX questions becomes a bit easier. Be sure to explore these nursing-centric roles, as the licensure exam tests heavily in these areas of knowledge. Remember that the NCLEX is only concerned with what YOU the NURSE will do. They do not care about doctors, respiratory therapy, or the pharmacist - They want to know that YOU THE NURSE are able to act and respond in a safe and therapeutic manner.

    I hope that you find these three things about the NCLEX helpful and reassuring so that YOU can master test-taking strategies for NCLEX SUCCESS!

    *If you want to share advice about mastering strategies for NCLEX SUCCESS, please contribute to this discussion by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below!
    Best Wishes!

    -Damion
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    About Damion Jenkins, ADN, MSN

    Hi! I am Damion - a Registered Nurse, Educator, Tutor and Writer! I am the owner and operator of TheNurseSpeak.com - a nursing education and consulting company & blog. I love to help nursing students, new graduates and nursing professionals alike to develop strategies for success!

    Joined: Nov '17; Posts: 49; Likes: 103
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    5 Comments

  3. by   Chrispy11
    Hello Damion! I always enjoy your posts. I just took the NCLEX back in June. What you said is true. Nerve wracking. About a third of mine was SATA. It shut off after 75. I remember my professor and prep class instructor saying everyone walks out having no idea how they did. They weren't kidding. Thankfully I passed. I was happy to put that whole experience in my rearview mirror.
  4. by   tnbutterfly
    Quote from Chrispy11
    Hello Damion! I always enjoy your posts. I just took the NCLEX back in June. What you said is true. Nerve wracking. About a third of mine was SATA. It shut off after 75. I remember my professor and prep class instructor saying everyone walks out having no idea how they did. They weren't kidding. Thankfully I passed. I was happy to put that whole experience in my rearview mirror.
    Congratulations!!
  5. by   Dragonnurse1
    I was in the last group of the pencil and paper testers. 2 days 4 sections and 6 weeks of waiting. So sure I failed. The results always came on a Saturday. Opened the envelope and sat crying on bed in total relief as I had passed. Those taking the test today are lucky.
  6. by   rzyzzy
    Quote from Dragonnurse1
    I was in the last group of the pencil and paper testers. 2 days 4 sections and 6 weeks of waiting. So sure I failed. The results always came on a Saturday. Opened the envelope and sat crying on bed in total relief as I had passed. Those taking the test today are lucky.
    I understand the sentiment, but if you read between the lines of the article, one who does "great" on the nclex and answers the "passing level" questions correctly gets rewarded with harder questions that they aren't likely to know the answers to. This isn't unlike getting grilled by the grumpy nurse about things you haven't been taught (yet) at Clinicals. After passing the nclex you walk out feeling three inches tall. The quicker results are just like someone giving you a donut and a coffee after waterboarding you for a couple hours. Ummm...thanks?
  7. by   Damion Jenkins
    Thank you Chrispy11 for sharing your experience and for adding to this discussion! I appreciate your kind words!

    Best,

    Damion

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