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Not the first, but the second...


Hi, I've been reading a lot of people's stories and comments on this site for awhile and figured I would play it forward and contribute my two cents; honest and from the heart. Hoping that maybe it will help and give some reader a little insight. So, here's my backstory and then I'll discuss the wrongs vs rights:

I graduated from nursing school in 12/2015. I was a good nursing student. Did well. Took the NCLEX the first time 1/2016. I didn't pass. It cut off for me at 127 questions. Barely any SATA, some math and med questions. I left the center feeling "too confident" and I realize why...because all the questions I was answering were not passing level/easy questions. When I found out I didn't pass, I was devastated. I didn't prepare for the NCLEX properly. I was listening to the voices that kept telling me, "if you passed nursing school, you're sure to pass the NCLEX".

I immediately paid to re-take the exam. Got my new approval from the state a month after taking the NCLEX the first time and my ATT a day later. So, I finally took the boards for the 2nd time 3/2016, it cut me off at 75 questions, got the "good pop-up" and finally became a RN! Okay...now for the wrongs and rights I did:


I did not study properly. I wasn't sure how to really prepare because I was listening to how everyone else prepared for the boards and not what worked for me. People learn and study differently. Someone gave me Hurst content workbook (helpful, but think would be more useful if you take their course, which I didn't because I simply couldn't afford), I bought the NCLEX RN Mastery app (waste of time, explain later...) and ATI RN Mentor app (waste of time, explain later...). Now, with all these tools at hand, first mistake: i didn't have a study schedule. I just studied when I could, especially since I was working as well which made it difficult to concentrate and focus on other things. Now, the NCLEX Mastery app did NOT work for me. It's great content review while you're in school, but as we know, NCLEX is about using your critical thinking skills and they say the questions on the app are "passing level" questions....I don't think so. I did all 1800+ questions on there and it didn't help me at all my first time (my opinion). The ATI app, those questions just kept repeating themselves and no help at all. On top of that, I was continuously distracted with social media, life and dating (if you can call it that). Definitely NOT prepared the way I should've been.


Now, after a fellow nursing school friend (who passed on her first attempt) stop me from stepping off the ledge, I decided to take a deep breath and reboot. I got rid of all the study tools from the first time and took another approach. First, I developed a study schedule. I would study for 3 hours EACH morning (with coffee and breakfast) in complete silence...no distractions. After those 3 hours, put it away and go about my day. No Hurst or crappy apps (except one...explain later). I bought the Saunders comprehensive book (6th edition) to first review the content (5 chapters a day, 70-something total and ONLY made notes on material that didn't stick well and skimmed through chapters I knew like the back of my hand). I also bought the Saunders Q & A book (6th edition)...didn't use it though...didn't need it...will explain later. So, after a good review of content and some notes already established, it was time for practice questions. I purchased the 2 month pass for Kaplan Qbanks (total of 1,479 questions) and also got the Kaplan Qbank app for my phone (useful for when you're relaxing to do 5-10 during commercials if you're watching TV or watching to get your tire replaced at Tire Kingdom....you know, just to keep the skills sharp!)

My friend bought me the Kaplan Premier book and I also got the Prioritization book (DEF recommend!!! TRUST!) So, for six weeks, I would start with Saunders, Premier book, prioritization book then questions. Now, I didn't start doing questions until AFTER I completed my content review, then I put the content books away and just did question after question from Kaplan Qbanks and Prioritization (just questions, not case studies). I did that, everyday, 3 hours a day, for six weeks.

No social media, no distractions, nothing!! I literally isolated myself and got focused. I did go running throughout the week (exercise is good for blood flow to the brain).

*When I would do the Qbanks, I would always, always read the rationales and if I got certain ones wrong, I would find out why I got them wrong, make notes and continue on (my notes started looking like school all over again). Now, the Qbanks are tough, passing level questions you WILL see on the NCLEX! These questions REALLY make you think, but just remember, the more you practice them, the less hard they seem because you're really starting to read the question, determine if it's assess or implementation, what's priority and what patient gets assigned who (definitely, if you can get your hands on it, read Kaplan Premier. Not expensive (Amazon) and VERY helpful in instructing on how to pick apart tough questions. My scores on the Qbanks ranged from mid 50's to high 60's. Towards the end, I started noticing a lot more green checks in a row and spaced out red ones (which is GOOD especially for the NCLEX).

I didn't study the day before the exam. I just reviewed my notes I made for the six weeks of preparing. The day of, my exam was at 1pm. I had a good breakfast, cup of coffee, relaxed and skimmed my notes casually. I have HORRIBLE test anxiety. The first time, I was shaking and scared and definitely didn't take my time to read the questions like I should've. And when I went pass 75, I freaked, things got blurry and was not focused and didn't utilize my break (don't do that). When it cut off, I thought I did good (yeah, cause I was answering easy questions...which is not good). This time, my anxiety was gone. I was confident and felt great! My nerves were in check! I sat down at that computer, read each question slowly, read each answer, thought about question and answer and made the best choice. This time, had A LOT of SATA, priorization, no meds and math questions. One and a half hours into the exam I was at question 75, I answered the question and then......BLUE screen. It was over.

Now, this time, even though it cut off at 75, I did leave feeling I failed ONLY because now I was dealing with difficult questions this time and a lot of SATA, not cake questions. I felt good that I answered each question to the best of my ability, but that feeling of "I failed" I think stems from answering tough-ass questions (which is GOOD!)

So, I left the site, put gas in my car, went and got some of the best calm chowder (New England style) and went home to exhale. Yes, I did do the PVT trick 5 times over the course of two days and got the "good pop-up". Things were looking good. I was confident that I passed (and I DID!)

So, like I said earlier, people learn and study differently. The one way someone retains information may be different from others. I get that, but this is my story. How I got through a tough exam to continue in the profession that is my calling. If anything I've shared can help someone out there, that's great. I sincerely hope it does. Just remember this: if you happen not to pass the first time, do NOT stop, especially if this professional is what you really want to do. Just pick yourself up and get back in the race! You might have to make some adjustments and changes here and there, but in the long run, it's worth it and you just might come out victorious!