Passed on the 3rd Try - Tips to Pass NCLEX-RN (On a Budget Too)

I wrote this in hopes that I could help someone out there who is struggling to pass NCLEX-RN (knowledge-related and financially-related). It can be done. Read on and see what tips I can possibly pass on to you! Nursing Students NCLEX HowTo


Passed on the 3rd Try - Tips to Pass NCLEX-RN (On a Budget Too)

Long time lurker of the forums here! I have to thank this website for its support when I needed it. This is a long post so get comfortable. :coffee:

Here's a little bit about myself. I graduated ADN on May, 2015 at an accredited community college. I was never an A student in Nursing School. In fact, I was consistently a C student. Nursing school was overwhelming and I was not used to anything like it (and also I feel like I have some undiagnosed attention deficit, which hindered my focus to study), but thankfully I did manage to pass. The college I went to was known in our city for its high passing rate, so I knew the school was doing something right. The hospitals in the city are receptive of newgrads from our school, too.

First attempt - I relied on the fact that we had a high passing rate and relied solely on the fact that I passed nursing school. Big mistake. I realized that the high passing rate was because the majority applied themselves. The knowledge, obviously, don't come from statistics; it was the other way around. I was very much lacking on my nursing knowledge and critical thinking skills. I failed at 75 questions. Below Passing level on all but one section.

Second attempt - well I work as a server at a restaurant 5 days a week, which means no time to study. I was just completely drained every day after work. So I asked for 1 week off so that I could focus on NCLEX, in which the management was luckily supportive. The problem is, now that I got my 1 week off, I still had distractions at home. Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of studying done. Also, basing from my first performance, I didn't use my time properly on each question. My plan this time was to take my time, thinking I was gonna get 100 question tops. Nope. It kept going. It kept going until I ran out of time at around Question #220. I also didn't bring snacks in the Testing Center because I thought it wasn't allowed, but I got soo hungry (I mean I was getting fatigued while my stomach was just in pain) that I was just clicking answers so that I'd just finish. I didn't care anymore. Failed at around 220, with all sections Below Passing level (I actually did worse on my 2nd attempt apparently).

Third attempt - I asked for another week off. This time, I got distractions out of the way (blocked addicting apps, got away from family). We had a family friend that worked at a hotel that got us in for just $25 a night, so that I can have undisturbed NCLEX review for a week. I tried to pinpoint all of my weaknesses (slow test taker, lacking content) and planned an attack to tackle NCLEX. I took my exam, preparing to take the whole 265 questions, but after I think Question #189, less than 4.5 hours in, the screen (and my dreams) just flashed before my eyes. I walked out of there feeling like I failed. To give me some kind of confirmation (although not completely 100% accurate) I did the PVT after an hour and it gave me the good popup. I did it again after 24 hours with no change. I paid for Quick Results and got that elusive PASS - in my Unofficial Results. I drove by the church just now (it was closed) to say a little prayer of gratitude to my higher being for guiding me and giving me the stamina and the knowledge to pass this exam.

How To Study For The NCLEX RN

STEP 1 Do a bunch of NCLEX-style questions

This is a biggie! I kept telling myself, Well, I can't do the questions because I have a weak knowledge-base. That was the wrong way of thinking. The questions, when they have good rationales, become the knowledge-base. I'd remember them because I got them wrong. I also had a little notepad where I wrote a summary of the rationales to read them later, because you don't want to get it wrong again when you come across it again. Also, doing these types of questions gets you used to answering critically, especially on questions you are unsure of.

A big point I want to make: NCLEX is more on figuring out how to answer a critical thinking question. There's a pattern of some sort. You can do that by doing a bunch of critical-thinking questions.

What did I use for questions? I had NCLEX Mastery RN on my Android phone, where I can do questions on the go. I honestly think their questions were a bit easier than the NCLEX, but the knowledge I gained was vital to me passing. For easy questions, I actually would get discouraged with doing the questions because I'd consistently get them wrong in some instances, but the more questions I did, the more things connected and made sense. I ended up doing 1,300 questions on this app. Also, I got this app on sale for $15 (regularly $30, which is still the cheapest) during Nurse's Week (last year), but I heard rave reviews about UWorld NCLEX QBanks, but it was also $59 per month so I stuck with NCLEX Mastery. Kaplan's QBanks would probably get you ready the best as far as tackling questions.

STEP 2 Use Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment - LaCharity and friends

Great book! I actually took this book for granted, but looking back, this was an essential tool. I honestly think I had 25-30% Prioritization questions. I wished I had done more questions from here, because I got a lot of Which client do you go to first - questions. Perhaps it was my weak point, so they were throwing a lot of these questions my way. Someone on here said that getting 70% on each section would be enough to pass, and I think that's pretty accurate.

I had the 2nd Edition (which was similar to my friend's 3rd edition). I got it at a Nursing Garage Sale for around $15.

STEP 3 There is a review floating around on the internet

This review that I found here saved my butt on a few questions. I got a lot of questions about proper isolation precautions for certain conditions (As much as Prioritization I think). My Chicken Hez TB - for Airborne Precautions for example. The hard part was finding and changing all the brand names with generics because it's only generics in the exam (BTW, I didn't focus too much on the drugs, and I didn't get too many Pharm-related questions). I'd focus on the different conditions, basic pathophysiology, S&S, basics of the treatment and drugs or drug families involved, perhaps any contraindications, etc. Really thankful for the person who created it!

STEP 4 Kaplan Question Trainers

Okay, so you might've been doing a bunch of questions, but when can you kind-of tell you're ready? Kaplan has great questions. They have hard questions for a reason - to help think critically. If you have no basis of NCLEX-style questions, I'd suggest doing either Question Trainer 4 or 5 first (or even start at QTrainer 1 if you have time), see if you can get a 60% or above, then move up.

Question Trainers 6 and 7 are the most valuable ones (They say that these are the most like the NCLEX, and I somewhat agree). I took it just how the test would've been taken - timed, no notes, no cheating, one question at a time (using Flashcard mode and not flipping it), and not going back after clicking Next, and I wrote my answers on paper. I told myself if I get good results on these two (Kaplan aims for 60% for these exams) then I am ready. I got 65% (calculated manually) on QTrainer 6 but after a few more questions and reviewing, I got a 54% on QTrainer 7, which somewhat discouraged me but I didn't move my test date, just did more questions, and tried to think positively.

STEP 5 Flashcards

I groaned when I told myself I have to use flash cards. It really helped me when it came to Labs (Although I only got a few lab questions. Anything that would help get you more right than wrong, right?) I knew there were some people that did Flashcards for meds too, but I didn't bother with that. I got index cards on sale at Walmart for $1.

STEP 6 Join forums that frequently put out NCLEX questions

AllNurses is a great start! On Facebook, I was a member of both the NCLEX Mastery RN Group and the UWorold Group (It's a closed group, but request to be added and they'll gladly do it). NCLEX Mastery RN group put out questions from their app, while the more engaged UWorld group had members that would challenge others with their NCLEX questions from various sources. Honestly, the UWorld group, with their close-knit, supportive community, helped me pass NCLEX. When I felt bored and want to use Facebook, seeing the sample questions sets me up for the challenge, unconsciously redirecting me back into NCLEX Mode. FREE SAMPLE NCLEX questions! (Maybe don't use this if you use Facebook too much)

STEP 7 Reminders, Perspectives and Tips for Success on the NCLEX

This 3-page guide I got from a friend for FREE. It taught me something that I never came across that came in handy just in the right time, namely pain is not a priority BUT with exceptions..., among others. It's packed with little tips that helped me along the way.

STEP 8 Honorable Mention: Hurst Review

This was helpful to me to an extent. It helped me with fluid and electrolytes, the difference between DI and SIADH, and a bunch of little random stuff. It simplified some concepts but the stuff here is just basic. I was lucky to have Nursing friends who let me use their account to watch the videos and let me print out their workbook (and got them food or coffee in return) so it's possible to get it FREE. You could also possibly ask them for their used workbook if they're done with it (the fill-in-the-blank stuff didn't really help me retain all that much anyways, and plus they've done the work for you).

So the potential MINIMUM TOTAL you'd spend for this NCLEX Review is ~$31. (This is no guarantee that you'll pass, by the way, but it has worked for me – a C student with focus problems and a weak content-base).

Now For Some Tips:

TIP: Know and work on your weak areas. When you find them, figure out a way to learn them. For example, I know my weakness is Med-Surg. It was just a vast amount of information. When I'd get a question wrong frequently on, say, pancreatitis, I'd have to tell myself that I really have no idea what pancreatitis is. Since I'm more of a visual learner, I'd look it up on YouTube to see if there is a video on the basics of pancreatitis (pathophysiology, what causes it, S&S, treatment and pharmacology, etc.) If there are no videos, usually Googling and searching for answers works too. Don't let your weaknesses get you down; overcome them.

TIP: Get distractions out of the way. If you have to take days off, take them. If there are distractions at home, get out of there as much as possible. If you have the chance of getting a hotel like me then go for it, or go to a library/24-hour coffee shop with headphones and study there. If you get distracted by certain websites, block them (I use Strict Workflow on Google Chrome. Just put there which websites distract you and set how long you want it blocked). If you get distracted by certain phone apps, uninstall them or block them (I use AppBlock on my Android phone). Don't forget to take a breather PRN.

TIP: Prepare for the worst. Prepare to take the whole 265 questions in 6 hours (That's a quarter of a day). For a 265 question exam, it would take about 1.5 minutes per question (around 44 questions an hour). If you're a slow test taker like me, time management is crucial – if you're not doing at least 44 questions in the first hour, you're lagging behind. Also, there's a tutorial that takes away from the 6 hours. Look over it but don't take too much time on it. It will NOT be graded.

Also, bring brain food, or your favorite comfort food (that's easy to put in a locker for hours) and your favorite drink (that won't get you too jittery/tired), just in the case that you end up being there for a while.

TIP: Find your motivation. You have to ask yourself why you are studying for the NCLEX? Do you finally want a stable job that can be also rewarding? Did you want to prove something of yourself? Are you doing this for someone? You have to find what it is that made you want to become a nurse in the first place. You have to want it. Think about this when you're feeling unmotivated to study. Push yourself, or have someone do it for you.

TIP: Have a good breakfast. Even when you're not hungry, have something. Nothing too sugary. Have a bit of coffee too to wake yourself up and get ready for the exam.

TIP: Do all that you can to be comfortable in the exam. Dress in a way that's not constricting and wouldn't bother you while you're taking a potentially long exam. The testing site gave me earplugs to use to block out sounds, so I used those. Get comfortable in your chair. Put the writing utensil and the writing sheet on the side of your dominant hand. Get settled and do some stretches before you start that timer. If your heart is pumping, do the Valsalva maneuver (exhaling through the mouth with pursed lips while bearing down).

TIP: Take your breaks (time permitting). You get breaks in 2 hours of testing and approx. 5 hours of testing. Take your break when you're around Question #88 in two hours (if you pass #75). Take a breather, go to the restroom, have a snack, etc.

really just wanted this out of my chest in hopes of helping someone out there who has lost hope and thinks they're not cut out to be a nurse. Believe me, I've been there - I've felt like a failure, I felt like I let everybody down and that I've wasted their time. I even got to a point where I was thinking of a Plan B if this Nursing thing wasn't gonna work. You just have to think that it's okay to prioritize yourself. Don't give up. I keep telling myself that there are just those who take longer to get to the top of the mountain; as long as I get there is what matters.

Message me and I'll try to help out as much as I can!

Thanks for reading! wave.gif.f76ccbc7287c56e63c3d7e6d800ab6c

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Specializes in School Nurse and PRN.


I test on 5/25 and I'm SO ANXIOUS!

Congrats on passing your exam! ?

How could I have access to the review floating around him that you mentioned?

Hi! Congratulations on passing! And thank you for sharing your story and tips! I'd like to ask for something like, how long did you study/review before you took your test? And if you followed a study guide, perhaps that's what I need. How much time in everyday you give to accomplished all the materials/resources you used? Would be taking mine again very soon.

Ackeem said:

Thank you very much! AllNurses was a community I looked into for when I had questions and doubts. ?

SWimbish said:

I test on 5/25 and I'm SO ANXIOUS!

Thanks! ?

Seize it! It's definitely not impossible! The best of luck! ?

Micy said:
Hi! Congratulations on passing! And thank you for sharing your story and tips! I'd like to ask for something like, how long did you study/review before you took your test? And if you followed a study guide, perhaps that's what I need. How much time in everyday you give to accomplished all the materials/resources you used? Would be taking mine again very soon.

Thank you very much! And I am more than happy to help out those who could possibly need my help! ?

I took around a week to review for this last exam. But if you'd like to count the second time I studied I estimate it to 2-3 weeks total. In NCLEX Mastery, I've done around 1,300 of their questions. Since I had a lot of time at the hotel for my third attempt, I probably studied 6-10 hours a day total (intermittently of course).

The best of luck to you! I didn't think it was doable, but with enough effort it can be! ?

To kaleidoscope27:

It seems like you're a very smart person and very much well put-together than me (I mean, it only took three tries for me to get myself together). You seem to be well on your way to passing NCLEX. I do recommend that the questions you're doing are NCLEX questions because those are questions that one needs to be used to in order to do NCLEX.

I'd say for my third try, I studied for one week. But it was a long one week.

I see a lot of great things about UWorld, so definitely use it as much as you can!

Best of luck to you! ?

Congrats!! I'll definitely keep your guide in mind when it's time for me to take it ?

What about ATI in comparison to NCLEX? I hear all these things about Kaplan but our school chose to use ATI for our prep. I hear different opinions... Kaplan vs ATI... which one is closest, Anyone know?

mrswrn22 said:
What about ATI in comparison to NCLEX? I hear all these things about Kaplan but our school chose to use ATI for our prep. I hear different opinions... Kaplan vs ATI... which one is closest, Anyone know?

I can't say for sure, but we used ATI in school. I knew someone in my class who strictly used the ATI Learning System RN (I think that's what it's called) to study and passed the first time. She did almost all the Pretest and Post-test material for each section. Good luck! ?