Prepping for NCLEX - Don't let your anxiety kill you!

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by RNsRWe RNsRWe, ASN, RN (Member)

How you mentally prepare for the NCLEX will in large part determine how well you do: are you going in determined to calmly pass, secure in the knowledge you followed a sound course of study in preparation.....or are you determined to "freak out" and create a frame of mind that is your own worst enemy?

What's a common reason for failing NCLEX?

Prepping for NCLEX - Don't let your anxiety kill you!

I swear if I read one more "I'm freaking out" post, I may indeed explode myself.

People, you can DO this. The NCLEX (RN or PN) is a minimum-competency exam. It is an important exam, absolutely true, but SO WERE all those final exams you took in school! They were ALL important, and you PASSED THEM ALL!

If you hadn't passed nursing school, you wouldn't be facing the NCLEX now. So right there, you have an edge. Those of you who completed your education in a US nursing program have an approximately 85% chance of passing the NCLEX on your first attempt. The percentage varies quarter by quarter, but it's always a little above, a little below. It's a GOOD number.

Why do US educated applicants NOT pass the NCLEX on their first attempt? Several reasons: some graduated from schools that have just lost (or are about to lose) their accreditation because their program is abysmal: their passing rate is poor. For those students, it is especially important to find a quality review course and preparation for the exam cannot be underestimated. While students who DO have a solid nursing education behind them typically don't require nearly as much prep work, those who have this hanging over them will have to work extra-hard.

If you graduated from a program with a high pass rate, don't sit back and count on it and do nothing to prepare, but know that YOU, TOO, are likely to become part of that passing success story ?

What's another reason for failing on a first attempt? It is possible to be overly confident. Having been a good student at a good school gives you a definite edge. It does not, however, guarantee success. There are certainly students who have reported rolling out of bed, grabbing a donut on the way to the testing center, and snapping out a passing exam in a half hour, 75 questions. Those people, folks, are the exception and not the rule. Having graduated from a good program, you DO have all the knowledge you need in order to pass. But passing the NCLEX requires one to be able to demonstrate the ability to APPLY that knowledge....and that's where some stumble. This is not a "freak out" warning, this is just a word of caution, a bit of good advice to review your prep materials in such a way that you understand not only why A+B=C, but what to do if A is not available and you have to go with B+D....will you know what that outcome is? And what to do if (while you know A=B=C) the end result turns out to be ? what's your next move?

Do not freak out. Think. What did your nursing program teach you, what did your clinical experiences teach you about what to do when things aren't exactly as you expected? What's the "out of the box" option? That may be what you have to go with ?

And finally, what's a big reason for an NCLEX failure that is unexpected? Anxiety. I'm not talking about people who consistently report "I'm a bad test taker"....you CANNOT be "a bad test taker" and still have graduated from nursing school. You could be someone who doesn't do as well on an exam as expected because of anxiety, however you cannot be someone who FAILS exams because of anxiety. If this were true, you would have failed out of nursing school. Don't use this as a crutch.

So what to do when anxiety is gripping you? Breathe. Take a break. Relaxation exercises work for many; distraction activities (stretching, walking, running, YouTube indulgence) works for others. Find your Happy Place. If you allow the NCLEX to become so built up in your mind that the thought of it cripples you, panics you, how on earth is that going to help you? It isn't. You are BETTER than that....treat anxiety like a headache that requires some action to dissipate it (meds if you got 'em, distraction /meditation if you don't).

"Freaking out" has never worked for anyone, not once, and I've been following the NCLEX game a long time. Trust me. Calmly approaching a study plan, following a sound study plan, giving yourself time to rest and decompress DO WORK to prepare you for a successful test day. "Freaking out"...not so much.

Be good to yourselves. Give yourself time to study, but also take time to relax. You CAN study too much, you CAN overwork your brain. You don't have to. You've got this ?

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9 Comment(s)

OrganizedChaos, LVN

Specializes in M/S, LTC, Corrections, PDN & drug rehab. Has 10 years experience. 1 Article; 6,883 Posts

I don't know why people freak out over the NCLEX, it's just another test. Did the people freaking out over the NCLEX have major anxiety over every test in nursing school? If so, how did they make it so far? But I doubt it.

Everyone just needs to look at the NCLEX as just a test. Is it important? Yes. But every test leading up to it was as well. What happened if you failed a test in nursing school (you respective school's averages can only go down so low then you are booted from the program). I would much rather fail the NCLEX than fail a test in nursing school (then have to reapply if I was dropped).

RNsRWe, ASN, RN

4 Articles; 10,428 Posts

I understand the feeling over overwhelm that cocoons people when they begin to prepare for the exam. I really do, it's not hard to see how people can get to that anxiety-gripped status. It is one exam that determines whether or not one will become a nurse.

Thing is, if a candidate has gotten to that point, they ARE able to pass nursing school exams....they DID override that anxiety already.

People, the bottom line is to not give the NCLEX any more power over you than any other test you have taken up until this point! It is a test...you've passed tests. You can pass this one, too :)

OrganizedChaos, LVN

Specializes in M/S, LTC, Corrections, PDN & drug rehab. Has 10 years experience. 1 Article; 6,883 Posts

RNsRWe said:
I understand the feeling over overwhelm that cocoons people when they begin to prepare for the exam. I really do, it's not hard to see how people can get to that anxiety-gripped status. It is one exam that determines whether or not one will become a nurse.

Thing is, if a candidate has gotten to that point, they ARE able to pass nursing school exams....they DID override that anxiety already.

People, the bottom line is to not give the NCLEX any more power over you than any other test you have taken up until this point! It is a test...you've passed tests. You can pass this one, too ?

I get the nervousness of taking the NCLEX, but depending on their state BONs rules either unlimited attempts or at least 3 & they get the CPR after the exam (when they don't pass). I think tests in nursing school are worse. You get one chance & no CPR. :p

But I 150% agree! If you passed nursing school, you can pass the NCLEX. Don't let the NCLEX control you, you control the NCLEX!

nurseprnRN

nurseprnRN, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 5,114 Posts

RNsRWe and I have been on the same page about this for ages. Whether it's clinical, nursing school in general, starting a new job, or NCLEX, freaking out has no place in any part of your professional life at all. Stop.

Post NCLEX Nerves

https://allnurses.com/post-nclex-nerves-t577136/

And what does freaking out and being afraid do for ya? Nothing, that's what. ;)

Go for a nice bath, walk on the beach, take a hike in the woods, go to an amusement park and scream your brains out on the Cyclone. Time will pass.

Incredibly Scared

https://allnurses.com/nclex-discussion-forum/incredibly-scared-932345.html

Being "scared to death" or "terrified" is not a functional way to go through life. It will serve you especially poorly in your first year of practice. Telling yourself you're terrified / scared to death / panic-stricken is something we hear all the time here, but is a poor message to give yourself. Lose those words and their cousins pronto; banish them from your vocabulary and they will never bother you again.

Lose the word "terrified" from your self-descriptive vocabulary. I mean it. Never use it again, and if you feel it coming on, immediately replace it with the word "challenged" or "excited!" Challenges you can rise to and meet, but terror is a paralytic. This is an exciting time! Embrace it! Your faculty says you're ready!

"I am so excited to finally be taking my licensure examination! Whooeee!"

There now, doesn't that feel better? Doesn't your brain like that better?

baguiorn

baguiorn

9 Posts

Going to take the NCLEX in 6days. I'm very anxious and I don't know what to expect. It will be my first attempt after being off the nursing track for 5years. Wish me luck!!!

RNsRWe, ASN, RN

4 Articles; 10,428 Posts

baguiorn said:
Going to take the NCLEX in 6days. I'm very anxious and I don't know what to expect. It will be my first attempt after being off the nursing track for 5years. Wish me luck!!!

Good luck! :D

A certain level of anxiety is normal, and expected. Self-paralyzing anxiety will only hurt you, it never helps. Keep things in perspective: it's a test. ONE test. One that you will be well-prepared for (yes?). It is not a gun to your head, it is an exam. You have done countless exams and practice tests by now.....take it JUST as one more practice exam. And remember to breathe ?

baguiorn

baguiorn

9 Posts

Will do. Thank you

Canucks

Canucks

23 Posts

Great advice op. What's the best way to create an efficient study plan? I tried making one with myself but I'm such a slow reader that I find it challenging to follow through my schedule. Sometimes, it takes me several days to finish one system.

RNsRWe, ASN, RN

4 Articles; 10,428 Posts

Canucks said:
Great advice op. What's the best way to create an efficient study plan? I tried making one with myself but I'm such a slow reader that I find it challenging to follow through my schedule. Sometimes, it takes me several days to finish one system.

Much depends on the kind of nursing program you had (good, well-prepared? poor, need to learn on your own?). After that, knowing your own personal weaknesses is important. For instance, if you're someone who has the content down pat, you can regurgitate formulas and labs and courses of treatment and dx, s/s, then focus on a review that requires you to apply the knowledge correctly in order to pass the exam. Programs like Kaplan assume you know the content, and make you work on application. You must be able to demonstrate competency in USING what you know for NCLEX. Now, if you're someone who is fuzzy on s/s, fuzzy on treatments, fuzzy on labs and how they relate to the issue at hand....focus on a content-heavy review program (ie: Hurst). There are several good ones, that's just one.

Lastly, what kind of student are you, what way do you learn best? For some, 1:1 in front of a computer answering questions is perfect. For others, sitting in a classroom with others helps focus in on details. For yet others, an online course (video lessons) is the thing to do.

Good luck!!