I graduated with my BSN June 16th, 2017 with a 3.5GPA. I wasn't the greatest student, I worked throughout my entire program as a pharmacy tech, and didn't necessarily apply myself as much as I should have.
My program utilized Kaplan and we were the first cohort since switching from ATI. We had weekly Q-bank quizzes that really were a waste of time, because the importance of training and practicing how to take NCLEX style questions wasn't really enforced. So, essentially, my NCLEX prep started at the Kaplan Live Review which lasted for a few days. Beware: this is NOT a content review. This is strictly question after question, teaching you tools and strategies to answer NCLEX questions. The techniques they teach you definitely take some getting used to, such as the decision tree, but if you stick with it, you start to understand and apply it to more questions.
Personally, I felt I needed more help with content than I was provided throughout my BSN program. We didn't have maternity or psych rotations, and I lacked a lot of basic knowledge in those types of areas. So, I purchased the online HURST content review. It was $350 and in my opinion, well worth it. I gained so much knowledge that I somehow didn't pick up in school. The delivery of content is what helped me the most - they have southern accents and present the material in a very easy to understand way and they make it enjoyable. Hurst has 4 tests of 125 questions. They recommend 77/125. I got 75, 62, 77, and 80. I did not feel HURST questions were up to the level of Kaplan. I continued doing their question flashcards, but didn't complete them all.
I completed ALL Kaplan q-bank questions (+1600) with an average score of 56%. The best piece of advice I can give about Kaplan is to trust their system and be consistent with doing questions. I started out doing 50 question sets at a time, and gradually built myself up to 75 question sets. I would do 2 per day. I remediated every answer, and wrote rationales down for incorrect answers and kept them in a binder. By my testing date, I had over 40 pages of notes that I would skim through every few days. My trainers were not excellent, some not even good. I liked these, because they really began to build my stamina for answering questions. They are as follows:
Trainer 1- 64%
Trainer 2 - 63%
Trainer 3 - 45%
Trainer 4 - 56%
Trainer 5 - 51%
Trainer 6 - 62%
Trainer 7 - 59%
NCLEX 1 - 54%
NCLEX 2 - 66%
NCLEX 3 (Priorities) - 73%
NCLEX 4 (ALL SATA) - 30%
Diagnostic - 55%
Readiness - 60%
Additionally, I used Priority, Delegation, and Assignment by LaCharity. I liked this book, but didn't love it. I liked questions about LPN/LVN because we don't have those in the hospital where I work, so it was useful to think about what can be delegated to them. I completed about 3/4 of the chapters and didn't do any of the case studies.
There is a huge study guide that was created from users on Allnurses that I utilized. There was some pretty good information on it about precautions, different pneumonic devices to remember information, and great tips about positioning, amongst other things. Get your hands on that, it was nice to have a hard copy with my study materials, but I also kept it on my iPad as well.
I took one week off after graduation and went on vacation. I studied for about one month exactly. I did HURST the first week entirely. Watched all of the lectures and filled in my workbook. Didn't do any Kaplan. I did utilize the q-banks from HURST. After the first week, I threw myself into Kaplan and followed it to a T! I printed off the recommended schedule for Q-trainers and when to take which exam and made my schedule based off of that. And it seemed to work nicely for me. I studied almost every day. Even days when I worked at my job, I would do questions on breaks and lunch. I always did at least 150 questions a day. And I did one chapter of LaCharity per day as well to mix it up a bit. I will be honest, I didn't do a lot outside of work and studying. NCLEX prep became the focus for an entire month.
Everyone has their own opinion about studying or not studying. This is a personal choice. For me, it was a day to review notes. I took a solo trip to the beach, and relaxed on the beach while reading my rationale notes, the study guide on my iPad, and doing questions from LaCharity. I didn't overdo it. I spent a lot of time refocusing and reminding myself what I am doing, why I am doing it, and who I'm doing it for. I prayed A LOT this day. I prayed throughout my preparation that God would solidify the immense amount of content and strategies and I would be able to call upon them on testing day.
I scheduled an afternoon exam at 1pm. I slept about 6 hours, not as much as I had hoped. I met my best friend for a yummy breakfast and a pep talk at a bistro. After, I drove to the testing center where my fiancÃ© met me. We spent a bit of time together and then I went upstairs to sit the exam. Expected testing process at the center. Palm prints, pocket checks, rules review. Nothing too surprising.
I prepared myself for 265 questions. I had snacks and water ready for a break at 2 hours if needed. I sat down, sat back in my chair, slipped my shoes off, and prayed. The interface of NCLEX was similar to Kaplan which made me feel more at home and like I was doing something that was familiar to me. I had a MIXED bag of questions. Many seemingly from left field. But, I was focused on my breathing, going slowly, taking my hand OFF the mouse until I was ready to answer, and confidently clicking next. I didn't keep track of any of the types of questions I had. I had many SATA, a few exhibits, no drag and drop, no med calc, no listening questions. I had my answer to question 75 selected and I closed my eyes and prayed and clicked next. The computer shut off. I had finished.
Many people will tell you they felt like they failed. That they got kicked in the gut. I didn't feel that way. I didn't necessarily feel that I failed. I wasn't confident I had passed either. I had a "peace that transcends all understanding". I wasn't nervous at all. I confidently walked out of the testing center KNOWING that I had prepared probably more than most people and I gave that exam my BEST shot. And whatever the outcome, I could rest knowing it wasn't lack of effort.
Pearson Vue Trick
This is another personal choice. It's not 100% guaranteed. Friends who took the exam before me were successful with it, and I had decided to try it to. I did it in the car and got the "good" pop up that states you have an open registration and cannot make another one. I attempted the trick about 5 more times in 24 hours and always got the same pop up. 26 hours after I finished my exam, my license number was posted. Take the PVT as you wish. For me and others I know, it worked and indeed calmed some of the anxiety.
Support and knowing that I had people who were cheering for me meant everything in my preparation. I had people constantly praying for me and encouraging me. This went a long way in my believing that I could pass the NCLEX. I already had an amazing job lined up and felt the stress of that weighing on me. Prayer became my weapon against any negative self talk or doubt. Find people who will lift you up and encourage you.
Don't approach this exam willy nilly. I know some people do and pass at 75 and that's their thing. Respect the exam and what it stands for. And respect yourself and the sacrifices that you and your loved ones have given for you to have the opportunity to have those two wonderful and respected letters after your name. RN. It is powerful and shouldn't be taken lightly.
Finally, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS!!! I can't stress this enough. Getting into the habit of reading questions and discerning what is being asked is the game. And you won't get better if you don't practice. Content review helped me. But it was the constant exposure to NCLEX style questions that helped me the most. Do this, and when you are sitting the real exam, you will feel like it's another Q-trainer or Qbank.
I sincerely hope this helps someone out there. I have benefited so much from reading experiences of new graduates and I hope that in some small way, someone has been encouraged.
Bless you all!