Hi everyone! I just wanted to come on here and write a post about my NCLEX experience -- it's been quite a journey to finally get here. While I was studying for my NCLEX test, I would scroll through allnurses posts constantly to look for motivation and to get answers about my questions. I figured I could share my experience and maybe help someone going through similar things.
I graduated from my nursing program in April 2019. I was a great student while in nursing school, and I even graduated with honors. After passing nursing school, I knew this was only the beginning and in order to start my career, I would have to pass this test. My sister, who is also a nurse, had a really tough experience with NCLEX and did not pass the first time. I had witnessed how much it affected her and how not passing had devastated her. So after finishing nursing school, I almost didn't process that I had completed nursing school and jumped right into studying for the boards. About a month after graduation, I got an email from the board saying I had a discrepancy in my license application. The board said that I had incorrectly submitted fingerprints and that I would have to reupload new prints in order to get my ATT. Meanwhile, all of my nursing friends were getting their ATTs and scheduling their exams. It took about 2 weeks for me to get a fingerprinting appointment, actually go get them done, receive the results and then resubmit them online. I was told that I would have to wait another 20-25 business days in order for them to review this one document and approve it.
Studying for my first NCLEX:
While I was fixing my fingerprints and anxiously awaiting my ATT, I was studying like crazy. I studied almost every day for about 8 hours each day. The resources I used to study were the Saunders book and the Kaplan program. Kaplan was used with my nursing program, so I just continued using it to practice for my test. I found that I didn't learn much of anything from Kaplan, but it was decent practice for answering NCLEX study questions, specifically the question trainers and the Qbank. However, it didn't really teach anything about strategy or how to approach these confusing questions, other than the kaplan decision tree, which I did find some aspects helpful (expected vs unexpected, Maslows, etc.). I continued to use it as practice since I already had it from nursing school. The Saunders book was another story. I found the book to be super informative and completely content heavy, which is great if you are looking to brush up on nursing content. It has almost every condition, medication, treatment, etc. that you will learn in nursing school and I would highly recommend it to someone who might be out of school for a while and is looking to relearn nursing content. The way that I used to Saunders book, was I would take notes on almost every chapter and study it as if I was studying for a typical nursing exam. I was overwhelmed and quickly became exhausted with the book. But, I continued to use it, thinking that if I knew almost everything the book covered, that I would do amazing on my exam.
While I was in the process of studying for the board test, I was also applying for new graduate positions. I actually heard back from my dream hospital and was offered a nurse resident position on an amazing unit in their facility. I was over the moon! I felt as if my dreams were coming true and everything I had worked so hard for was finally paying off. I was looking forward to the future and felt as if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was due to begin the residency program in mid-August when I accepted the position in June. About a month and a half later and I still had not received my ATT (because of my fingerprint resubmission). By late July I was getting very worried, since my start date was right around the corner and I hadn't even scheduled my test. At this point, I was calling the board every other day, being on hold for an hour each time I called, and getting no where. Every agent told me I would be getting my ATT shortly and there was nothing they could do -- until, I was on the phone with one agent who noticed I was past the 20-25 business day hold and she put in a special request. Later that afternoon, I finally got my ATT! When I went to schedule my exam, I noticed they did not have a lot of availability at my test center. The next available test date was in 4 days, and their next availability after that was not for another 2 weeks, which would have been way too close to my start date. This being said, I had no other choice but to schedule my test in 4 days. To say I was in a panic was an understatement. Those 4 days, I locked myself in my room and studied as much as I could. I so desperately wanted to pass this test. 2 days before my exam, I did the kaplan readiness test and got a 74%, which made me feel confident. All in all, I was a stressed out, nervous wreck.
Taking the Exam:
I was super super nervous for this test. I put so much pressure on myself, knowing that I had to pass this test in order to start my job, and all of my friends had passed in 75 questions. Before leaving to drive to the exam, I ate some lunch and while I was eating, I noticed I was getting a lot of chest pain. Each time I inhaled, I would feel a sharp midsternal pain that was very uncomfortable. It made me even more nervous, knowing how anxious I was and what would happen if I ended up failing this test. I went into the test center, trying to stay calm, but through the entire exam, the chest pain would not go away. I felt like I had a hard time focusing and wasn't really processing the questions before submitting them. Eventually, I got to question 75. I honestly thought my chest was going to explode. The screen then went blue, and the exam was over. Walking out of the test center, I didn't know what to think. I felt good that I got only 75 questions, since all of my friends had passed in that number and that I did well on my Kaplan readiness exam. However, the anxiety I felt was so overwhelming that it could have messed with my ability to correctly answer the questions. 2 days later, I found out I did not pass the test.
This was a really horrible experience. I ended up losing the nurse resident job since I did not pass my test. I was completely devastated and felt as if I would never ever be able to pass this exam. I felt like I almost wasted 4 years of my life studying nursing in a grueling program just to not be able to pass this test and never fully get a license. I know that this exam can feel like the end of the world when you don't pass, and for me it absolutely did. I gave myself 1 week to cry it out and then get myself together and give it another go. The posts on allnurses and on youtube were incredibly uplifting and really gave me motivation to keep going and to keep trying!
Studying for the 2nd NCLEX:
After failing the first time, I decided to take an entirely different approach. Instead of trying to study my way through this exam, I wanted to practice answering questions and understand how to actually get the answers right. That to me was the trick to passing the exam, not trying to memorize lists.
The first tool I used was UWorld. UWorld was amazing! It is a program that contains only practice questions with fantastic rationales. I felt like I learned so much from purchasing and using that program. They would give detailed rationales for every answer choice, on why it was incorrect or why it was correct. I found myself learning so much more and getting practice at critical thinking, prioritization, SATA, etc. I also really appreciated that the interface on UWorld looks almost identical to the NCLEX test. This really helped reduce my anxiety when I was taking the exam the second time, since the computer screen in the testing center looked like UWorld at home. Everyday, I would do a 75 question practice test and remediate each question. I would write down rationales for each question I got wrong and some that I got right in a notebook. I also went back and redid all of my incorrect questions to understand why I got them wrong and to learn from my mistakes. By the time I took my 2nd test, I had done every UWorld question, and had about 30 incorrect questions left in the Qbank. 2 weeks before my exam, I did the UWorld assessment test and scored a "very high chance of passing". This gave me so much confidence and helped me to stay positive while studying right before the NCLEX!
The second tool I bough was the LaCharity Prioritization, Delegation and Assignment book. This book was so helpful! The higher level thinking questions on NCLEX usually contain some type of prioritization, and getting practice with prioritizing and learning how to do it is incredibly important to do well on NCLEX. These types of questions are ones that you usually cannot find in nursing books and you are not taught in nursing school. So it is important to know how to prioritize your patients, assessments, interventions, medications, etc. and to become comfortable doing so on the NCLEX. The book helps you practice prioritization, delegation and assignment and was a wonderful tool in teaching how to do it. The rationales are also very nice and teach you more strategy about what to look for in answer choices and who exactly to prioritize first.
Next, I purchased the NCSBN 3 week RN review course. I purchased it mainly for the practice questions, not so much for the actual review that they offer. In total, the review contains 1,500 practice questions, which are all old NCLEX questions, so they are very similar in format to the actual exam. Again, this built my confidence going into the test, knowing that I had seen this format everyday. I would not recommend this course if you are looking solely for content review. Instead, I would recommend this to someone who is looking for extra practice and a confidence boost.
Lastly, I listened to the Mark Klimek audio tapes, which I found on allnurses! This and UWorld were my saving grace. Mark was so so helpful in understanding how to answer the NCLEX test questions. He reviews major content concepts, but instead of giving you every piece of information, such as Saunders, he narrows it down to the super important information that the board commonly tests on. The most helpful piece of his lectures are his tips on answering very specific questions, such as psychology and empathy questions, tips on prioritization, staff management, child growth and development and much more. I don't know if I would have passed if it were not for Mark. I would highly recommend searching for his lectures and giving them a listen if you have time. I promise he will only help you!
Going into my second NCLEX/My experience:
Again, I was super super nervous for this exam. I decided that when I got my ATT, I would schedule my test a few weeks ahead of time, instead of a few days ahead of time. This was very helpful for my test anxiety and gave me time to process that I was retaking the test and allowed me to schedule my last weeks before test day. Again, my ATT took forever to come! I also narrowly avoided another discrepancy with a different set of fingerprints, but that was able to thankfully be resolved before my application was reassessed. The only reason that I got it when I did was because another agent was able to put in a request to get my application looked at sooner (since I was past the 20-25 business day gap again). This time around, I tried not to study all day everyday like I did last time. I cared more about quality over quantity. Another thing I did the second time that I did not do the first time, was I prayed. I prayed every single night for 3 months. I prayed that G-d would support me, deliver me success, and would guide me through this tough time. It helped me so much, specifically with my anxiety about this exam. I did not let this test get the best of me. I knew that G-d is bigger than this test and so am I. The day before the exam, I tried to not study and to only relax. I took a trip to Bath and Body Works and bought some candles, watched TV, spent time with my dogs, etc (unlike last time when I did a 265 practice test!). The morning of the exam, I actually felt fairly calm, especially compared to my first exam. I stayed on top of my anxiety, and I also did not get any chest pain! I said prayers after prayers after prayers, before I went into the test, during the test and after the test. I truly owe this all to G-d and all of the people who have supported me through this.
(Sorry this post has been so long! I know I'm over here writing a novel, but this has actually been super therapeutic for me, so I'm happy I am sharing all of this.) My test, again, shut off at 75 questions. I had no idea how to feel. I actually really hoped that the test would have continued, since it was so similar to the first test. In terms of the questions, I did not get the majority of my questions in one specific content area, however, I did notice that there were maybe 3-4 times that I got 3 SATA in a row, including the last 3 questions of my test. This was honestly the only reason I thought I maybe had passed. I walked out of that test center feeling confused and uncertain. I felt that if i had to guess that I probably did not pass again. I continued to pray and stayed hopeful. This afternoon, I officially found out that I passed!!!!! It feels completely surreal and like such a long time coming. The only thing I would like to emphasize is that YOU CAN DO THIS! In my opinion, this exam is all mental and the most important things you can have while walking into this test is confidence and self-belief. I know this test is terrifying and feels impossible, but it is not! You are bigger than this test. After passing nursing school, you deserve a license and to pass this exam. I know how it can feel like a never-ending cycle and how scarry the thought of or the reality of not passing is. To those who are preparing for their first test, I wish you luck!! If I can do this, you can do this! Believe it yourself! To those who are repeat test takers, I'm giving you a virtual hug and hoping for the best for you! Always remember how strong and smart you are, and that winners don't quit on themselves!!!