So I passed my FNP board exam a few weeks ago (early March) and I wanted to write what my timeframe was and what I did to pass. Warning: this is long, and boring. But I'm taking the time to write this because I remember reading this board while I was studying and feeling like I was going to fail because everyone seemed to be studying for 3+ months!
I took the AANP exam. Mostly because I knew that the "Select all that apply" option and pictured questions for ANCC would increase my test anxiety during the actual exam. I graduated in December. I was burnt out! I took a couple weeks off after finishing and enjoyed the holidays with my family. In January I ordered the Fitzgerald online exam review. That took 2-3 weeks to come in the mail (the workbook) because around that time the post office was having all kinds of delays. My more motivated student colleagues didn't let that stop them--they used the online resources without the workbook. Not me! I was like, this class costs $375, I'm going to get the full experience.
In case you can't tell by the subject line, I am a procrastinator. Once the workbook came I could NOT sit still to get through the entire course in 3-4 days like most of my friends did. Instead, It took me a couple weeks to get through the online course. The course is extremely detailed, but in my opinion totally worth it.
After I finished getting through Fitzgerald, I postponed my exam from late February to first week of March and promised myself I wouldn't change my date again. I bought the Leik book AND Leik flashcards and basically spent 2.5 weeks studying. First I studied heavily a few hours a day. For the final 10 days of that two week period, I took off work (OK, I called out for 2 shifts!) and spent about 6+ hours studying each day. I read through the Leik book and took notes. I bought board vitals practice questions to check my understanding of the materials. I scored in the 60s for the APEA predictor exam, which I took at the start of the 2.5 weeks of "intense" studying. I also took 2 PSI exams the final days leading upto the exam and scored in the 80s which was a huge self esteem boost because my board vitals scores and area scores SUCKED. I also scored well in general on the Leik questions. Her online resources that come with the textbook are awesome. During this study time, I would use the Fitzgerald videos from the online course to review concepts I didn't understand--her murmurs lecture is particularly fantastic. Word of advice: I spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME trying to understand antibiotics. She gives TMI on the topic, in my opinion. The antibiotic questions I had on the exam were NOWHERE near as in depth as what I was taught in the Fitzgerald course. In general, the LEik book gives the PERFECT amount of info.
For the moments where I was brain dead and couldn't look at a screen anymore, the Leik flashcards were great. My husband would quiz me with the flashcards during and after dinner and it was a great way to take a break, plus talking out loud about the info was a great way to remember some of the info. In general, I prioritized the topics I was most uncomfortable with. I didn't study peds very much at all because my final semester had been pediatrics and because so many people that took the test told me they "barely" got peds!
The 3 days before the exam I sent my kids to their grandma's house and did hardcore studying. I read all the advice about what to do the night before the exam and basically did none of it. I studied until about 9pm (nope, didn't take that "rest" day everyone talks about-I was too anxious!). I ate Chinese food for dinner because it was delicious, and attempted to goto bed early only to find that I really couldn't sleep very well. I ended up not getting good sleep at ALL that night ,even less sleep that I would've gotten on a normal night.
I went into the exam not feeling prepared but feeling like my brain couldn't really handle processing anymore information, nor could my mental health handle the strain of studying and thinking about the exam anymore. I'm superstitious and like to have good luck items for major exams. You can't wear jewelry for this test, so I wore a Wonder Woman sweatshirt as my "Good luck" object for the occasion. I read everywhere that you put your stuff in a locker--welp, my testing site had you put everything in a locked bag that stays next to you the whole exam. This should NOT have mattered except I couldn't figure out how to turn my Apple Watch off before going into the exam room and last minute got worried it would go off during the test and that I would get kicked out mid-exam. So I begged the proctor to let me run to my car and put it in my trunk about 2 minutes before the exam and arrived to the testing area short of breath, sweaty, and even more anxious than before.
My computer didn't work once I sat down, so the proctor had to come over and fix my browser. When it was finally time to start I had to calm myself down and remember "Yes, you're flustered, you're anxious, you didn't get sleep like the textbooks and message boards said and you didn't study for 1.5 million months either. BUT you're smart. You have common sense. Lots of stupid people pass things, you're not stupid. You're totally going to pass this test!" The first words on my scratch paper were "YOU'VE GOT THIS!" Other things on my scratch paper? the murmur mnemonics, the cranial nerves, and the diff signs of diabetic vs hypertensive retinopathy (allll the eye stuff was one of my weaker areas in my studying).
The exam was hard, but with several straightforward questions. I didn't stop to overanalyze the questions I didn't know. My sister is a lawyer and used her bar exam experience to tell me before the test to "Go for the low hanging fruit. Focus on the questions you know you can get right then worry about handling the crap you don't." So the questions I didn't know the answer to, I guessed without overanalyzing and marked for later. My first several questions were not hard like everyone says they would be, my LAST several questions were hard and I spent so much time on them that I didn't get to go through the marked questions as slowly as I wanted to. Peds questions I had a decent amount of and most were OK but I had several questions on random musculoskeletal diseases I had literally never heard of. I used the exam prep tips and picked the answer that sounded the least exotic and most straightforward. I finished with 30 seconds left to spare. Everyone says that the words "pass" or "fail" come on the screen? Nope. Mine said "Go see the proctor." I was certain I failed. I stood in line to see the proctor for what felt like eternity. Then she started printing out papers and I was like "oh man these must be the 'you failed' papers." They weren't. I passed. My score came from AANP recently and I actually did pretty damn well (go figure) when compared to how I FELT while I was taking the test.
Also, I should add that during the 2-3 weeks I studied I literally said "screw it" to everything else. I didn't clean my house, I didn't run stupid errands, and I didn't job hunt. Didn't even get my nails done (gasp!). The thing I did do regularly was workout daily in the mornings. I also should add that saying "screw it" to everything in the world ended up working out. I took the exam on a Wednesday. I applied for licensure the next day, and got my license approved about 5 days later. The Sunday after the exam I applied to several jobs and got called for an interview within a week. It is 3 weeks post-exam and I just got hired at my dream job. I say all this to say that all of this hell that we go through as students (shout out to those of us that have worked as staff nurses during COVID while being in school and homeschooling our kids during this pandemic!)....anyway, all the stress is worth it!! Everything really will work out in the end, and hard work pays off.
IF you got this far in my random blurb, then you're probably preparing to take the exam. GOOD LUCK. You're smart, you're going to pass. Study YOUR WAY. You know yourself. I've never been the type of student to study crazy far in advance for anything. That isn't how I operate. Sadly, I work best under pressure! Know yourself, know your strengths, and remind yourself that you're smart as hell and can do anything! Good luck.