Hello Allnurses Community!
After visiting this website for about 2 years, I have finally decided to write my 1st post...and it's about my tips on passing the NCLEX-RN exam.3 weeks ago, after a long 2.5 months of studying, I FINALLY passed my NCLEX, at 75 questions! Even as I write this post, I am not only overwhelmed with joy and sense of relief, but I am still stunned that I passed. Off the bat, I am not ashamed to tell you that throughout nursing school I was NOT the best student (barely got any A's in my classes, struggled on many of my exams, and was close to failing one of my final courses); not that I didn't study enough, but I am honestly not the best test-taker. On a typical exam, if I'm not filled with anxiety, I'm either changing or overthinking questions. So how is it that a nursing student suddenly develops the confidence to take the one exam that will determine whether or not we become licensed RNs? Well here are my tips that I found most helpful in preparing me for this TOUGH BUT PASSABLE exam.
Before I give you all my personal tips on how to pass, I would like to give everyone an overview on the NCLEX books I used while studying. I know they say don't use more than one book but the way my anxiety was set up, I felt like I had to do overstudy to be prepared lol While there are some books I found helpful, and others I didn't. I URGE you to USE THE BOOKS YOU FEEL MOST COMFORTABLE with; if the content and rationales are clear and the book touches areas you are most weak in, PLEASE USE IT.
1. Kaplan Course Review Book (ONLY FOR THOSE WHO ARE USING KAPLAN): My school included the Kaplan review course , so I didn't have to worry about paying for the class separately. This book can either be downloaded on Amazon Kindle FOR FREE or you can buy the book for 25-30 dollars (I bought the book because I hate reading books on my computer). The book goes along with the Content Review Videos in the NCLEX prep section so whenever I watched the modules I had this book in hand and took extra notes on the side. HOWEVER, the book gives you a GENERAL overview of the diseases and Nursing Content. Its good for a quick flash review however DOES NOT go into full detail so if you are trying to fully understand a topic or area you are weak in (eg. Cardiac diseases) I wouldn't recommend it.
2. Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination: If you want in-depth content, Saunders is a great book to use. However, after a while I thought it was saturated with too much information (way too much for my brain capacity lol) so I barely used it. I didn't buy the Saunders Q&A book because this book came with a CD with thousands of questions; however I found the questions to be a little TOO EASY for the NCLEX, very content based and we all know that NCLEX is more about critical thinking than it is about content. Use the CD if you want to practice questions on content area you're weak in.
3. Lippincott Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN: Didn't buy the Comprehensive review book with this, but I didn't find the questions in this book to be helpful. The questions were SUPER HARD but the rationales for the questions were very confusing at times or contradicted the rationales I saw on my Kaplan review about similar topics. It does have a lot of questions, but I stopped using it after 2 days lol
4.Comprehensive Review for NCLEX-RN, Mary Ann Hogan: Good book, but similar to the Saunders book as it had a lot of info too (any book 1000+ pages just bothers me lol). You can either use this or Saunders to cover areas you are weak in.
THE TWO BOOKS I FOUND MOST HELPFUL:
5.Illustrated: Study Guide for the NCLEX-RN Exam, Joann Zerwekh: So about two weeks before my exam I fell upon this book when I was searching through a bunch of NCLEX books my aunt sent me last year. I found this book to be ON POINT with the content review and the information was not too saturated like Saunders and it was not scarce like Kaplan. So a week before my exam this was the only book I used to review content. It gave a good snapshot of the patho, assessment/sx, and internventions that you could easily REMEMBER. Although there are only a few questions in each chapter, the book is only about 600 pages and YOU CAN LITERALLY go THROUGH THE WHOLE BOOK w/in a week or two (compare to the 1500+ pages in the other books). If you are taking the exam in less than two weeks I HIGHLY recommend it.
6.Kaplan NCLEX-RN Strategies, Practice, and Review: This book was a great way to practice questions especially if you don't have the Kaplan Review. It doesn't really go into detail on any content, but it does give an overview of the Strategies/techniques used to answering questions and they have enough questions and exams to practice with.
7.Lippincott NCLEX-RN ALTERNATE FORMAT Questions: THIS BOOK SAVED MY LIFE. I truly believe that if I did not use this book I would have not passed the NCLEX. Although I did not find the Lippinocott Q&A Review to be helpful, this little book WILL HELP YOU PASS THE EXAM. As you all know, the NCLEX is based on how well you can answer tough questions AKA Select All that Apply, Drag And Drop, Landmarks, etc. THIS BOOK PREPARES YOU FOR THOSE QUESTIONS. Unfortunately, most of the books mentioned above gives you regular multiple-choice questions and here and there you may see an Alternate Format question. The book has over 1,000 Questions, ALL ALTERNATE FORMAT so I cannot stress how much this book PREPARED me for the SATA, Drag and Drops, etc. Another plus is that the questions and correct answer are on the same page (meaning you don't have to flip over 1,000 times to find the right answer and rationale, just cover one side of the paper with a sheet) Many of the SATA I got on the NCLEX were SIMILAR to the questions I saw in this book. I don't think any other book helps with Alternate Format more than this one SO PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get it, rent it, take it out of the library but it will definitely make you feel comfortable with these questions.
NOW FOR MY TIPS
#1 STUDY! STUDY! STUDY! I will admit in the beginning of the summer I promised myself to study my ass off every single day...but with nice weather and events going on I wasn't serious on the whole studying business. Like many of you I was working all the time, and I was finally relieved to have a social life post-nursing school. BUT I URGE YOU TO STUDY like its YOUR JOB because it is THE ONLY WAY YOU WILL REMEMBER CONTENT. Although this exam is not focused on solely memorization, if you do not understand a particular topic you MUST review it in order to understand the rationales. EACH DAY DESIGNATE TIME TO study. Know what time of day is best to study. If you're a morning person, do it in the morning. Me, I liked to study in the late afternoon and evening so I usually studied between 1-10pm. Remember that study time also includes doing questions AND reviewing content of incorrect answers, so I suggest doing no more than 75-150 questions a day (two 75 question exams usually). If you do more than 150, depending on how well you do, you'll be spending a lot of time reviewing than doing questions so its important not to do too many questions.
#2 DON'T JUST READ THE RATIONALES AND CONTENT, WRITE/TYPE IT!!! I admit I had a ton of pages filled with JUST RATIONALES for INCORRECT answers, not only to understand the content but to understand HOW TO answer the question the next time. Rationales are NOT for you to just simply memorize content, because it may not apply to all situations (e.g. ABCs, ADPIE questions) but writing it gives you an understand on HOW to answer a similar question the next time to you come along one. Some incorrect answers on a certain question (the "NOT" questions) contain CORRECT information about a topic, so take time to write those answers too. I stress writing it because trust me with all the questions you have to do if you don't have it written down you WILL forget it. Also, take time to write IMPORTANT notes (or notes you will most likely forget) on areas you are weak in; review the disease process/condition and then write down the key points or things about the topic you'll most likely FORGET.
#3 FOR MY KAPLAN USERS, DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED BY THE QBANK & QT SCORES: Although our Kaplan instructors beat in our heads that scores below 60% or better predicts whether or not you'll pass the exam, I will tell you guys my scores on the QBANK and QTs exams were all 61% and below LOL. I averaged between 51%-60% on each of my exams and each time I saw my grades I would get discouraged and freak out, but a few weeks before the exam I realized that Kaplan MAKES THESE QUESTIONS HARD for a reason. They make the questions like this to MENTALLY prepare you for the exam; to prepare you for hard, ridiculous, out-of-this world questions you may encounter when you take the exam. I was so used to expecting hard questions on each exam, that on the day of my NCLEX I was actually CALM when I came upon a difficult question or a topic I never reviewed. I basically released all my anxiety from taking those exams, that by the time my NCLEX I had none left lol Out of all the programs, I think Kaplan gave the best techniques on HOW to answer difficult questions so please do their questions ACTIVELY and consistently. If your exam is not soon, I urge you to DO ALL THE QUESTIONS. Every QBank question, every QT, and every QSample question. Even if you get questions wrong KEEP DOING QUESTIONS, and if you have trouble in a certain area don't hesistate to take the Focused Review Questions on "Integrated Testing" Section (you see a lot of the same EXACT questions from the QTs and Qbanks in those Focused Review tests).
#4 TRUST YOURSELF AND YOUR ANSWER!!! Do not overthink questions. When I was preparing with Kaplan, on each exam I changed at least 10 questions from correct to incorrect. Trust your gut. Do not overthink. If you decide to change an answer, and you make up several scenarios to justify if its correct it is most likely not the right answer. The ANSWER is in question, you just need to make sure to THOROUGHLY read each question and EACH answer choice.
#5 IF YOU DON'T FEEL PREPARED TO TAKE IT, RESCHEDULE. I work at a hospital, and most of my colleagues (both RNs and CNAs) suggested that I take the exam as soon as possible so I don't "forget" information. To be honest, I ignored those suggestions because I knew that I needed time to really understand the material. I spent 10 weeks studying and I feel like if I did it any sooner I would have failed. YOU MUST DO IT WHEN YOU ARE PREPARED. For some of my classmates it took them 3 weeks to take it after the review, most of my classmates passed in mid-July, and others up to now have not taken it yet. To each is own but you must take it when you're ready and even if you have to reschedule more than once DO IT, ITS FREE LOL. In response to my anxiety, I CHANGED my exam date 5 TIMES within a span of 9 days but I knew when I finally chose that date and stuck with it, I wasn't 100% prepared of course but I felt ready enough.
#6 THE DAY BEFORE YOUR EXAM: REST AND HAVE A LITTLE FUN! A lot of friends told me that the day before my exam I should rest, relax, and isolate yourself from everyone. Well I did the opposite and went to an amusement park with some good friends. I knew if I stayed home, I would tempt myself to do questions so instead I spent the day having fun. Being around good company can definitely take your mind off the exam so take time to schedule a day at the beach, spa, or a park to relieve much needed stress.
#7 THE DAY OF THE EXAM: PRAY, MEDITATE, and do NOT panic. Prayer and meditation worked for me while I was preparing for my exam. Each night, there was a specific prayer I recited that was directly related to me preparing for an exam and it really helped calm me. Whatever your religious affiliation is, take time to relax your mind and body and keep yourself present in the moment. Do not cloud your mind with worry, doubts, and "what ifs". The best thing about this exam is knowing that even if you don't pass the 1st time(as discouraging as it may be at first) its NOT the end of the world. YOU CAN TAKE IT AGAIN. It's not like when you had a final in nursing school and if you failed you either had to repeat the class or you were removed from the program. YOU MADE IT OUT OF NURSING SCHOOL so YOU CAN DEFINITELY passed the NCLEX. You have proven yourself worthy to be a COMPETENT nurse by enduring the physical, emotional, and mental stressors of nursing school. Now that that phase is over, think of the NCLEX as the final exam you are going to rock out BECAUSE YOU KNOW the content AND YOU KNOW how to tackle each question. We all have the potential to be great nurses and it all it takes one POSSIBLE hurdle to overcome.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me via this thread. I hope you all do well and I wish everyone the best of luck