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You passed the NCLEX?! How did you do it?

Hemera | Lev Dolgachov
Hemera | Lev Dolgachov

Every nursing student out there knows about study aids. Everything from books to CDs, DVDs, seminars and online courses are offered and available to nursing students to help them pass the NCLEX (or most other national certification exams, CCRN, CEN, AACN, etc.) on their first try. Of course, all of these services have a price tag, some greater than others. Some of these study aids even come with a money-back guarantee! If you don’t pass on your first try, you get a refund.

Personally, I’ve taken four separate national certification exams, one outside of my nursing profession and three within the profession. I’ve taken the NCLEX, the CCRN and the AACN’s Adult Acute Care NP exam. Each time, I’ve tried different study aids. For my NCLEX, my nursing school offered a five-day review course. I also purchased two books (I think) full of sample questions with accompanying DVDs. For my CCRN exam, I had a review book with sample questions and a set of video DVDs. For my AACN exam, I had a review book with audio CDs and two additional review books with sample questions, and I attended a three-day review course seminar (whew!).

I passed all of my exams on my first attempt (thankfully).

I’m pretty sure everyone who has purchased any sort of study aid bought it with the same thought process I had (each time): “I only want to take that darn exam once! If I don’t pass, I’ll have to spend more money on re-registering for the exam, so I’d better spend some money up front and pay for a study aid.” My motto was and always continues to be: “One and done.”

Here’s where the water gets a lil’ muddy. If you took a poll and did a count of how many passed on their first attempt and what study aid they used, I’m pretty sure you’d get some pretty random answers. What worked for one person may not work for another. And I know plenty of nurses who have never used a certification exam study aid. Some passed with one try, while others struggled and had to repeat the exam…sadly, numerous times in some instances.

Why is that? Why will it work for one nurse, but not another? Some nurses will just read one book. Some nurses need to have multiple book resources. Others will have books and DVDs and will attend a weekend or weeklong seminar as part of their study plan to pass the big exam. There’s no real rhyme or reason (this is just random observation, not empirical evidence).

From my personal experience with all the numerous study aids I’ve invested in, I’ve come to terms with my lack of test-taking skills. I get easily distracted with the wording of narrative “scenario” questions. Most national certification exams are formatted to test your critical thinking skills, not how much information you can regurgitate. That’s why those study aids were created: to help you train your brain to take those tests properly, regardless of what your school program did to prepare you for your chosen profession. Book smarts are not enough; you have to be able to apply your knowledge. That’s why they have the “most correct” answers—to test your skills at prioritizing.

So in the end, it’s about preparation, your current knowledge level and how sharp your test-taking skills are. These three things are why there’s such randomness in the success of nurses in passing their national certification exams. And it’s this randomness and uncertainty that motivated me each time I took a national certification exam to purchase those darn study aids!

How about you? How did you do it?

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One Response to You passed the NCLEX?! How did you do it?

  1. NewGrad2014

    My main study guide was the NCLEX – RN mastery app. On top of ATI practice tests. PASSED IN 75 QUESTIONS!