This is the culmination of all your hard work. After years of sacrificing your time (not to mention your sleep!) and marching forward through all those new and eye-opening experiences, you want to put forth your very best effort on an exam that will ultimately determine if you can practice as a nurse.
Years ago, when I sat for the exam, I was fortunate enough to pass my boards on the first try. Here are a some of my best tips to help ensure you do the same:
Prior to the exam:
Schedule your exam as soon as possible after graduation
- The sooner the better–I would not wait longer than 4-6 weeks. You’d be surprised at how much information you will forget, no matter how many study aides you use. Take the exam while it’s all still fresh in your mind. I’ve heard that the pass rate on the NCLEX drops as the number of days between graduation and test day increases (or maybe that’s just a myth to scare us!).
Practice mental aerobics
- You’d be surprised at how quickly you lose your mental sharpness. We all know that you have to answer a minimum of 75 questions. I think my mind started going hazy around 50. Get your mind in shape for this exam–you need to make sure you can maintain your focus all the way through and past question 75.
- When you do practice problems, treat them like the exam. Dedicate enough time to complete 75 questions without walking away. No one can do 75 questions at first–that’s why you have to practice.
Don’t do it alone
- If it’s at all possible, schedule your exam with a fellow classmate. I can tell you from experience that the anxiety I felt the night before and even during the exam was considerably less knowing I wasn’t alone.
During the exam:
Ignore the question numbers
- We all know about the 75 question minimum. But we’ve also been told that if you are asked more than 75 questions, you probably didn’t pass. The more questions that are asked, the deeper and deeper your confidence falls. Stop looking at the question numbers. Concentrate on the questions.
- Also, keep in mind that some of us unknowingly become testers of new batched questions. You could answer up to 260+ questions even thought you passed after question 75. Stop looking at the question numbers.
- By the way, I passed and I had to answer 100 questions.
After the exam:
Occupy your mind
- I don’t know about you, but I only had to wait 48 hours for my results. They were the longest 48 hours of my life!
- Try to keep yourself occupied with something other than talking about the exam. I thought talking to my friends about it would help, but all it did was drive my anxiety levels through the roof.
In the end, you need to approach the NCLEX the same way you approached all your other exams during school. You must have done something right during school because you’re taking the final step on your journey to becoming a nurse! It’s just another exam, right?
Got any tips to add?