First, congratulations! Taking a certification exam is a major step, one that sets you apart as a dedicated expert. It has taken a lot of work to get this far, so rest assured that if you’re even thinking about the exam, you have years of expertise behind you—expertise that will come in handy when you’re taking the test.
The American Nurse Credentialing Center, the largest nurse credentialing center in the United States, has a great Website at nursecredentialing.org/certification.aspx. There, you can find a list of specialties, as well as reasons to certify, preparation tips and FREE resources for exams, including test content outlines, study guides and sample Q&As. Other services, such as a test-taking strategies course, are available for a fee.
In general, find out as much as you can about the actual exam. Familiarize yourself with the content area, but also seek out nurses who have already taken the certification exam. Ask them how they prepared for the test, what they found useful and what they would have done differently. What you learn may help you hone your own test preparation.
Schedule review time. That can be difficult, given the realities of a full-time job and life, but you’ll feel much more prepared and relaxed if you’ve had adequate preparation time. For some people, review time can be as simple as a couple of hours at the library with a book every Saturday. Other people prefer a review course or study group. Whatever works for you, put it on your calendar and honor your commitment.
Plan to take a couple of practice tests in advance of the actual exam. Look at the tests as a trial run, a chance to get used to the test format, and try to keep that laid-back attitude in place, even on the day of the actual exam. Stressing out over “the most important exam of your life” will probably do more harm than good.
Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before your exam. The night before is not the time for cramming, and a good night’s sleep will help you critically analyze each question. Read each question carefully, think it over and take a moment to reflect before choosing your answer. Remember, you’re an expert. You can do this.