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As if graduating nursing school isn’t feat enough, nursing hopefuls must also pass either the NCLEX-RN or the NCLEX-PN before actually starting a career as an RN or LPN/LVN. For most, the mere mention of the NCLEX exam elicits uncertainty, anxiety, and fear that can rattle even the most self-confident nursing school graduates.

Preparation Is The Key To Success

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, thorough preparation is the key to both reducing test anxieties and increasing confidence. Keep in mind that preparing encompasses both physical and mental elements and should consider both before and during the NCLEX exam.

Three Tips To Prepare For The NCLEX

There are dozens of “how to” articles out there on taking the NCLEX. However, preparation will require looking at three main areas – studying, taking care of physical and mental anxieties the day before the test, and actually taking the test:

Tip 1: Study Smart, Efficiently, and Effectively.

Smart, efficient, and effective studying is accomplished by first creating a study plan that allows for at least two or three months of study time whereby materials can be sectioned by the day or week. Here are some pointers:

  • Make a study schedule that provides set off-days and frequent study breaks.
  • Begin by organizing notes and school-based materials so that they can be reviewed over the first few days or week.
  • While some NCLEX questions are strictly raw, knowledge-based, most will be focused on the candidate’s ability to apply nursing knowledge, nursing judgment, and critical thinking skills within practical scenarios. So, try to keep a mindset of application while reviewing raw nursing facts.
  • Take help from study tools that help not only organize materials but also highlight weak areas that need to be drilled or practiced further.
  • Everyone learns differently; some benefit from the feedback of study partners and others may study better alone. Keep this in mind if considering a study group to drill, discuss, and share study information.
  • Invest in an NCLEX book and complete the NCLEX questions.
  • There are a lot of study guides available. Look for those that have a practice CD for testing. Most nursing school instructors will advise taking as many practice tests as possible and waiting to take the NCLEX until achieving an 80% or higher on these practice exams.
  • There are also tutors available for hire to assist with the knowledge and content aspect and test taking strategies.

Tip 2: Take Care Of Physical Needs and Sooth Mental Anxieties The Day Before Testing.

The day of the NCLEX is just a sunrise away and nerves and stress are higher than ever. The importance of not self-sabotaging with negativity, anxiety, and poor health can’t be stressed enough. Here are some pointers:

  • According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, “It is known that REM sleep stimulates the brain regions used in learning and the laying down of memories.” Humans can’t focus, pay attention, or respond as quickly and may develop mood problems when they don’t get enough of the right kind of sleep. Bottom line – be well rested for the NCLEX day by getting at least eight consecutive hours of sleep each night, especially the night before test day.
  • Keep a positive “pass this test” mindset.
  • Eat a well-balanced meal of fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates to keep the mind and body alert.
  • Put down the books, study guides, practice exams, flash cards, and such a couple of days prior to the test date.
  • Drive to the test site to ensure to allow enough time to get there 30 minutes early the actual day of the test.

Tip 3: Don’t Let Preparation Lag Once The Test Day Arrives

The idea is to be knowledgeable, well-rested, well-nourished, and calm. However, that doesn’t mean preparation ends the day of the test. Here are some pointers:

  • Review the test center’s rules, such as to leave personal belongings outside the testing room and to bring two forms of identification, before leaving for the test.
  • Prepare to test for five hours for PN-NCLEX and six hours for the RN-NCLEX. Remember to plan childcare and work schedules accordingly so that full attention can be solely on the test.
  • Dress for comfort; the computer will only be impressed by correct answers, not style.

Sally Richards is a trauma nurse and guest author at Best Health Degrees, where she contributed to the guide to the Top 10 Best Online Undergraduate Nursing Programs

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Innovative Nurse 2014

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