One thing I learned from studying for the NCLEX is that there is not one "right" way to prepare. You have to follow your own study patterns and create a plan that works for you. With that being said, I've created a list based on what worked for me and helped me pass the NCLEX on the first try in 75 questions. I hope that this can be helpful to others!
1. CHILL OUT
First things first, take a deep breath. Relax. It's all going to be okay. Your nursing education prepared you for this exam, and now it's your chance to show off how smart you are. Anyway, don't tell anyone I told you this, but... the NCLEX isn't really that bad. People make it sound so horrible and scary, but the test is designed for success. The algorithm is designed in a way that allows you to show you deserve to pass, which 85% of test-takers do! Speaking of the algorithm, despite the title of this post, you shouldn't worry so much about passing in 75 questions. Yes, it's a relief to feel like you just aced the exam, but a pass is a pass, no matter how you slice it. Now, just because I told you all of this doesn't mean you should ditch your study plans. It just means that you shouldn't work yourself up with anything except positivity and confidence. Keep reading to learn how to best prepare yourself to pass your NCLEX.
2. SET A DATE
The first step in creating a successful study plan is choosing your test date. Register for a date that you feel is going to give you an appropriate amount of time to study. It would be better to overestimate your time needed to study so that you don't end up stressing and cramming. If you end up feeling prepared far before your testing date (look at you go!), you can always change your exam to an earlier session. On the other hand, you don't want to make your test date too far away. The lessons you learned in clinical rotations and the classroom really do help you on the exam, and you don't want to get too rusty before you sit for your NCLEX. Most people would suggest setting your date for one to two months after graduation, and I agree with that advice.
3. CREATE YOUR TOOLKIT
Before you start studying, make a plan for what kind of tools you will use to prepare. When I first started studying, I felt very unorganized and was trying to pull from too many resources - Kaplan review books, random websites, nursing school notes, etc... It was not getting me anywhere. What you need to do is choose a couple ride or die tools to stick with for your NCLEX prep. This toolkit will be your personal choice, but it should include a main source for content and a main source for practice questions. Try to think about what has worked for you in terms of study methods throughout nursing school. During school, I was never one to prepare for exams by reading the textbook. I knew that I needed an interactive way to study that wouldn't bore me to death. So, after some trial and error, I chose two main tools: YouTube for content and NCLEX RN Mastery App for practice questions. You can find the links to these sites at the end of this post.
4. SET DAILY & LONG TERM GOALS
After graduation, I gave myself the first month to relax with some light studying sprinkled in. The second month, I buckled down a lot more. This was my long term plan: study lightly for one month, study harder for the next, and study the hardest for the week leading up to the exam. I also had a daily study goal during each of these long-term time frames.
Month 1: During the first month of light studying, my goal was to complete 50 practice questions per day and to casually watch YouTube videos on content that I struggled with in my practice questions. Might I add that I also went on a nice vacation to Cabo and enjoyed a few cervezas? Balance, people, balance.
Month 2: Each day during Month 2, I set out to answer 100 practice questions. I also watched a couple YouTube videos each day that corresponded with the content of the practice questions. For example, on a day I was answering respiratory questions, I watched one YouTube video on COPD and one on Asthma.
The Final Week: I dedicated the final week to trying to help myself gain confidence in my areas of weakness. I continued to answer 100 questions per day and focused on areas I performed poorly in. I also watched almost every video from the Registered Nurse RN YouTube channel as a comprehensive content review. I would not suggest staying up all night studying this week. If you've been preparing and hitting your daily goals, there is no use for skipping out on sleep. You need to keep your mind happy and healthy, and you can't do that without sleep!
5. REST THE DAY BEFORE
The day before your exam, avoid any type of event you might perceive as stressful. Yes, that includes studying. If you really need to review a few things to calm your nerves, do it in the morning. After that, let yourself rest. I found that this day of rest was extremely helpful for my confidence and my attitude. Although I was anxious, I still felt happy and well-prepared.
If I could give you one main tip that you take away from this post, it would be to focus on learning HOW to take the test. In my opinion and experience, practice questions are more helpful than reviewing content. Yes, a content review is necessary, but the NCLEX is not a black and white content quiz. It is an exam that heavily focuses on prioritization of actions based on clinical knowledge and skill. Using a practice question database will give you the confidence you need to pass in as few questions as possible. A practice-question focused approach to studying will teach you how to answer those pesky select all that apply questions (and holy cow, did I get a LOT of them on the NCLEX). So, practice up, take a deep breath, and get ready to pass! You're going to do amazing.
Feel free to ask questions in the comment section. If you've already taken the NCLEX, share your favorite study tips below!
^ I paid for the premium version, which is quite affordable and worth it in my opinion.