The path to becoming a practicing nurse is one with a number of hurdles. Getting into a nursing program, enduring the onslaught of information in didactics, surviving the pressure of clinical rotations, and successfully graduating — just to name a few.
But as gratifying as graduation is, it is not the final hurdle to becoming a nurse. To see your dream become a reality, there is one last obstacle that must be overcome for nurse licensure — passing the NCLEX®. The NCLEX is a high-stakes exam that tests your competency to begin safely practicing in your chosen profession.
Students wishing to become an LPN must pass the NCLEX-PN®, and students wishing to become an RN must pass the NCLEX-RN®. With so much riding on the outcome of these exams, it is critical that you do everything you can to position yourself for success on exam day.
Here are five ways to increase your chance for NCLEX success . . .
1. Choose Your Study Resource Carefully
There are a number of study tools available to begin prepping for the exam, and it’s only natural to wonder which resource is right for you.
The best learning tool will:
- Provide you with NCLEX-style questions written at the application level or higher.
- Present detailed rationales and vivid illustrations to help you master the content
- Offer self-assessments that will allow you to identify weaknesses, compare your progress to peers, and gauge your test preparedness.
One of the best ways to determine which learning tool is best for your NCLEX prep is to ask practicing nurses which resource they used and how it was a benefit to them.
2. Employ Spaced Repetition in Your Study Sessions
Many times, students walk away from study sessions wondering if they will ever be able to retain all they’ve crammed into their minds. This can leave you feeling stressed out and with a lack of confidence. This is where spaced repetition can save the day.
Spaced repetition is a proven, evidenced-based learning technique employed by UWorld to better prepare students for the NCLEX.
What is spaced repetition you ask: It’s a flashcard feature that allows you to see difficult information more frequently until you master it, then decreases the frequency so your brain is challenged to create long-term retention.
Spaced repetition enables you to study smarter, not harder. And when you’re preparing for the NCLEX, smart study strategies are crucial for your success! (Learn more about UWorld’s Spaced Repetition Flashcards here.)
3. Start Prepping Early and Stick to a Plan
The most common mistake students make when preparing for the NCLEX is waiting too long to begin studying. You can avoid that blunder by building a smart study plan and sticking to it.
If you begin answering practice questions and studying the rationales a few months before the exam, your chances of success skyrocket.
The added benefit to implementing a study plan far in advance of your exam day is that your study sessions won’t be as grueling. When you have three months to prep instead of three weeks, you can work through a few questions a day in the lead up to your exam.
The key here is intentional planning and consistency. Carve out dedicated time each day (or five days a week) and stick to the plan. This will increase your knowledge, build your confidence, and have you prepared to ace the NCLEX on your first attempt.
4. Show Up Rested and Prepared
All the work you do in preparation for the exam can be compromised if you show up on exam day rushed, hungry, stressed, or exhausted. This means there are some practical things you can do on exam day to increase your chances of success . . .
- Get at least eight hours of sleep each night during the week preceding your exam
- Drive to your testing site a day or two before your exam to ensure you know the route
- Show up to the testing site early with your registration documents in hand
- On the morning of the exam, EAT.A.HEALTHY.BREAKFAST.
- When you start the exam, relax your shoulders, unclench your jaw, breathe deeply, and think positively.
Fun Note: In 2018, a professor at Baylor University offered an incentive for his students to sleep for at least eight hours a night during the week of final exams. Predictably, the students who took up the challenge (*clears throat* “bribe”) outperformed the students who didn’t. You can read about it here.
5. Recognize the Value and Enjoy the Process
While it’s natural to feel apprehensive about a looming NCLEX exam, dread is not an ingredient for success. Dread contributes to procrastination and rushed study.
Rather than fearing the test, see your study as an opportunity to reinforce and enhance the knowledge you gained in your nursing program. When you recognize the value in your test prep, you’ll find joy in the process, knowing that you are simply gaining more tools that will help you to be competent and confident on day one of your nursing career.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie
If you’re a nursing student preparing to take the NCLEX® exam, UWorld is the gold standard for NCLEX prep. We can help guide your success from classroom to clinical with thousands of questions that mimic the exam, detailed rationales, vivid illustrations, and precise performance tracking. Discover why over 700,000 nursing students have trusted us for their exam prep since 2015.