Student nurse tips

Don’t Draw from Past Clinical or Work Experiences

Unfortunately, for those of you who have previous experience working in hospitals as nursing techs or aides, the experience can cloud your ability to answer test questions. Even just from what you observed as student nurses in clinicals, it is usually apparent that many topics or clinical skills are different between textbooks and real-life healthcare. The NCLEX is based on proven, researched-based, evidence-based practice. Even if your previous facility does something in a different way that is just as safe or just as correct, do not assume that this applies to the NCLEX. It’s important to answer NCLEX questions as if you don’t have any real-life constraints as a nurse. Assume you have ample time and resources to perform each answer choice.

Make a Study Plan

Commit to the preparation that the test deserves. Go into studying with a plan, here is an example:

  • Plan days to study. Set a schedule including which days of the week you will study, which days you will take off, and which you will use to take practice exams.
  • Make a goal before each study session. Maybe it’s to do x amount of practice questions, or master x specific content topic, but be intentional. Studying without a plan is a waste of your time and won’t ultimately help you pass the NCLEX. It’s not about the hours you put in, it’s about how you use them. This is one exam you can absolutely not cram for – the NCLEX is a holistic test model that aims to test knowledge gained over the course of years, not days.

Know Your NLCEX Study Style

We all have slightly different learning styles, and you probably know yours by now. Make sure you tailor your studying to what works for you!

  • If you understand concepts well with visuals, draw out rough sketches of cardiac chambers, color-coded medication classes, etc.
  • If you are an auditory learner, there are plenty of YouTube lectures online and podcasts that cover NCLEX.
  • If you learn best through discussion, be sure to create a study group to talk through concepts together. As a general rule, using mnemonic devices help most students with harder to learn concepts. Don’t just reread, rewrite, and copy old notes. Try connecting concepts. Think about what you are learning from a holistic approach and relate it to clinical experiences you had in school.

Find Ways to Manage Your Test Stress

For all of the nervous test-takers out there, don’t worry. There are ways to manage your stress. Test anxiety is a real thing, but you made it through nursing school, so just continue to prepare in whatever way worked for you in the past. Even if you don’t typically have test anxiety, there is a chance that you will be nervous just from the pressure of such an important test. There are a couple key ways to keep stress at a minimum.

  • First, prepare for the exam seriously but don’t make studying your life. It’s important to still keep a balance in the weeks and months leading up to the exam.
  • Allot time in your days for exercise, proper sleep, and whatever you do for fun! By keeping a balance, your mind won’t build up the test moment to anything bigger than it actually is.
  • Also, when it comes time to actually take the NCLEX, do not study or cram information the day of. Take the morning before the test to calm your mind. Focus on something that helps you stay grounded – cooking a nice breakfast, listening to music, going on a run, whatever works for you. Ultimately, the best way to abate your nerves is to study appropriately. When you feel confident and prepared, the NCLEX doesn’t seem all that scary.

Don't Self-Evaluate During the Test

There's no use trying to self-evaluate while you test. Don’t assume that because you got a few “easy” questions in a row that you are below pass level. Just focus on the questions at hand. What seems easy to you, might be challenging to someone else. Every question is as important as the next. This exam is all about endurance. Prepare to sit the full time and then you won’t stress in the chance that you need to.

Understand the NCLEX Format

The NCLEX uses a CAT format, or computerized adaptive testing. Meaning that no single exam is identical. During the course of the exam, the computer algorithm produces each new question based on your performance from previous questions. The test bank is comprehensive and includes different question styles and topics of content. How the NCLEX is Graded The test will produce a minimum of 75 questions, and a maximum of 265 questions. A candidate passes the test when the tester has answered enough questions correctly to stay above the pass line with 95% confidence interval. The candidate will fail the test when they do not rise about the pass line with 95% confidence. Think of it this way – there is a horizontal line on an axis and we will call it the “pass line.” Anything above it is passing, and anything below it is not passing. You start exactly on the line at question zero, and with each correct and incorrect answer, you get bumped up a notch and down a notch, respectively. With each correct answer, the computer will give progressively harder questions, to determine your peak knowledge. To pass, you must ultimately rise to a point above the pass line that demonstrates competency with marginal doubt. The test can end at any point when this determination is made, between questions 75 – 265, or at the maximum time allowance (6 hours).

Find What Works for You

Ultimately, every learner is different – and you will need to figure out how to write good nursing notes. . Here are some other suggestions from our Facebook community – those who have been there and done that:

  • “I loved the SuperNote app when I was in nursing school.” – Lisa F.
  • “I wrote everything down. Then starred important things, then made note cards on those important things.” – Angela D.
  • “Rewrite your notes. Repetition! I graduate Friday!!” – Dionne L.
  • “Record and take notes as much as you can. Look at your notes as you listen to your recording.” – Lee B.
  • “I wrote everything… only way I really learned.” – Lynn A. If you need more tips on how to organize for nursing school, check out the related posts below: 7 Nursing School Essentials 5 Resources for Success in Nursing School 10 Study Tips for Nursing School Photo Provided By: Emma Franz, Cleveland Campus

Auditory Learners: Try the Cornell Notes System

If you’re an auditory learner, you may benefit from listening to lectures and writing down key concepts or words. These simple nursing school notes can jog your memory, and you can go back to fill in information when reading the chapters, says Beck. She suggests trying the Cornell Notes system. “It is a great way to divide information into categories for organization,” she said. “Divide your paper into three sections, use the first column to define topics and the second column to write a few key words, leaving space to go back and fill in later with ideas and summaries of the topics. The last column is for questions needing further explanation at the next class.”

Believe in Yourself

Most importantly, believe in yourself. You deserve to pass and you have already proven your potential as a nurse by graduating nursing school. This is only the final step on your exciting and new journey to being a Registered Nurse – so congratulations!

Visual Learners: Try Concept Mapping

If you are a visual learner, try concept/mind mapping for your nursing school notes, says Tyrhonda King, MSN, RN, a professional nurse tutor at Chamberlain’s Arlington campus. Examples might include drawing a picture or creating a table or chart. To create a concept map, place the topic in the center of the page within a circle, for example. Each key point should have its own box, while supportive information will have its own shape and branch from the key point. “Be fun and creative,” said King. “Add different colors and change the shape of the key point and data as your map grows.” King also advises to keep the supportive data short and to the point and to summarize in your own words to make the information meaningful to you.