The Week Before the NCLEX

  • 25 April, 2022

The Week Before the NCLEX

Only one week to go until you take the NCLEX exam. You are in the final stretch, and hopefully, it will not be long until you can add the title of RN to your name. All of your hard work and studying have brought you to this point.

How this next week will go depends on how much you have prepared up until this point. Hopefully, you have spent the last month or more studying and preparing for the NCLEX exam. If so, this week will be an excellent time to review some more challenging areas and prepare mentally for the exam. On the other hand, if you have procrastinated and are just starting to study, this week will likely be intense. Even so, with some effort, you can still be successful.

Whether you are just starting to study or have been studying for a while, go into this final week with a plan. Below are some tips to follow as you finish preparing for the big day.

Take care of yourself: Are you a last-minute crammer? Did you stay up all night to study for tests in nursing school? If so, stop. Now is not the time to load up on caffeine and skip sleep for a week. Instead, make a study plan that allows you to get a decent amount of sleep each night (preferably at least 6 hours). Also, eat healthily, and try to exercise every day in the week leading up to the test. Your brain will thank you, and the time you spend studying will be more productive.

Make a study plan: Making a plan is especially important if you are just now starting to study for the NCLEX. You need a study plan for this next week. Start by looking over your schedule for this next week and figuring out how much time you have available each day for studying. If possible, plan on spending 4-6 hours a day studying with frequent breaks.

Next, make a list of the NCLEX exam topics in which you do not yet feel confident. Then, plan out when you will study those topics and how you will study them. You can find helpful study tools online, use your old textbooks from nursing school, or even watch YouTube videos if that is what works best for you. Take some time to find these types of resources and plan out when you will go through them. Alternatively, if you have been working through an NCLEX preparation course, use the resources provided to finish your studies.

Take NCLEX practice tests: Taking practice tests serves two purposes. First, it allows you to get used to how NCLEX questions are phrased. Second, you can identify the topics you need remediation or additional time for studying. Do not get discouraged if you get practice questions wrong; it is part of the learning process. But make sure you understand why you got the question wrong and note if that is an area that needs more focus.

Remember to focus on the basics: You might feel tempted to dive into the depths of each topic, but remember the NCLEX is about testing if you know what a new nurse should know. You will have plenty to study with just the basics, so do not study outside the parameters of nursing school. Focus on basic pharmacology, not obscure medications for rare illnesses. Do not try to understand everything about burns, but know things like the rule of nines and initial treatments. You are in the home stretch, and you need to make sure you have the basics down without the distraction of random bits of information.

Flashcards are your friends: This is especially true for lab values, vital signs, and other numeric values. Reviewing specific hard to memorize items repeatedly will help you know them backward and forward.

Study the most challenging topics before you sleep: Studies have shown that your brain will recall more easily whatever you were studying right before sleeping. So, if you need a study break before going to bed, take it, but pull out those flashcards just before you lay down, and consider your sleep bonus study time.

Use a test preparation program: Even if you are getting a late start to preparing for the NCLEX exam, using an NCLEX study program can help you find an organized approach to studying. If you find it difficult to plan what to study (it can feel overwhelming), you may still have time to invest in a program like EduMind's and get the resources you need for last-minute studying. Doing so might be the extra boost you need to power through this last week. Just be sure to set aside a reasonable amount of time to work through as much of the program as possible before the test.

Take a day off: Even if it seems you do not have time to spare, taking a day away from studying might be the break your brain needs before you power through the last few days before the NCLEX. If you find your studying has become unproductive or your mind feels cluttered with all the information you have been cramming the last few days, give yourself some time away from the books to rest and recover. Doing so will allow your mind to process the information you have worked on so far and be ready to take in some more.

Trust what you know: You have already successfully completed a nursing program and clinical if you are getting ready to take the NCLEX exam. You have a whole library of knowledge that you worked hard to gain over the last couple of years. You know much more than you realize. As you approach the NCLEX exam, be confident in what you know. Second-guessing yourself is an easy way to get off track and can quickly derail your study plan.

Remember these test-taking strategies: Knowing a few key test-taking strategies can make a big difference as you work through practice NCLEX exams and take the actual NCLEX exam. Here are a few:

  • Read the question and possible answers carefully. Do not rush and miss important details.
  • Identify keywords such as always, never, except, all, none, first, last, and only. These words are important, and if you miss them, you will likely miss the correct answer.
  • After you select an answer, go back and reread the question to make sure the answer you chose matches the question.
  • If you do not know the answer, make an educated guess. It is better to answer wrong than not to answer at all. If you have no idea what answer is correct, do not waste time stewing over the possibilities. Instead, pick the answer that seems to be the best option, and move on.
  • Questions that are "select all that apply" should be answered as true or false. Consider each possible answer as true or false and select the appropriate ones.
  • Do not change your answer unless you notice information you missed initially in the question.
  • If you do not understand the question, try rephrasing the question in your own words.

Envision your success: Think positively about the upcoming test. It is normal to feel nervous, but do not allow yourself to get distracted by panicking. Assume you will pass the NCLEX this time. Work towards that goal, and do not waste your time thinking about failure. If you start to panic, take deep breaths, and find a positive mantra that works to calm your mind. Even something as simple as "I can do this" will keep your mind focused on success.

Think through test day: The day before the test, think through each step of the next day. What will you eat for breakfast? What will you bring with you to the testing facility? How will you get there? Going through the day in your mind will help you feel less panicked in the morning and will also help you make sure you are well prepared. Do not forget to plan time for things like traffic and other unexpected delays. Read through the information the NCSBN has online concerning the exam day and testing procedures.

Pack the day before: Pack your bag the day before with whatever you plan to bring with you. Bring some healthy snacks to eat before going into the exam and during any breaks you take. Make sure you have your ID. Remember you will not be allowed to bring a jacket into the testing area, so wear comfortable clothes with layers.

Know what happens if you don't pass: Focus on the positive and assume you will pass, but also know what happens if you do not pass. You can retake the NCLEX exam after 45 days. If needed, you can change your study strategy to be more effective next time. Although failing is inconvenient, it should not represent the end of your dreams to be a nurse. If you fail, make a plan, and try again. Different states have restrictions on how many times you can retake the NCLEX, so check your specific state requirements if you have already failed once.

With some preparation and focus, you can power through this last week of studying and go into the NCLEX exam with confidence. Best of luck to you as you finish well!

Sources:

Scientists say studying before bedtime is best. (2017, February 21).
Chronobiology.com. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from
https://www.chronobiology.com/scientists-say-studying-before-bedtime-is-best/
About the Author: Christy Geaslen

Christy Geaslen is a registered nurse of eight years, a healthcare writer, and a mom of five. She loves researching and believes knowledge can change the world. This passion drives her to provide upbeat, informative, reader-friendly content that empowers others.

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