Why I Started Studying for the NCLEX 6 Months in Advance
Studying for your NCLEX unintentionally occurs well before you may even realize. From the moment you step foot in nursing school, you will be acquiring information that will later help you claim your victory of becoming a licensed nurse. Although it may appear to be too difficult to simultaneously study for nursing school exams and your upcoming boards, remember that it is all applicable and no extra effort will go to waste. Initiating your studies early on will only add benefit and less stress to your life when the time comes to be solely dedicated to passing your NCLEX. Here are some of the top reasons I began studying for this crucial exam six months in advance.
Before We Begin, Let's Define "Studying"
Before we get into the benefits of getting a head start, I want to outline what exactly I define "studying" six months in advance as. This form of studying is in line with whatever you are learning in school at the time, since that is your initial priority. You can't take the NCLEX without passing nursing school, so make sure you keep this in mind if you plan to start studying early.
After each exam, I would be sure to go back and briefly review the material every weekend so that it remained fresh. I did this with each of the subjects, and therefore, by the time finals were completed, I had touched on just about everything before beginning my NCLEX review. While yes, there were subjects I was not as well versed in, the foundation was at least laid and could be built upon moving forward. Nursing school exams tend to be more knowledge based, and the NCLEX tests how well you can apply said knowledge. So, learning the information ahead of time can set you up to focus on accurately applying learned information to the scenarios that you are presented in the form of questions.
The Main Benefits of Preparing for Exams in Advance
Now, let's discuss some of the main benefits you will come across if you choose to dedicate time to studying in advance:
1. You will avoid feeling rushed.
One of my main motivators behind getting a head start was to alleviate the anxiety of feeling behind before I even began. When you start off studying for an important exam feeling overwhelmed, it can be difficult to get in the appropriate headspace to acquire any information at all. By starting six months before my intended test date, the studying was more or less a review. While some areas still required my full attention to grasp, many of the others were still fresh and only required a minute. Having a solid base of knowledge immediately after graduation eased many of my nerves going into this process and aided me in feeling more confident for the big day. Putting yourself in this position provides you with an ideal advantage that will benefit you later on. If you are one who tends to experience anxiety easily, this tip will definitely help in calming your nerves and assist in shifting your attention to what is important.
2. You will feel more confident selecting an NCLEX date.
By having a solid number of months under your belt, you will have more reassurance to be able to confidently select a date for your test. There is an increased amount of pressure when you are trying to decipher when to schedule your exam, and any feelings of uncertainty can lead to either choosing a date that is too early or waiting too long. Knowing that you have a decent foundation of knowledge gives you more comfort and will allow you to plan and stick to your test date without second guessing yourself. It can be tempting to want to wait to schedule your test until you "know" you are ready, but if you go into your studies with a sense of preparedness, you will bypass this process of uncertainty, which will set you up for a better outcome.
3. Your ability to answer practice questions and review rationales will improve.
Having a baseline amount of understanding regarding the content that you will be tested on provides for the ability to focus your time on utilizing NCLEX practice questions and reviewing the rationales. With this already established groundwork, you can start applying what you already know and test your strengths and weaknesses. Given the work that has already been put in, it is less urgent to go over material and more important to see how much knowledge you have acquired thus far. The rationales will then give you the necessary information to fill in the gaps and allow you to assess what areas you should be spending more of your time on. Depending on the efficiency in previous months, a head start can allow you to skip over some of the studying and get right into the application.
4. You will feel less overwhelmed about "learning everything."
Piggybacking off of the previous benefits, by going into this process already feeling somewhat prepared, you are likely to feel less overwhelmed during the entirety of this undertaking. You won't be faced with the same pressure of trying to relearn everything, since the work you put in previously jump started the process. The less overwhelm, the easier it will be to focus on the necessary material. Many students who start from ground zero following graduation feel overburdened by the amount of material to acquire in a short period of time. Do yourself a favor and circumvent this feeling by getting a head start.
5. You will have more free time.
While studying for the NCLEX is similar to a contracted full-time job, it does take up less of your day when you have already gotten a head start on the work you need to get done. By working hard earlier on, you do not have to dedicate as much time during your days following graduation (if you don't want to, that is). I did not feel guilty taking breaks here and there or even taking a full day off to give my brain a rest because of the review I had been consistently putting in months prior. You will find that studying is easier to do and less of a burden when you are more prepared. Being ahead of the game allows for more freedom and can make the process more enjoyable and less of a headache.
6. You will be able to build on material you already know.
Take the final semester of nursing school and use it to your advantage. Spending this time to review information and thus build upon what you already know will allow for a steady transition following graduation. Use your critical thinking skills you have acquired, and do your best to avoid rote memorization. The earlier this is initiated, the less time that will be needed to dedicate to studying when school is over.
7. You will have an increased chance of passing the first time.
As long as you handle your time wisely, the earlier you spend time dedicated to your studies, the higher the likelihood of only needing to take your NCLEX once. This in turn saves you time and money, and it will have you reaching your goal of obtaining your license before you know it. Procrastinating on studying for your NCLEX should be avoided at all costs if you want to avoid the risk of failure. Be prepared well in advance and you will find that success will follow.
While studying for your NCLEX is not the most exciting activity you could choose to engage in, it is highly important and therefore necessary in order to gain licensure in the field of nursing. You have the power and ability to make the decision as to when you will begin preparing for test day. Knowing the potential benefits ahead of time may be the best motivator to get a head start. Studying well in advance does not need to be tedious or complicated and can lead to a multitude of advantages if you are willing to take the initiative to learn about them and put them into action. Make good use of your time while you are still in school, and you will find the process to be seamless and enjoyable in the long run. Six months go by quickly: be sure you are taking steps that your future self will thank you for and start studying today!
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