7 NCLEX Exam Day Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making in Nursing School

  • 20 May, 2022

Whether you realize it or not, the study habits you create and practice in nursing school will carry over into your NCLEX preparation. In other words, the routine you are currently developing will impact your ability to study effectively and could thus dictate whether you pass with flying colors or have to repeat the process over again. With that being said, right now, while you are still in nursing school, is the time to evaluate your day-to-day actions and determine what may need to be improved upon in order to be sure that you are optimizing your chances of receiving a passing score.

Analyze the study techniques you currently have in place and ask yourself if each of those are going to benefit you when you gear up for your exam. If you are not sure if what you are doing now is helping or hindering, you're not alone, and I am here to guide you into making the appropriate distinctions. Sometimes we are unaware of the negative impact of our behaviors until it is pointed out by an outside source. So, let's discuss seven NCLEX exam day mistakes you may not know that you are currently making in nursing school.

7 NCLEX Exam Day Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making in Nursing School

1. Cramming before exam day

Attempting to overload your brain with information merely days before an exam will not provide you with the results you are after-you will most likely end up feeling anxious, fatigued, and upset with the grade you received. Cramming for an exam oftentimes coincides with pulling an all nighter, another action that should be avoided at all costs both in nursing school and beyond. Instead of attempting to learn all you need to know in one day, space out your study sessions in smaller portions to be able to acquire more information and feel less overwhelmed going into an exam day.

Look at the weeks and months ahead of time and map out when your test is and how much time you can allot each day to reviewing material. Adopting better study habits for nursing school exams will later prepare you for when your only study obligation is the NCLEX.

2. Skimping on sleep

Even though nursing school is an incredibly busy season of your life, this is not an excuse to decrease the amount of sleep you get each night. Prioritizing your own health needs to be at the top of your to-do list. If you cannot take care of yourself properly, you will not be able to take care of your future patients down the road. Additionally, your brain can only do so much if you have not given it enough time to rest and restore from one day to another. Overloading it time and time again without space in between to refuel is going to spiral your progress in the opposing direction. Even if you feel overwhelmed with everything that is constantly on your plate, do not sacrifice your sleep in return-there is nothing to gain from this decision.

Practice getting into a good sleeping pattern now so that you are equipped to continue doing so when you are prepping for your NCLEX and more so for when you are gearing up to practice as a nurse. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so be sure you are taking the time to fill yours first and foremost.

3. Trying to memorize information

While you may be able to get away with rote memorization during school, this technique will only hold you back when you initiate your NCLEX studies. You will quickly realize that application trumps memorization for this type of examination. Unfortunately, you cannot memorize your way through this test; there are critical thinking skills that go well beyond the surface level of the information required to know.

Attempting to study for nursing school exams via the route of memorization does not allow for the consolidation of information, and as soon as the exam is complete, unless you consistently brush up on the content, you will not end up retaining any of it. Start studying as you would for the NCLEX now. Be sure you are taking the time to really learn different concepts, and better yet, continue to review them even after you complete exams in school. This will set you on the appropriate path for your NCLEX review down the road.

4. Not monetizing on your learning abilities

With the pressure that is abundantly present in nursing school, it can be difficult to tune out the noise of what everyone else is doing. This includes the various methods of studying information. Even if the smartest person in your cohort likes to write out all of their notes, this may not work for you, so don't get caught in the trap of comparison. Keep your blinders on and hone the ways in which you preserve information. If you are able to realize and implement these methods early on, you will be less stressed throughout school and following graduation when your focus shifts to NCLEX review.

Determine how you prefer to retain information, and try not to worry if what you're doing is entirely different from what your classmates are doing. Everyone has a unique way of learning, and the sooner you realize and adopt this mentality, the easier your life will be.

5. Neglecting to review material following exams

To help improve the amount of information you are able to store, it is crucial that you are consistently reviewing material and not neglecting it just because you have completed the exam on that specific chapter. This information does not go away once and for all following the completion of a nursing school assessment, so be sure to take time to keep the knowledge accessible in your brain. Not only will the same knowledge be required for nursing school finals, but you will also need it for your NCLEX and, who knows, maybe even the field of nursing you find yourself in following completion of school and your NCLEX!

If you tend to ignore content immediately following an exam, start dedicating some time each weekend to reviewing past material. It won't take you long, and the benefit will be tenfold.

6. Lack of organization/inadequate time management skills

Do you have a calendar or planner that you follow? If the answer is no, you should consider investing in one. A disorganized mind tends to lack proficient time management skills. By being able to visualize what your weeks, months, years, etc., look like, you can become organized in all sections of your life and have a better grasp on how to utilize your time more effectively. If you're one who tends to study all the time because you can't find any downtime in your schedule, that may be a sign that you need to take a deeper look and reevaluate your days and various pockets of time. Stay organized and on top of your schedule so that you can lead a healthier and more productive lifestyle.

Now is the time to learn how to create a study plan that you know works well for you. While this may change slightly following graduation, be sure that you at least know how to look at your schedule and determine the clusters in your day that can be dedicated to review. Staying organized can decrease anxiety levels and boost your overall efficacy. Learning how to manage your time effectively now is essential.

7. All work and no play

While it is important to have a go-getter mindset, you must be able to find the balance within the hustle. If you begin to solely focus on your academics and neglect all the other various aspects of your life, you're going to start to lose your mind. Self-care is imperative to your success as a student and RN, and you need to learn what activities feed your soul. Adopting the "all work and no play" lifestyle will quickly lead to mental and physical exhaustion. Life is all about finding a balance, and this notion is no different just because you are in nursing school.

Figure out what activities you enjoy doing and incorporate them into your weekly or monthly routines. This can help to diminish stress levels and give you something exciting to look forward to, something especially important when you're faced with challenges.

By intertwining enjoyable events into your life as a nursing student, you'll be well versed in doing so when you are focusing on your NCLEX and furthermore, when you begin practicing as a registered nurse.

It can be hard to conceptualize the future when you feel overwhelmed in your current setting as a nursing student. School can be all consuming and sitting for your boards can oftentimes feel like a lifetime away. However, the days are still passing whether it feels that way or not, and soon enough, the time will come to take your NCLEX. It is easier to unravel subpar habits while you are still in school than it is when you are graduated and have been partaking in these habits for months on end. Analyze your current actions and determine now if what you are doing each day is helping or hurting your future success. Get yourself on the right path by ditching the mistakes that are holding you back, and start to intertwine positive actions that your future self will thank you for.

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About the Author: Kelsey Mangan

Kelsey Mangan is a registered nurse, who graduated from Linfield College in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and minor in education. She is a health and wellness advocate, writer, wife, and a new mama to baby Paisley. In her spare time, she enjoys working out, spending time with friends and family, finding binge-worthy shows on Netflix, and snuggling with her sweet daughter.

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