How I Passed the NCLEX With the Minimum Number of Questions

  • 27 May, 2022

There's no anticipation quite like that of reaching the minimum number of questions on the NCLEX and waiting to see if the computer shuts off or not. I remember that feeling almost as if it were yesterday and the sheer panic that floods your body before pressing the button to proceed. Whether the computer turns off or not, you still have no idea as to whether or not you have passed. It's the ultimate emotional roller-coaster, and there's no way to bypass it. While there may not be a foolproof design to prevent this from occurring, there are some techniques you can incorporate into your study plan to boost your chances of having the computer shut off after the fewest possible questions AND come out passing. Here are some of the actions I implemented that aided in passing the NCLEX with the minimum number of questions.

How I Passed the NCLEX With the Minimum Number of Questions

1. Don't just take practice exams-read the rationales

In my specific situation, my very last question I received before my test shut off was a question similar to one I had come across the day before during my final review. Because I had read the rationale and took the time to understand the answer, I knew that I had answered this question on my NCLEX correctly. Therefore, when my computer shut off after that question, I was almost 100% certain that I had passed. This is unfortunately not a reality for most, and I will admit that I was very lucky. However, it does go to show just how important it is to take practice exams and learn why an answer is correct or incorrect. If you are only participating in practice exams just to be able to say that you did them, you are missing the point entirely. The two main reasons behind these are to determine (a) if you know how to apply the knowledge you already have and (b) to gauge where you are in your studies and figure out what areas of content you need to brush up on.

Another way that rationales can be utilized is during the exam itself. Once you have carefully read the question and chosen your answer, be sure that you can explain to yourself why that is the best possible option. This gives you the chance to double-check that you have looked at each of the potential answers and can be certain in your decision-making.

When you answer a practice problem incorrectly, remediating the answer and then writing it down as a way to remember to go back and review is essential to forming and consolidating the necessary knowledge.

2. Start reviewing early

Another key factor that I took advantage of was starting my NCLEX review while I was still in nursing school. It is often neglected until after graduation, but if you can make time to review old information here and there, you will find that it is less tedious of a transition.

I would utilize an NCLEX review book while I was studying for my exams, killing two birds with one stone. This allowed me to be sure I was reviewing class and textbook notes but also filled in any of the gaps that may not have been touched upon in lectures. I would spend about one hour every weekend going over material from previous exams to be sure that the content I learned was not dwindling in my bank of knowledge. Doing so simplified my NCLEX study sessions and allowed for more time to apply what I already knew instead of taking more time to learn or re-learn different concepts.

3. Take the time to home in on your weaknesses

Pay close attention to topics that are harder for you to grasp and start your review sessions off going over these. You want to have a fresh mind when you go over material that is more challenging and save the content that is easier to understand for later.

Procrastinating reviewing the difficult areas will set you back and make it harder to play catch up. Take the time to make note of where you tend to struggle so that you are aware of this going into your review sessions.

I kept a running list of concepts, words, medications, etc. that I found to be difficult for me to remember and made sure that these were the first areas I touched upon when I sat down to study. If you choose to engage in this action, you will find that the list will start to get shorter instead of longer as time progresses.

4. Don't neglect labs or drugs

Despite the importance of knowing these just to know, keep in mind that many questions on the exam will incorporate bits and pieces of lab values and information related to various medications. Therefore, if you do not have a basic groundwork, you will be at a disadvantage and may answer many problems incorrectly. Spend time learning your key labs and medications, and practice applying them to clinical settings.

As I learned more labs and medications during nursing school, I created flashcards and would spend time regularly going through them. By the time I took my NCLEX, I felt confident that I had a good foundation of information in this area that would help me decipher through important details on given questions in my upcoming exam.

5. Take challenging practice questions and exams

If you want to make sure you are prepared, don't waste time taking practice tests that are simple or only cover the basics. Focus on exams that truly challenge you and force you to apply your knowledge. If you feel as if you need to first determine what you know vs. what you don't know, do so with simpler tests, but be sure you are engaging in practice exams that go the extra level and hone those critical thinking skills afterward. If you're getting 100% on the practice tests you take, most likely you need to find something more difficult. My highest overall percentage on exams I took to prepare was in the low seventies! Each question I embarked upon required some form of critical thinking, which allowed me to know I was on the right path.

So, don't be afraid to challenge yourself! The more you do so now, the easier of a time you will have when you sit for your boards.

6. Get organized

The more organized you are now, the less chaotic studying will be later on. Practice getting into the habit of filling out a weekly planner, and find pockets of your day that you can implement some studying into.

I kept a planner with me at all times and was diligent about making sure it was filled out with all my activities from morning until evening. Doing this in nursing school allowed me to see where I could unwind and where I could monetize on spurts of study time. Establishing this technique in school set me up to do so seamlessly for my NCLEX studies following graduation, decreasing my overall stress levels and increasing my productivity.

7. Take it seriously

I knew well in advance that this exam was going to trump anything I had taken in the past in terms of difficulty level. Given this understanding, I worked harder than I would have had I not known this in advance. This was a main motivator for me to buckle down and get after it each day.

I also made sure that I took the necessary time to research all of the ins and outs of the exam itself. As someone who likes to be prepared, I knew the importance of not skipping this vital step. If you want to start off on the right foot, take the time to navigate through essential information on the NCSBN website.

8. Study with a buddy

Find a fellow nursing student that you work well with and schedule days to review material together. This was a huge asset to my NCLEX success because we were able to teach one another different concepts and develop new understandings of topics that we didn't have to begin with. I always felt more productive when I was with someone else and less distracted. Being able to talk through challenging topics was essential and allowed for discussions regarding crucial content.

This form of studying also enables a more entertaining and motivating way to acquire knowledge and provides a different change of pace if you find yourself getting bored studying alone. This can also add a sense of accountability to dedicate time to your studies if you are having a hard time sticking to it. Relying on each other to stay focused can increase your productivity in a fun way.

9. Read the questions and all of the answers

Make sure you take the time to read every word, in both the question and the available answers. This will help to avoid jumping to conclusions before analyzing fully what is being asked of you. It can be easy to skim over words due to a buildup of nerves, but remind yourself that you have plenty of time and that there is no need to rush. Quickly scanning over the questions could cause you to miss vital pieces of information and then lead you into choosing the wrong answer.

I felt nervous, as anyone would, going into my NCLEX, but I made sure to read every question at least twice and double checked all of my answers. If there was a question that I still felt I needed time on, I made sure to mark it and later returned to it with a fresh set of eyes. Remember that you can do this when you find that you are taking too much time on a question but feel you haven't come to the correct answer just yet.

Finding techniques that both align with your learning style and push you academically will improve your chances of passing your NCLEX with the lowest number of questions. Make the effort now to determine what works well for you and what does not. Be sure to also implement methods of learning that challenge you to the full extent. Remember, if the computer does not turn off after you have reached the minimum number of questions, take a deep breath and continue on. At the end of the day, the goal is to pass, and whether it takes you the limited number or the full amount, both will provide you with those two letters you are after: R.N.

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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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