How to Study for Your NCLEX: Your Ultimate Guide

  • 17 June, 2022

Preparing for your NCLEX can feel quite intimidating when you first set out to begin your review. Learning the appropriate ways to study that benefit your learning style can feel like a full-time job in and of itself, but there are ways you can set yourself up beforehand to be sure that you are on the right track toward success. Studying for your NCLEX doesn't need to be confusing-you have made it this far, so let's focus on simplifying the remainder of the process. Here is your ultimate guide on how to study for your upcoming boards.

How to Study for Your NCLEX: Your Ultimate Guide

1. Get organized

Before you do anything, it is best to assemble your resources in a way that is conducive to how you learn. Sift through your previous class notes to be sure that vital information is sorted accordingly and can therefore be easily accessed when needed. Your brain will already be in overdrive, attempting to filter through and retain various details, so the last thing you need is to make this process more challenging than it needs to be. Make sure that your nursing school materials are not sprawled out all over your desk or scattered in various places-the easier you can pinpoint the location of essential documents, the easier your life will be throughout your NCLEX study journey.

Determine the types of materials and methods you prefer to assist in your studies. Doing so ahead of time will help to prevent fumbling through notes and wasting precious time. Here are some key questions to think about to get the wheels turning:

  1. Do you like to write out concepts? Do you have access to a whiteboard?
  2. Do you retain information easily through reading? Do you have an NCLEX study book?
  3. Do you prefer watching videos as a means of learning?
  4. Do you enjoy teaching others or being taught by a peer?
  5. Do you plan to take a comprehensive course?

Remember, there is not a single one-size-fits-all approach to how you should review, and the good thing is, you can switch things up if you find they aren't working to the extent that you had anticipated. Having a variety of tools in your toolbox and an idea of which strategies have worked well for you in the past will help save you a tremendous amount of time and effort. Once you organize your resources and space, you can move on to creating your study agenda.

2. Create a schedule

Once you have a grasp on the organizational aspect of your studies, you can begin to visualize what the days, weeks, and months leading up will consist of. Investing in a calendar or planner of some sort will aid in this process. Be sure you create tangible goals and do not bite off more than you can chew. Each day should be a new opportunity to build off of the progress from the previous day.

Be strategic in your approach, making sure that you have scheduled breaks throughout your day. Do not attempt to study for five hours straight without getting up to use the restroom or eating a meal. Set yourself up for success by making sure that your needs are met and you are in the best headspace to effectively review material.

3. Take care of yourself

Your main priority may be studying, but don't forget that you won't be able to study well if you do not take care of yourself, first and foremost. Therefore, your health should always be your number one priority. If you are not well, it becomes nearly impossible to successfully do much else.

As mentioned earlier, take breaks throughout your study sessions, but also be sure to take time for yourself each day following your review. Relaxing and unwinding is equally important as studying when it comes to being a well-oiled machine-you can't be in the best shape mentally if you fail to take care of yourself physically and emotionally, as well.

Try to aim to move your body at least a few days a week, and remember that exercise can assist in decreasing any test anxiety and help with focus during your sessions. Focus on whole foods and try to stray away from processed snacks. Be sure you are hydrating well throughout the day and keep a water bottle nearby for consistent reminders. Aim to go to bed and get up around the same time each day to establish a routine and set your mind up to absorb as much information as possible with minimal extra effort. A well-rested brain is essential for retaining and processing necessary knowledge.

Each day, schedule an activity you can look forward to. It could be as minor as taking time to read your favorite book or meeting up with a friend for coffee. Allow yourself some freedom to partake in enjoyable events so that you do not burn yourself out.

4. Add variety to keep your studies from getting boring

Studying each day for your NCLEX can become a tedious and monotonous process if you fail to mix it up every now and again. If you consistently only engage in practice questions at your desk each day, you may eventually find that your focus and interest slowly begin to dwindle as the days go by. See if you can integrate several different methods throughout your week to keep it as exciting and engaging as possible. Here are some possible techniques to incorporate:

  • Use mnemonics and/or flashcards
  • Teach a friend or have a friend teach you
  • Watch videos on YouTube to eliminate confusion surrounding difficult concepts
  • Engage in practice questions and exams
  • Draw/write out key concepts
  • Switch up your study locations (Ex: park/outdoors, friend's house, library, etc.)

5. Put your phone away

In order to get the biggest bang for your buck, you will want to minimize the number of distractions during your study sessions. As difficult as it may be, keeping your phone out of sight while you are studying is a crucial aspect of a successful NCLEX review. Having your cellular device nearby is tempting, and any form of text message or notification that pops up can derail focus.

If at all possible, set your phone out of sight during the times you are going over material, and only use it when you are taking a break. You will be amazed at how much more productive you will feel at the end of the day!

6. Find some peers to review with

If you have some friends or even a single buddy that you used to study with in school, continue meeting up with them every so often for NCLEX review sessions. While individual studies can be beneficial at times to determine the amount of information being retained, studying with a friend can make things more enjoyable and may also make it easier to remember certain details.

I personally felt as if I could recall information about a particular topic much easier when I reviewed with a friend because the session was more entertaining, and therefore, the information stuck with me better.

Get creative in your approach and see what techniques you can implement into your regimen to make learning more appealing and less of a chore!

7. Practice tests

Taking a healthy amount of practice exams and practice questions will not only provide you with a solid foundation of what to expect on your NCLEX, but it will give you the opportunity to see where there are learning gaps that need bridging.

Practice questions are the closest that you can get to the real deal as you will be answering questions of a similar nature on your NCLEX. This helps to prepare your mind for the types of problems to anticipate. The more challenging they are, the better off you will be.

After each question or exam you complete, be sure to review and remediate so that you can fully understand the rationale of the correct answer. In order to know where your strengths and weaknesses are, do not neglect this part of the puzzle-take time to truly learn the reasoning behind an answer and take note of where you need to go back and touch up on later.

8. Take it seriously

Last, but not least, you get out what you put in, so if you prefer to only have to take this exam one time, it is in your best interest to give it 100% of your effort.

Do not let the excitement of graduating nursing school fog the importance of gearing up for your boards. While it may seem like the hard work is complete, there is still one last hurdle to overcome, and if you neglect to take it seriously, you may find that you get stuck taking your NCLEX more than once.

Do not be afraid of the NCLEX, but don't make the mistake of underestimating its intensity or the focus required to pass it. Now is the time to buckle down and get to work so you can be on your way to obtaining your credentials.

Reviewing for your NCLEX does not need to be a complicated process. While each individual may go about their review in a slightly different manner, the foundational groundwork is more or less the same. Instead of overthinking it, slow down and take it one step at a time. Remember, preparing for your boards is like training for a marathon-you have to slowly build yourself up for the big day. Listen to your intuition, create a plan that works well for you, get after it each day, and you're already halfway there!

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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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