The NCLEX-RN: 10 Strategies to Pass It the First Time

  • 03 June, 2022

Passing the NCLEX ought to be near the top of your to-do list as a nursing student gearing up for graduation. As time approaches, you want to be sure you are not waiting until the last minute to get your priorities in line. Having a solid grasp on what your plan will look like to get the most out of your study time is crucial for your future success. Here are my top ten strategies to implement into your regimen to pass your NCLEX the first time.

The NCLEX-RN: 10 Strategies to Pass It the First Time

1. Get a head start

If you want to be sure you are ready by the time you sit for your boards, do not put studying on the back burner. Getting a head start will only increase your chances of receiving a passing score. The sooner you begin, the better the likelihood of only needing to take this exam one time. If you find that you are sitting here reading this as a recent nursing school graduate who has not gotten a head start, don't fret-you still have time to review the necessary content and come out successful on the other side. The key will be utilizing your time efficiently.

Keep in mind that everything you have learned in nursing school has been preparing you for this day, so even if all you did in school was study for your exams, that preparation will still apply to your NCLEX review. Nothing you did as a student will go to waste, but the more review you can dedicate time to earlier on, the easier the process will be.

Starting while you are still in school will allow your sessions to be more of a review as opposed to re-learning vital information, which saves you time and energy overall.

2. Find resources early on

Figure out what study sources benefit your style of learning and invest in them sooner than later. In conjunction with strategy number one, you can start your studies early by utilizing the appropriate resources. If you prefer to read, look into purchasing a book that compiles necessary information. If taking practice tests and questions is more aligned with your learning style, look into investing in something along those lines. EduMind has a great comprehensive study course that can aid in acquiring the appropriate knowledge and strategies that will set you up for your NCLEX.

Whatever you do, find what works well for you and your preferred methods of learning and invest in these resources sooner than later. By doing so, you will jump start your routine prior to finishing school and have a better idea of the overall regimen that will keep you on track.

3. Prioritize yourself

While it is tempting to go full blown study mode and put up blinders to the outside world, it is healthy and rather necessary to still partake in self-care activities. There has to be a balance between the two in order to fully benefit your study efforts. If you neglect to take care of yourself, you will find that you are working harder than you need to.

Figure out what activities you enjoy and be sure to incorporate them into your schedule so that you are continuing to make time for yourself. In addition, practice good sleep hygiene while you are still in school so that this habit is well established beforehand. Skimping on sleep will set you back and make it far more challenging to remember information.

Additionally, be cognizant of the types of food you are putting into your body, and do your best to stay well hydrated. A lack of nutritious foods coupled with dehydration are not well suited to make strides in your NCLEX progress.

4. Create a well-designed study plan

Getting organized and figuring out how you want to tackle your studying early on will benefit you greatly in the long run. Attempting to review without any plan in place is like going to the grocery store without a list-you never know what you'll end up with. Set goals that you want to accomplish each day so that you have a vision for what you are working toward and can visually see the progress you are making day in and out.

Utilize planners, organizers, and calendars so that you can write out what you want to accomplish and have a better view of what you are doing well and where you may be falling short. Writing out what you want to achieve in a day, week, month, etc. can help you stay on the path you want to be on and avoid distractions.

5. Learn to manage your stress

Figuring out ways to calm your nerves is a vital step that must be done ahead of time. The last thing you need is to experience panic during your exam. Determine what actions aid in decreasing anxiety and be sure you are practicing these habits on the daily. If you find that caffeine triggers your nerves, it may be best to limit your intake or avoid it entirely on exam day. Look into ways to center yourself and calm a racing heart. Try to partake in some form of physical activity each day to help maintain stress levels and act as an overall outlet to your studies.

While you are taking your NCLEX, do not waste time overthinking previous questions. Focus on what is in front of you and take your time-there is no need to rush!

6. Challenge yourself

While you are engaging in your studies, be sure that you are using resources that truly challenge you to your maximum ability. Solely focusing on knowledge-based practice questions, for example, will only assess how much information you were able to retain. Focus on questions that force you to apply said knowledge to various patient-centered scenarios so that you can assess what areas you need to review more in-depth.

Studying should be challenging enough so that you are learning something new each time you sit down to look over information. If you are not, this may be a sign that you need to dig a little deeper and apply different methods of review.

7. Learn how to critically think instead of memorize

While some memorization may be necessary, such as various lab values or different types of medications, you will find that knowing information on a more in-depth level will give you the ability to apply it to various scenarios. This exam does not mimic the type of assessments you faced in nursing school-the questions are more challenging, and you will be required to think more critically than you may be used to.

Focus on activities that give you the ability to take your knowledge to the next level. Switch things up, and instead of solely using flashcards, for example, take some time to sit for a practice test that evaluates the information that you have learned from those flashcards. Application is the name of the game when it comes to being able to think critically.

8. Do not base questions off of real life

An easy trap to fall in is answering questions based on your own previous experiences. NCLEX questions are not designed to mimic the real world, unfortunately. All that you need to know is provided to you in the questions, so be sure that when you are reading them you are not subconsciously adding any more details than what is present. This can lead you down the rabbit hole of asking "what if," which in turn, will most likely point you to the wrong answer.

Focus solely on what is being asked of you and remember that the NCLEX world is different from the real world. Remembering this will keep you focused on the information provided in both the questions and answers, thus preventing you from adding your own experience to the equation.

9. Use the process of elimination

While you are answering practice questions (and questions on your actual NCLEX!), remember to use helpful techniques to guide you to the correct answer. Try to first find the outlier, the answer that you know right off the bat is incorrect. After this, see if there are any additional answers that you can easily eliminate. Usually, you will find that you get stuck between two different options. At this point, remember to look back on the different strategies that can help you in deciphering which of the two is the correct answer. Look at your ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation), avoid any absolute answers (words like 'never,' 'always', etc.), and be sure that the safety of and focus on the patient is always the key priority.

10. Know the ins and outs of the NCLEX format

The last thing you want is to go into this exam like a deer in the headlights. If you neglect to spend some time dedicated to learning about the test itself, you will be faced with a rude awakening when you sit for your exam. Do yourself a favor and go onto the NCSBN website beforehand and learn all that you can about the structure of the NCLEX so that you know what you will be up against. Do not make the assumption that you know what to expect because you have graduated nursing school, as this exam is entirely different from the assessments you have previously completed.

Spend a decent amount of time sifting through the content breakdown, the ways in which you are assessed, the overall format, the amount of time you will have, etc. Going into this very important exam with baseline knowledge will ease your mind and set you up on a better path than going into it blindly.

While studying in and of itself may not be a new concept to you, learning to study for the NCLEX very well could be. The earlier you can grasp the fact that this exam is more stringent than previous exams, the better off you will be when you begin your preparation. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you can get through this without proper strategizing-implement the tactics that best align with you and your study preferences to increase your chances of successfully passing your NCLEX the very first time!

Are you preparing for your nursing exam? Get the help you need with our NCLEX-RN exam prep course! Register now.
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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