Time is drawing near, and you have finally hit the one-month mark in your countdown to your NCLEX! While this is an exciting time, it can also be paired with unsettled nerves, especially if you are not feeling as prepared as you had originally anticipated. If this is you, do not fear; you have more knowledge than you may realize, and one month is still an extremely decent amount of time to make headway, so long as you use your remaining time effectively. If you're in need of some guidance, let's take a look at how you can become NCLEX-ready with only one month to go.
1. If you do not have a calendar, now is the time to invest in one
First and foremost, you need to get organized. If you have been winging it thus far, it is essential that you buckle down in order for this last month to be put to good use. You will be amazed at the increase in productivity that is made by scheduling and planning out each day by the hour. So much time can go to waste or be under-utilized when we are not making the effort to plan out activities. Do not try to go into this last month without a game plan. Pencil in your day-to-day actions, and be sure to stick to them. Integrate your study agenda into your daily routine. Here is an example of what your day may look like if you are taking breaks throughout your day:
8:30- Eat breakfast and do some form of activity to wake yourself up and get in a good headspace (yoga or walk around the neighborhood)
9:30- First study session (choose a topic or specific content you want to review, unless you are taking a practice exam)
10:45- Take a 15-minute mental break
11:15- Practice questions
12:45- Lunch break
1:30- Review essential labs and medications (with flashcards or something of that nature)
2:00- Take a break, get some fresh air
2:30- Study with a friend
5:00- Eat dinner
6:00- Quick review of content that you had previously struggled with
6:30- Put the study tools and resources away for the evening
7:00- Any form of self-care (try to put your phone away and stay off of screens in order to wind down effectively for the day)
9:30-10:00- Get ready for bed
This schedule can obviously be tweaked in various ways and ordered for your liking, but this is an example of how detailed your days should be. That way, if you are feeling distracted, you can look at your calendar or planner and see where your focus needs to return to. This is especially important for that final month of studying so that you are getting the biggest bang for your buck. While it may feel tedious in the moment, you will look back on this timeframe later on and thank yourself for being so meticulous.
2. Utilize your resources
It is one thing to be told to study, but it is another entirely different story to truly know what that looks like for you, specifically. Think back to the ways in which you acquired information easiest when you were in nursing school, but do not be afraid to employ other strategies and mix up your routine if you find that what you were doing is no longer working. At this point in time, most of your studying should be geared toward practice questions so that you can determine how well you are able to apply information. However, using resources from nursing school can come into play when you need to refresh your memory on a topic. There are a plethora of resources out there; just be sure they are suited to your learning style for the best results.
3. Take practice tests
Engaging in NCLEX-styled practice exams is one of the best ways to gauge your progress and determine areas of weakness. This is a great tool to measure where you currently stand and gives you an idea of where necessary adjustments can be made to your studies.
Exposing yourself to as many NCLEX-style questions as possible will prepare you for the real deal. Avoid solely taking knowledge-based exams, and focus on those that force you to synthesize information and think critically, as that is what you will be seeing on the day of your boards. Prepare now to avoid any unfavorable surprises later.
Additionally, practice mimicking the exam setting when you take practice questions or tests. Avoid looking at your phone, getting up frequently, snacking, or searching for the answers. Utilize the same techniques you would as if you were sitting for your actual test to get in a better routine and avoid creating bad habits.
4. Review rationales
Review the answer and explanation to every single question that you answer, not just the questions that you answer incorrectly. Understanding the reason behind why an answer is correct or incorrect will provide you with the ability to remember it for a longer period of time. This helps you to steer clear from memorization and utilize your critical thinking abilities. Even if you have answered a question correctly, it is still best that you take the time to remediate, making sure that you fully understand the reasoning rather than merely getting lucky on a guess. Looking over rationales also provides you with a clearer idea of what topics you may need to go back and review more in-depth. It's a good gauge for assessing strengths and weaknesses and gives you better insight on where you need to be diverting time during your sessions.
5. Get your nerves in check
Focus on the positive and do your best to avoid negative self-talk. Practice positive affirmations, and if you find that your nerves tend to gravitate toward the higher, more anxious side, be sure that you implement self-care practices every single day to assist in leveling out. Choose activities that focus on mindfulness, such as meditation or yoga, to ground yourself and keep nerves at bay. Starting these practices well in advance will help you to remain poised and relaxed on the day of your NCLEX.
6. Do not put your self-care on the back burner
Just because you have reached the one-month countdown does not give you an adequate excuse to ditch taking care of yourself. While you may feel inclined to stay up late to get in more study time or drink all of the caffeine your body can physically handle, maintaining a routine that focuses on your health will be more beneficial in the long run. You want to be feeling your absolute best on the day of your NCLEX, and in order to do so, your body needs to be prepared beforehand. If you are used to going to bed at 2 am each night but decide you are going to get to sleep before 10 pm the night before your test, chances are you will have a difficult time achieving this goal. Therefore, it is imperative you start practicing healthy habits now so that you are physically, mentally, and emotionally in shape for your big day.
With that being said, if you feel like you are in a rut and do not know where to begin, here are a few pointers you can start to slowly incorporate until it becomes second nature:
- Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day
- Take breaks throughout your studying (every 30-60 minutes)
- Get outside!
- Do some light to moderate exercise at least 3-4 times a week
- Aim to sleep for at least 7 hours a night
- Balance your meals and have healthy snacks on hand
- Choose a time each evening to put your studies aside
- Do one thing each day that you enjoy (watch a movie, hang out with a friend, listen to a podcast, etc.)
7. Set aside an appropriate amount of study time per day
The best way to make use of your final month is to get after it each day. Determine what you feel is right for you, as everyone will likely be in a different place at this point in time. Some individuals may require 4-5 hours of allotted study time, while others may feel 2-3 feels appropriate. Regardless, with a limited number of weeks remaining, be sure to diligently review content, focusing on weaknesses first and foremost. Start off your day looking over areas that you struggle with, review content you feel confident with, and end with material that falls in-between.
For example, if burns tend to be a complicated topic for you, start off sifting through key information, taking practice questions, etc., when you initiate your studies for the day. If content associated with maternity is something that comes easier for you, review this material in the middle of the day. Finally, if you have a decent grasp on important lab values, spend the end of your study session writing these out. Mixing up the ways in which you review can increase the chances of vital information sticking longer.
A month will go by rather quickly whether you realize it or not. Don't make a mistake and slack off during one of the most crucial periods of your pre-nursing career. Now is your chance to buckle down and take control of your schedule and the time you have remaining. Make it the most productive month of studying yet so that you can later rejoice and bask in the glory of receiving your long-awaited credentials!
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