General Information About NCLEX That Will Prepare You for Success
Before you can find success on the NCLEX exam, you must first gather and comprehend the essential information that comprises it. To do so, it is vital that you take time to sift through the essential details. While this may not seem as important as studying itself, it will give you a leg up and hopefully prevent any surprises the day of. The more that you know beforehand, the better off you will be. To help lighten the load of your own research, let's walk through some general NCLEX knowledge for you to store in your tool box before the big day.
1. Be aware of the types of questions you will see:
Knowing the different forms of questions you will be up against is extremely important so that you are not caught off guard in the midst of your assessment. While the majority of NCLEX questions will be multiple choice, there are other formats that are weaved in throughout that will assess your application and analysis skills.
- Select All That Apply: You have most likely come across select all that apply questions in nursing school, and these too will make an appearance on the NCLEX. In order to handle these questions effectively, try reading each of the answers as a true or false statement and determine whether or not it is correct based on the stem of the question. Unfortunately, partial credit is not received if only some of the answers were selected-all of the correct answers must be chosen in order for the answer to be identified as correct. While these can be tricky, take your time, read each of the available options, and trust your intuition!
- Hot Spot: This type of question may be brand new to you, so be sure to understand what is being asked and gain experience with similar practice questions before sitting for the boards. A hot spot question will present an image of some sort and the corresponding question will ask you to identify a particular location within that image. For example, you may receive a question that asks you to identify where you would auscultate for Erb's Point during an assessment. Overall, these questions test your ability to locate anatomical landmarks, so be meticulous in selecting the appropriate section with your mouse before moving on to the next question.
- Ordered Response: This format of question will instruct you to take a series of actions and place them in the correct order. This could range from placing the steps on how to appropriately insert a catheter to correctly putting in order how to triage patients during an emergency. Imagining you are performing these steps in real life can help you use your critical thinking abilities to answer the question correctly.
- Fill In the Blank: These types of questions tend to be calculation based and will most likely be a numerical response. You will need to be sure that you are using the appropriate unit of measurement and may need to convert from one form to another (example: cups to ounces). You will have access to a calculator on the screen and can use this to your advantage to produce the correct answer. Keep in mind that the answer will be marked incorrect if the numerical answer is correct but the corresponding unit is incorrect.
- Chart/Exhibit: With this format, you will be shown a chart or table of information and be asked to answer a question based on the provided information. This may or not be something you are familiar with, depending on the types of exam questions you have received as a nursing student. The process of choosing the correct option will require you to analyze and then synthesize the information provided. As an example, you may be presented with a list of various lab values and presented patient symptoms and be asked to determine what medication needs to be adjusted. All the information presented in the chart will be needed to answer the question, so make sure to read every word and don't skip out on any of the minor details.
- Audio: A few of the questions may require the use of headphones. With this format, you will be asked to listen to a specific sound and identify what it is that you hear. For example, you may listen to lung sounds and have to determine whether you hear wheezing, stridor, crackles, or rhonchi. Similar to a multiple-choice question, after listening to the audio clip, you will have four options to choose from.
- Graphics: This type of question is also similar format to a multiple-choice question; however, you will have four different graphics to choose from as an answer. Another way these are set up is a diagram, image, or illustration in the question stem. As an example, you may be presented with a cardiac strip and be asked to identify something about it, or the question could be set up to where the various EKG strips are the answer options, and you have to choose which one corresponds to whatever is being asked in the question.
While you often face multiple choice questions the majority of the time during your studies, be sure to familiarize yourself with these alternative formats as well so they do not come as a surprise to you during exam day. Remember, practice makes perfect!
2. Know how much it costs
While this may seem like a no-brainer, being aware of the expense to sit for your boards can help you to prepare in advance. The upfront cost to register for the NCLEX is $200, but there are often other fees associated. Many college students may work part-time, but for those who work minimal to no hours, finances can be tight, and it is essential to know ahead of time that taking this exam can cost a larger amount of money compared to most things. If you are aware of the dollar amount beforehand, you can work to set money aside so that you are able to register and schedule a date that works well for you as opposed to having to wait until you have the appropriate means to do so. Regardless of whether finances are a concern or not, it is still smart to know the set price ahead of time!
3. Understand that it is a different format than previous exams
This particular exam evaluates your progress in real time using a method known as computerized adaptive testing (CAT). Unlike a nursing school exam where every student receives the exact same set of questions, this assessment bases the next question you receive based off your performance from the previous question. This is why no two exams will be exactly the same. The exam attempts to determine if it is safe for you to practice as a registered nurse-therefore, it is more comprehensive and will call for an increased level of critical thinking than most other tests you have taken thus far. While in the process of studying, keep this in mind and be sure to take practice questions that use a similar format so that you are challenging yourself and preparing effectively.
4. Exam grading
Another major difference from this exam, in comparison to those you have taken in nursing school, is that you will not receive a numerical percentage following the completion of your NCLEX. The NCLEX exam uses dichotomous scoring: in order to pass, you will need to answer the questions correctly at least 50% of the time or 0.00 logits
, which determine variations between the complexity of the question and your nursing knowledge. In other words, this exam is set up as a pass or fail format and the computer will determine whether you have passed after you have successfully proven that you have been above the passing line 95% of the time. This is an extremely important detail to remember going into your boards, as it should, and will, feel much more challenging than other exams you have completed in the past.
5. The four areas of focus
The four main topics that comprise the NCLEX include: physiological integrity, psychological integrity, health promotion and maintenance, and safe and effective care management. As a student in nursing school, when you prepared for an exam, you had a set number of chapters or topics that you needed to review. In similar fashion, the NCLEX has a list of topics for you to base your studies off of as well. However, this list, as you can probably imagine, is much more comprehensive, as it goes over more or less everything you have learned during your time as a student. With that being said, it would be beneficial to sift through each of these topics and their various subtopics and organize your studies based on these categories. Since there is an overwhelming amount of knowledge to be responsible for, breaking it down into sections can be helpful.
When it comes to the NCLEX, you are better off knowing more than less! Before diving in head first to your studies, be diligent in taking the appropriate amount of time to dissect and digest some general pieces of information that can aid in helping you find success on the upcoming exam.
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