These Tips Will Help You Pass the NCLEX (Even If It's Last-Minute)
As you get down to the wire, you may be feeling as if there is not enough time to complete all of the remaining tasks on your NCLEX review checklist. This is a normal sensation felt by most, especially as you look back and wonder where the days and hours disappeared to. While it may feel as if there is nothing left for you to be able to boost your likelihood of overcoming your boards, I'm here to tell you that there are some last-minute tips that can aid in getting you a passing score, even if it is last minute. Let's take a look at what you still have time to do:
1. Get a good night of sleep
Even though it may be tempting to stay up at all hours of the night and continue reviewing material, I can guarantee that getting to bed at a decent hour, aiming for at least seven to eight hours of sleep, will provide more benefit during your exam. You want to go into your NCLEX day with a fresh mind so you are able to think clearly and critically during the exam itself. Staying up late will only cause you to feel groggy and fatigued, making it more of a challenge to think through various scenarios that will be presented throughout the assessment. Even if you feel as if you did not log enough study hours throughout the course of this process, you will still be better off getting to sleep at a decent time as opposed to staying up late or pulling an all-nighter. So, do yourself a favor and plan to get to sleep at an appropriate hour so your mind is sharp and ready to go!
2. Eat a hearty breakfast or meal beforehand
Another crucial factor is making sure that you have eaten a healthy and filling meal prior to sitting for your boards. Whether your exam is in the morning or afternoon, be sure to eat something that will keep you satiated for a long period of time. Your brain requires energy to work at its optimum level, so do it a favor and fuel beforehand so it can do its job effectively. Focus on a well-rounded meal that contains fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Since there is a potential to be sitting for your NCLEX for up to five hours, it is important to make sure that you get there well-fed so you don't find yourself starving and unable to focus on the questions. While you do have the option to bring snacks, it is best not to rely on this as your only source of energy. Bring something if need be, but also prepare ahead of time so that your brain is nourished and prepared to work at its highest capacity. Additionally, try to avoid excessive amounts of caffeine right before your exam. Chances are you will already be experiencing some pre-test jitters-and overdoing it on the coffee or Red Bull is something to steer clear of.
3. Review a "cram" sheet to look over basics
As you get closer to the day of your NCLEX, it can become increasingly overwhelming as you try to decide where to dedicate your remaining hours of studying. If you find that you are feeling this way, you may find it helpful to look over a "cram" sheet that is filled with bits of information from varying nursing topics, such as lab values, medications, vital sign ranges, etc. Doing so can be a useful refresher and also make you feel as if you are covering a wider area as opposed to just one single area of content.
4. Get in a good headspace before your exam
As mentioned previously, gearing up for the NCLEX is nothing short of stressful. You have worked so hard to graduate from nursing school, but before you have any time to enjoy that achievement, you are left having to keep the intensity up by studying for the ticket that will allow you to enter the workforce as a registered nurse. No pressure though, right? Wrong. It is a huge undertaking and of course a lot of weight to carry. So, with that being said, being able to calm your nerves during the day of your boards is highly essential to your overall performance. If you head into the exam jittery, unable to focus, and scatter brained, the chances of being able to answer questions correctly are not as likely. You need to be able to ground yourself when you sense your nerves are taking over and have the ability to start fresh. While stress management likely will need to start in advance, there are still some tactics you can implement at the last minute.
If you are feeling overwhelmed on test day at any time, try these tips:
- Close your eyes and take a few deep, cleansing breaths.
- Before the exam, get some movement in-exercise can be beneficial for stress management.
- During the exam, if you stumble across a question that has you stumped, mark it, and return to it later.
- If you can sense you are spiraling out of control during the exam and taking a few deep breaths isn't cutting it, ask for a break. Get up, use the restroom, eat a snack, get a drink of water-do something to distract yourself for a short period of time and get back to it.
- Do your best to think positive. Remind yourself that even though it feels like a lot of pressure, at the end of the day, it is just a test, and if you do not pass, you can always take it again!
Touched upon in tip number four, do your mind and body a favor by getting in some form of movement prior to your assessment. Even if just a short walk around your neighborhood, this can help to burn off any excess worry and help get you in a better headspace before you sit for your boards. Exercise also releases endorphins which naturally put you in a better mood, an essential to have before heading into a very important exam!
6. Make sure you are dressed appropriately
While this piece of advice may seem odd in comparison to the previous tips, remember that being comfortable will allow you to focus on what is in front of you. Think of it this way, if you show up for your NCLEX and you are wearing clothes that are too tight, or you forgot your jacket and end up shivering, your mind has to divert to think about the unpleasant nature of your body when it could instead be using all of its energy to appropriately detect the correct answer to the question you are working through. So, while it may seem obvious, do not overlook this. Wear something that you know is comfortable and better yet, bring layers. It is always better to be too warm and take a jacket off than it is to be too cold and not have a layer to put on. Plan your outfit ahead of time for optimum comfort and thus optimum focus!
7. Be prepared the night before and know where you are driving
Getting yourself fully prepared days in advance will help in alleviating some of the uneasiness the day of. Therefore, take the time to check off some of the last-minute to-dos so that you are focusing on what is important rather than scrambling on exam day.
Some actions to complete before the day of:
- Set out your clothes the night before
- Know what you're going to make for breakfast
- Pack and prepare your snacks and drinks the night before
- Make sure you know where the testing site is, and drive there ahead of time if possible
- Know where your photo ID is, and make sure it's laid out with the rest of the items you are bringing
- If you are driving yourself, be sure you know where your keys are located
Essentially, try to think of all the minor details ahead of time that may seem trivial as you do not want to be spending precious time worrying about them as you're headed out the door. You have enough on your plate, so do yourself a favor and be well prepared in advance!
8. Practice questions
When you are down to the wire, one of the best ways to still be reviewing material effectively is to partake in practice NCLEX questions. This is the best way to prepare for the "real deal" as they are set up in a similar fashion to the questions you may face on your boards. Make sure that you are also reviewing the answers to the questions, especially those that you answer incorrectly. Reading the rationale for each question can assist in acquiring the appropriate knowledge and will set you up to be able to answer correctly the next time you are faced with a similar scenario.
So, when you are feeling overwhelmed and don't know what to "study" anymore, try putting your knowledge to the test and work through some practice questions!
Even if it feels as if time has run out, take a moment to think about all of the minor overlooked actions that can still be done to help put you in a better position to pass. There's always something that can boost your chances of success, so keep your head up and remember: you got this!
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