NCLEX Tips To Boost Exam Performance

  • 07 December, 2022

After graduating from nursing school, you are officially one step closer to becoming a registered nurse! This is an exciting chapter, but now is not the time to ease up on the gas-you want to keep your focus sharp as you prepare to sit for your upcoming nursing boards. While the ultimate goal is to pass the NCLEX, there are some tips and tricks that can help you boost your performance and increase the likelihood of receiving your sought-after credentials. Let's dive into some of the varying tactics that you can implement into your schedule to aid in launching you from nursing graduate to registered nurse!

NCLEX Tips To Boost Exam Performance

1. Review Material Early and Often

The first tip goes without saying-starting your test prep early will set you up for an easier transition following the completion of nursing school. Think of it this way-would you rather start your studies from scratch the day after graduation or have a foundation already established that you can brush up on and further build? Without a doubt, you would favor the second option given the excessive work and increased level of stress that would come with the first choice. Therefore, it is essential to strategize a plan while you are still a student in order to set yourself up for a promising outcome later on. Thorough preparation is key.

Be intentional with your studies and set time aside to go over material on the weekends or in your spare time. No amount of studying will go to waste as long as you are focused. Remember, the NCLEX is a cumulative exam, meaning that anything you learn and study as a student is fair game on your boards. So be sure to continually go back and review content that you have been tested on in nursing school, as it is likely to make a comeback at some point during your NCLEX. Utilize a calendar or planner to better prepare and visualize what information and on what days you would like to revisit various topics. Being as organized as possible will aid in this process and make it more of a seamless, enjoyable experience rather than adding unnecessary stress to your plate.

Whatever works best for you, just be sure that you are looking over content that you have learned and touching up on it over and over so that it stays fresh in your brain. Try your best to avoid memorizing information for exams and immediately forgetting the material as this technique may only come back to haunt you later on. The beauty of starting your studies early is that you will have the time to use trial and error to see what works for you and what doesn't. Take the time to see what fits well with your learning style and adopt ideas that mesh, and put your blinders on to those that don't. Review early, be intentional, and study often!

2. Get Your Nerves in Check

Another important precursor to exam day is being sure that you have the tools to keep your nerves at bay. This is a really big, important exam, and due to this, can bring on a lot of extra anxiety. Anxiousness can, unfortunately, drive bad habits and lead to a foggy brain and impulsive actions. You want to be able to think clearly and effectively during your NCLEX exam, so working to combat these intrusive emotions BEFORE you sit for your boards is imperative for a successful outcome. With that being said, you have to put in the work ahead of time to truly get to the root of your nerves and figure out how to specifically calm them so that your performance is not negatively affected during your test. This work can (and should be) started in nursing school. If you are prone to pre-test anxiety, this is especially important. Figure out ahead of time what actions need to be taken and what tactics can be utilized in the moment if you find that a wave of anxiety is rushing in. Below are some tricks that I used, as someone who dealt with test anxiety:

  • Eat a well-balanced meal prior to the exam to eliminate potential blood sugar disruption.
  • Get in some movement beforehand to shake out some excess nerves. Whether that be a quick walk around the block or an actual workout at the gym, do something to get your blood pumping and some endorphins flowing.
  • Choose a seat where you are not distracted by others getting up if they finish before you.
  • Take a deep, cleansing breath before beginning the exam.
  • Read and re-read each question before looking at the possible answers.
  • If you get stumped on a question, don't spend too much time on it. Mark it, and return to it later.
  • Take your time, and do not rush!

While these were some actions that helped me in my journey, there are several others that are not listed that could also be helpful. Everyone is different, but the point is to experiment with what works best for you early on so that you can utilize the tools necessary to overcome these feelings when the time comes. The NCLEX is overwhelming enough-you don't need your own emotions added to the mix. Get your anxiety in check well in advance, and you will be set on the path toward success.

3. Keep the Patient in Mind

This tip may seem obvious, but you would be surprised as to how many answer options on the NCLEX favor the convenience of the nurse over the needs of the patient. Some options may seem like the better choice for the nurse but don't necessarily provide the best suitable outcome for the patient. For example, if you are presented with a patient who is becoming combative, it may seem necessary to utilize restraints to keep yourself safe. However, this is usually a last resort, as you should start with the least invasive option and explore other tactics if that doesn't work.

While a real-life scenario will most likely look different than an NCLEX scenario, it is important to keep this in mind. All in all, if anything, remember that patient safety is always of the highest importance-especially on the NCLEX.

4. Envision Yourself in the Scenario

Whenever there is a question that paints a picture of the nurse providing care in a given situation, it can be helpful to imagine yourself in that scenario with the patient. While there is a fine line between getting caught in the "what if" rabbit hole, it can be beneficial to imagine what you would do in order to get to the correct answer.

Be sure not to add any additional information. Pay close attention to the question and what specifics are provided, but don't be afraid to picture yourself as the nurse taking care of the patient to fully grasp what action should be taken. While not all questions are formatted in this manner, this tactic can be helpful in determining the correct answer for the ones that are.

5. Don't Try to Reinvent the Wheel

Nursing school is hard. Studying for the NCLEX is hard. Figuring out how to review for your boards is hard. It's ultimately all challenging, but the good thing is you're not the first person to go through it! There are many others who have ventured along this same path and can provide insight and advice on what worked well for them and what to avoid. Listen to the advice given, and don't be afraid to talk to as many people as possible who have sat for the NCLEX to determine what strategies were useful in getting them to where they are now.

6. Practice Makes Perfect!

Last but not least, you need to practice in order to improve the likelihood of passing your boards. Take as many practice NCLEX tests as possible in order to help set you up for what to expect when the time comes to sit for your actual boards.

You can read on and on about all the best tips and tricks, but when it comes down to it, putting the work in, and actually using the tools and practicing how to do so will be the ultimate tactic in getting the most favorable results.

Engage in practice questions and practice NCLEX exams to get the most exposure for what to anticipate on your boards. More importantly, don't forget to remediate and review the reasoning behind why you answered a particular question correctly or incorrectly, as this is where the true progression takes place.

Every new nursing graduate wants to pass the NCLEX on their first try-if that weren't the case, you wouldn't be reading this in the first place! While I applaud you for taking the first step to set out and research tactics to better improve your upcoming exam performance, it's what you do after reading this blog post that matters the most. Now is the time to go out and put your vision into action-before you know it, you will be on your way to fulfilling your dream of becoming a registered nurse!

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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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