4 Things to Know While Preparing for the NCLEX

  • 25 January, 2023

Preparing for the NCLEX can be an incredibly complicated and overwhelming process, especially when the internet is inundated with information and you aren't quite sure where to begin. It can be difficult to know where to start, how exactly to study, or even when to start reviewing the material. Despite the widespread number of resources available, there are some definite things to keep in mind during your preparation that will hopefully aid in providing some clarity throughout the process. We will discuss four different things to know while gearing up for the NCLEX:

4 Things to Know While Preparing for the NCLEX

1. Make sure your study schedule is sustainable and realistic

First and foremost, you need to be sure that how and when you study is a good fit for you. Your study regimen should be a realistic reflection of the available time you have to dedicate. While it may be tempting to want to utilize every minute of your day toward reviewing, this is not going to provide you with a healthy balance or drive you toward your overall goal of passing. Therefore, do not expect to be able to sit down and effectively study for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for example. While it may sound ideal on paper to get in every ounce of those crucial study hours, this is not sustainable and will lead to burnout soon after you begin. Look at your schedule well in advance and pencil in blocks of time you'd like to dedicate to reviewing material, but also be sure to schedule in areas of free time where you unplug entirely to give your brain a needed mental reset.

Additionally, do your best to keep your eyes on the prize and stay in your own lane regarding how you personally decide to set up your study calendar. Remember, now is not the time to compare your personal routine to your best friend's or any of your classmates. While it may be helpful to discuss study tactics or develop like-minded regimens, what you can ideally accomplish in a given day will depend on your own schedule and availability. If, for example, you are working full time, it is not going to be realistic to dedicate half of your day to reviewing material if you know you will be at work for 8 hours. Evaluate your personal availability to determine what will be practical for you and you only. Everyone is going to have different amounts of time they will be able to commit to, but keep your blinders on if you find yourself comparing yourself negatively with others.

2. It is never too early to start studying

If I told you that it would be smart to start studying for your NCLEX in the first semester of nursing school, you'd probably think I was crazy. However, when you step back and realize that the information you will be expected to know throughout the course of nursing school will make another appearance on your NCLEX, you may have different thoughts. So, when you are studying for your exams as a student, be sure to return to the information you have previously been tested on in order to build a foundation as opposed to memorizing facts and then later forgetting. You do not want to be starting from ground zero following the completion of nursing school. To study effectively, while you're still a student, make it a priority to block out time every weekend to allocate to reviewing information you have already learned so that it continues to stay fresh in your mind following graduation.

Another key component to aid in continual review is to invest in some form of NCLEX resource early on to help you keep track of what you have covered and what still needs to be touched upon. Additionally, make sure you are also engaging in practice questions to determine whether or not the information is being absorbed enough to be able to apply to different scenarios. Better yet, look for an NCLEX review guide that combines both key information as well as practice questions to really hone in on your learning.

Most students assume that studying for the NCLEX does not begin until post-graduation, but if you want to lessen your load following school, being intentional during your time as a student can make a world of difference.

3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses early on and tailor your regimen around them

While you are in the trenches of studying and everything feels overwhelming, it can be tempting to continue to go over material that you know and understand well in order to help make it feel like you have a better handle on everything. Even though it may feel comforting, solely sticking with concepts that come easy to you will leave you feeling more overwhelmed later on when you realize you have many more difficult concepts to cover.

Make a list of topics or subjects that seem to be more challenging than others and dedicate more time to breaking them down. Watch videos, discuss with a friend, teach back to a classmate, etc., to make the learning portion more enticing. You'll most likely retain more information if you can make the learning experience enjoyable.

While it may be appealing to focus on the subjects that come naturally to you, working through the topics and concepts that are most challenging will be more beneficial in the progress that you are able to make. It can be a confidence boost to review information that you know well, but working through topics that you do not have a firm grasp on will put you in a better position.

4. You will not know everything and that is okay

During your study sessions and even on your upcoming NCLEX, keep in mind that it is simply impossible to know everything. The NCLEX exam is designed to be more difficult than any other test you have taken so that it can determine in real-time whether or not you are safe to practice as a registered nurse. It will evaluate your progress as you go, so your specific exam will be unique to that of the person sitting next to you. While it can be tempting to put pressure on yourself to go over every single topic several times, keep in mind that there will still always be something that you don't know. It is best to be aware of this so you are not blindsided and beating yourself up on exam day.

Many of the questions will feel much more difficult compared to practice questions you have completed or even exam questions from nursing school. However, this is how it was meant to be structured. Do your best to get through your study regimen, but do not lose hope if you come across questions on the NCLEX that have you completely stumped. From experience, I recall at times thinking "I've never even heard of that before" in the midst of my NCLEX exam. These questions are not designed to scare you, but more so to prepare you and let you know that it is okay to not know everything, especially if you are a fellow overachiever!

As I said previously, this exam contains a grandiose amount of information to know, and many times it can become burdensome trying to cover every minor detail. Give yourself some grace throughout the process, and remember that you truly do know more than you give yourself credit for. On the NCLEX itself, you will have a fair share of moments where you may not know the content and will rely on elimination strategies to determine the correct answer. There is no way to "memorize" or recall every little detail, so don't put too much pressure on yourself. When it feels all-consuming, take a step back and look at how much you already know and the progress that you have made so far. When you find yourself getting stumped on the exam itself, don't be afraid to mark the question and return to it with a fresh set of eyes after moving on to some others.

The NCLEX is designed to be the most challenging exam that you have taken thus far, and knowing this well in advance can help ease the pressure of feeling like you haven't studied enough.

If only there was a guide that told you exactly how and when to start studying! There is a lot of information to sift through, and as you begin to plan your NCLEX study route, you'll find things that work well and some that you can do away with. Your regimen will ultimately be altered to you and your needs, but there are some universal key points to keep in mind that could be beneficial to some degree for any student getting ready for their board exam. While you are preparing for your NCLEX, keep these four points in the back of your mind, and happy studying!

Interested in taking a top-rated NCLEX exam review course designed to boost your chances of success? Sign up for a Live Online or Ondemand course with EduMind today!

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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