The Ultimate NCLEX Checklist for Nursing Students
As if there's not enough on your plate as a nursing student, beginning to prepare for your NCLEX is, unfortunately, another important task on the ever-growing to-do list. So, whether you've just completed your first day as a nursing school student or are in your final semester, this guide will hopefully bring you some clarity and guidance as to where to begin and what steps to take as you gear up to sit for your board exam. Let's take a look at some key actions:
1. Get organized
Whether it's your first or last day of nursing school, you will soon realize the importance of organization in order to make the most of your precious time. Utilizing a calendar or planner can be a helpful resource to assist in staying on track and fitting in blocks of time where you can unplug from your studies and give your brain a deserved rest. This is not a time in your life that you want to attempt to "wing it." Instead, be mindful of what you are doing each day and how the actions you choose are getting you closer to your end goal of passing the NCLEX. Do what works best for you, but I like to recommend taking a bit of time before the beginning of each week to pencil in what your upcoming days look like, what areas you'd like to focus on, where you will invest time to study, and where you have time to dedicate to yourself outside of school. Getting into a habit like this will help to prepare you for your time as a student-and additionally, for when your sole focus is NCLEX preparation. Getting organized and planning out your life may seem tedious, but it will benefit you in the long run!
2. Invest in a review book or course
It's never too early to start thinking ahead about what type of resources you want to use for your upcoming board review. Purchasing one early on can also assist your study sessions as a student, given the content you learn in nursing school will return on your NCLEX. If funds are tight or you want to wait to utilize a course until after the completion of nursing school, books can also be a great tool for study purposes and once again, can be used simultaneously for studying for current exams and the upcoming boards.
Whatever you decide works best for you, be sure to remain consistent, and don't be afraid to try out a few things before making a purchase. Most libraries on school grounds house several of these review books and can be checked out before you decide to purchase on your own. Test the waters ahead of time and do your research to determine what will be a good fit.
3. Start studying as early as possible
Many students think that the NCLEX review starts after nursing school graduation. While there is no ultimate right or wrong way to study, looking over content early and often will set you up for a smoother transition following nursing school. If the thought of studying for nursing school exams and the NCLEX sounds overwhelming, just remember, any material you are tested on during school will most likely make another appearance on your boards, so no studying should ever go to waste! Think of it as two birds with one stone! The key is being sure you do not neglect content after being tested on it. That means you should still come back to the material you were tested on during your first semester, even if you are in your final semester of school. There's nothing off limits when it comes to the NCLEX, so make the most of your studying each and every time.
4. As soon as you are able, register for your NCLEX
When you reach your final semester of school, you will soon get to a point where you are able to register for your exam. Even if you don't feel ready, it is best to still register sooner rather than later. If you wait too long, you may end up procrastinating or having to choose a date that you did not initially want. Registering when you are eligible will give you the opportunity to choose a date that works well for you and most likely, the time of day that you prefer as well.
5. Practice questions
The bread and butter of preparing for your NCLEX is practice, practice, practice. As obvious as it sounds, many students spend way too much reviewing content but neglect to put what they know to the test by engaging in NCLEX practice questions. It is important to first study the material efficiently, but if you do not test yourself on the content, how will you know how much information you truly obtained? Review material, however, works best for you, and then take the time to put your knowledge to the test and take note of where your strengths and weaknesses are. This will help in gearing up for both your NCLEX and any nursing school exams that you have on the horizon. As mentioned earlier, be sure that you are returning to review past content, but also test yourself on said content to be sure you know how to apply what you have learned to various scenarios.
Better yet, when taking practice exams and questions, read through the rationales of why an answer was correct to really solidify your learning acquisition of the material. You'd be surprised at how big of a difference this can truly make in how much you're able to remember and apply!
6. Study with others
Even if you prefer to study on your own, engaging with your peers every once in a while, can allow you to learn in new ways and receive information from a different perspective. Studying with a friend can open the door to various learning routes and can be a beneficial way to teach or be taught information on a particular subject or concept. Talking out loud, drawing out concepts, quizzing one another, etc., are all different methods that can be utilized. Don't be afraid to switch things up every now and then and get outside your comfort zone; you never know until you try!
7. Hone in on the ways you learn best
Piggybacking from tip number six, put in the effort to explore different learning routes until you have discovered the ways in which you acquire information most easily. Nursing school is hard enough: don't overcomplicate the process by forcing something that doesn't mesh. However, be open to at least trying new things before coming to the conclusion that something doesn't work. Try to pinpoint early on if you're an auditory, visual, hands-on learner, or a combination, and use this to your advantage.
8. Don't wait until the last minute to start preparing
While the completion of nursing school is an exciting time, don't ride the wave for too long thinking that you will be okay only studying for a week or so before your exam day. Unfortunately, just because you made it out of nursing school successfully does not give you a pass to neglect your NCLEX review. Circling back to the importance of starting your studies early and reviewing often, do not get caught in the trap of thinking you have "studied enough" in school.
You're on the home stretch, so keep at it and remain strong through the finish line! It may feel unnecessary for the time being, but you'll thank yourself later after you receive a passing score!
9. Utilize old exams and lecture notes
Don't forget that nursing school material is highly useful when it comes to NCLEX review. So don't be afraid to return to any old exams you might have taken as a student and look over notes that you wrote from various lectures. This can aid in the richness of your review and fill in gaps of knowledge that you may have needed a refresher on. This goes back to being organized and knowing where all your previous notes and exams from different semesters still live so you can return to them with ease!
10. Familiarize yourself with the various question formats
Most nursing school exam formats consist of multiple choice, select-all-that-apply, and potentially some long answers or fill-in-the-blanks. It is important to be aware ahead of time of some of the other formats that may appear on the NCLEX. Others aside from those listed include questions with images, graphs, and hot spots. If these are foreign concepts to you currently, it would be a good idea to do some research ahead of time to gain an understanding of each question format and be prepared how to answer and work through each one. While the majority will still involve multiple choice, you don't want to risk getting a question wrong simply due to a lack of preparation. Get on the ball ahead of time so you know what you're up against before the big day!
In a perfect world, you would be able to focus first on graduating nursing school and THEN preparing for your NCLEX. However, while this may be feasible for some, getting prepared well in advance is the better, more efficient route for most. Incorporating this checklist will save you time, energy, and a whole lot of stress while you are still in the midst of nursing school. So, do yourself a favor and get yourself in tip-top NCLEX shape while you're still a student!
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