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Tips to Help You Pass the NCLEX

An NCLEX exam that ends soon after 75 questions does not mean failure.

It may mean you excelled, so no need to test further. Essentially, it means you either passed or failed with flying colors.

Do not analyze the Computerized Adaptive Testing stuff.

Some examinees spend serious amounts of mental energy in an attempt to determine if they are doing well. NCLEX examinees know that when the previous answers were correct, the Computerized Adaptive Testing presents harder questions. If the previous answers were wrong, the questions presented become easier. Although this is true, do not think about it during the test! Why? Two reasons:

a) The changes in difficulty are usually not apparent to you. Spending time or energy trying to crack the code is a waste.

b) Well-prepared students will find many of the questions rather straightforward anyway. Instead of feeling confident, they become paranoid of failing!

Do not randomly guess when you are running out of time.

Some test preparation companies may tell students to guess if time is running out. Never do this on the NCLEX. Why not? Because the NCLEX is scored based on the *difficulty* of the questions, and the difficulty is based on how well you did on previous questions. Quickly guessing through many questions will cause the computer to give you easier questions. These questions will be mostly answered incorrectly and make you look worse for having messed up on easier questions.

The secret to priority questions - Maslow's hierarchy.

If you're asked which nursing procedure takes priority and are not sure, follow Maslow's hierarchy. While each level is important, nurses are called upon to prioritize in their work every day. This will show up on the NCLEX.

According to Maslow, Basic Physiologic Processes like airway, breathing, and circulation take precedence. The next item in the hierarchy is Safety and Security - establishing trust with the patient and promoting a safe environment. This is followed by Love and Belonging in which an effort is made to establish and maintain support systems for the patient. The next level is Self-Esteem which requires that the patient view themselves as important and worthy of care. Finally, Maslow's hierarchy includes Self-Actualization which means concern for the patient's spiritual well-being.

The old tips are true

Everyone says get a good night of rest before the exam and eat a moderate, nutritious breakfast. This is still one of the most important tips!

Do as many practice NCLEX exams as possible.

Try to get your hands on as many NCLEX questions and answers as you can. In fact, you may want to begin studying by taking a full practice NCLEX exam. However, do not read too much into the results. It's normal not to pass the first time. Do not get discouraged, take it as a motivation to study. Figure out why you missed the ones you got wrong. Keep taking practice exams and the number you miss will become less and less.

Make a schedule and follow it.

You should make studying for the NCLEX a part of your daily routine. A certain amount of time should be set aside five out of seven days a week to devote to studying. If you have a ton of other responsibilities in your life, then you may only be able to devote a small number of hours to studying during the week. If this is the case, then realize that you will need to schedule the exam further in the future than most.

An hour a night can work, but you may need months of preparation. Several hours a day is better, but remember to schedule and take breaks. A good strategy is to study in a continuous, uninterrupted block of two hours. Why two hours? Because on the day the NCLEX exam, two hours is the length of time that you have between the start of the exam and the first scheduled break.

Break up your study time, especially for the hard stuff.

Studying two times three hours is usually more effective than a marathon of six hours. This is especially true for complex concepts. If something seems too complex at first, leave it for a day or two, then come back. Do this several times, and you'll usually find that it gets clearer until it clicks. We've seen this happen countless times. Scientists say that your subconscious mind works on the problem in between study sessions!

You know your study style - stick with it.

If you spent your time in nursing school studying alone, do not pick NCLEX time to start heading to the library for group study. By the same token, if you got together with classmates every Thursday night for a Friday quiz, don't stop now. Do what works!

You know yourself better than anyone. Are a morning person or a night owl? If you always stay up late, why would you start studying at 6 AM? If you are fresh and alert first thing in the morning, that is when you should study for the NCLEX.

Know how NCLEX test writers think.

Most multiple choice questions on the NCLEX exam will have at least one (if not two) very wrong answer(s). Furthermore, for many questions, two choices will look very good to you. When you come to two similar answers, one of these answers is probably right.

For test writers, a great deal of time goes into picking two choices that are similar and making the incorrect one wrong for a subtle reason. Exam writers believe (correctly) that this is a good way of testing knowledge. It also lets you know that when you come to two similar answers, you are on the right track. Show them you know your stuff by eliminating the choice that is not quite right.

Budget a minute or two per question.

It is best to set a pace that would permit you to answer all 265 questions if necessary. Banking on a test comprised of 100 or so questions is dangerous. Therefore, if you have about 300 minutes (after breaks and all) it comes out to about a minute a question.