Nursing school graduates have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX to become a licensed nurse. Employers may waive the license requirement for fresh graduates, but assignments will be limited and promotions pended until you earn your license. Likewise, if you completed an associate degree in nursing, the license may be required to pursue some advance courses to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Passing the test sooner rather than later will help get you started on your career path.
1. Understand the nature of the test
The NCLEX-RN exams are based on Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) methodologies. The test is designed as an interactive and adaptive process, which means your answer to the current question determines the succeeding question. A correct answer will generate a higher-level question while an incorrect answer will bring up an easier question. Test questions are generated and based on how well you are performing up to the 75th question, which is the minimum number of questions.
At this point, the computer determines your competency level by comparing your performance with passing standards. If you outperformed the passing standard, the test stops; you passed. If your performance is clearly below the passing level, you fail; the test stops, and you need to schedule a re-test. If your performance is not convincing either way, more questions will be generated until you finish 265 questions or the six-hour time limit expires.
Numeric scores are not provided. Almost all questions are multiple-choice with four possible answers to choose from. Other types of questions include drag-and-drop, graphics based or fill-in-the blanks. Coverage of the test includes safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity. Those who fail an NCLEX can retest within 45 days.
2. Register to take the test as soon as you are eligible
The best time to take the NCLEX-RN is as soon as you meet the qualifications for examinees. This way, the details are still fresh in your mind. You will still need to review intensively, but your mindset will be better suited for rigorous studying at this point. Take advantage of the study skills you picked up as a nursing student, which may soon be forgotten as you transition to working life.
3. Try out various test-prep services offered for nclex examinees
There are various test-prep options for the NCLEX, and your school may offer its own. Many of these options provide sample review materials and sample tests. Try the sample materials before you make a commitment to one. Test-prep materials vary in their approach, so consider your learning style and study habits to find one that is most suitable. Some people thrive with video-based review materials that encourage them to take down notes while others favor the flash card system. Many examinees may favor classroom-based review sessions while others favor independent self-study with the right review materials.
4. Cramming does not pay
Stress and test anxiety can affect your performance. Cramming for the NCLEX will make a stressful situation even more so. However, creating a sensible schedule that is spaced over a few weeks rather than a few days will help alleviate the tension. Focus a little more on the subjects that you did not ace in nursing school. Don’t get bogged down with memorizing lab values and chemical names. Instead, practice good study skills that will help you eliminate the outlier and unreasonable choices given a set of four possible answers to a test question.
CAT-type tests like the NCLEX have to be approached as a logic application because they focus more on analytical and problem-solving skills instead of rote memorization. Understand the value and application of test-taking strategies. For instance, use of global words and superlatives will eliminate answer choices containing the words always, never, all, every and similar terms. This is because nothing is absolute, especially in health care.
5. Confidence and a positive mindset pays
Look at the NCLEX as an opportunity to show what you are capable of rather than as an obstacle in your career path. Welcome it as a challenge that will reinforce your book learning.
Passing the NCLEX is the milestone that marks your passage from student to professional. It may seem like a daunting task to take on this test, but with proper preparation, perseverance and focus, you could ace the test.