A few months ago, I undertook the mountainous task of taking my NCLEX-RN. I graduated from a tiny private school in the Caribbean called Antillean Adventist University. It is nestled in the mountains of the rural part of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The most beautiful thing about it was that I graduated with 0 student loans and owing the school nothing. While my school is the best Nursing School in Puerto Rico, most people I know who graduated from there didn’t pass the NCLEX on their first attempt. Don’t worry. My class is changing that. Here’s what I have learned a long the way.
Learn your content
People like to say that nursing school grades don’t matter. Perhaps, they don’t when it actually comes to practicing as a nurse. However, the more content you store away in your brain the better. You don’t have to get the highest marks, but do pay attention to your lectures and read your textbooks. Even better start studying UWorld while still in school. The NCLEX is about applying content so you need to have that foundation. You’ll save yourself time if you pay attention to it in school.
Have an idea of where you are going
While the NCLEX is the same everywhere, you are licensed by State. It can be a hassle to endorse your license in other states. If you want to start out in California, it’s probably best get registered there. Even if it is cheaper elsewhere. At the very least, know which states will accept your license for endorsement and develop a plan B.
Budget for the fees
Different states have different fees. While the fee shouldn’t have an effect on picking a State, know the expenses so you can budget for them and get the best deals. I did my exam in California and I was surprised by the costs. Yet, I still could have saved on the Livescan and the photo if I were more prepared.
Photos – $9.69
CA Boards –$150
Pearson Vue –$200
Find Mentors and Friends
Talk to people who have taken they test before you. They have a wealth of wisdom that you can benefit from. You can avoid making their mistakes and better figure out what is right for you. I learned about that the endorsement process in California would be long and painful from mentors. I learned what study material to use from them too. I mentor told me everything that was important from Kaplan.
It was the friends who shared study materials and prayed with me. It was the friends who encourage me and offered moral support. All of the that, I really needed when the going got hard.
Choose the right study material
Finding the right study material is the most important part of the process. I remember getting bombarded with so much different kinds of study material in the second week of studying. I panicked. Had a picked the wrong material? There’s so much out there: NURSG Academy, Kaplan, UWorld. Remar even personally contacted me on Twitter.
The key to the study process is study enough content to close up your gaps and do has many practice questions as possible. I had a lot of gaps so I just read the entire Saunder’s Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination (the book is as fat as the title is long). Then, worked through all the questions in the Evolve Q-bank and all the questions in the UWorld Q-Bank. Close to 6000 questions in all. I still had a few gaps so I did a couple of case studies in HESI. I browsed through Kaplan’s NCLEX-RN Medications you need to know for the Exam. I went through NRSNG’s EKG course and MedMasterPodcast. I watched to lots of videos from Sarah at RegisteredNurseRN on YouTube.
However, my main focus was Saunder’s and UWorld. As you go through UWorld, write down the rationales. Some people recommend that you get in the habit of taking timed tested as soon as possible, but the tutor was the most helpful for me. I started learning a lot when I retyped the rationales. I typed whole rationale when I didn’t understand anything and the parts that I didn’t understand when the light began to dawn. I focused on understand the situation. Why does that apply while the other doesn’t?
I choose a base of Saunder’s and UWorld because my cousin who is a NCLEX review instructor recommended them. Despite it’s wide acclaim, I choose not to use Kaplan because my cousin’s ex-girl friend used it and didn’t highly recommended it. Other programs that might be useful are the program that the NSCBN puts out, but I found it too late.
Remember to keep the study materials minimal it is recommended not to use more that 1-3 different sources. Also, shy away from programs that put more emphasis on books and a lot of reading. NCLEX is all about applying what you learned so put your focus on learning to apply. That can only be done by answering practice questions. UWorld is great for that.
Pick a date
I had to reschedule the test three times. It’s important to note that you will never feel ready for the exam. If you do, that’s probably a bad sign. Some people can take one month to study for the exam. I took a little less than 4 months. Some people wait to study until they get their ATT. However, I knew it was going to take about 3 months to get my ATT and I started studying right away so I could take it the Exam as soon as possible. I took my exam about a month and a half after I got my ATT.
Depending on who you listen to some people say you need to be getting at least 65% on the practice tests in UWorld. Others will say 70% and even others 80%. I when I passed my exam I was getting an average of 54%. I think my highest score was 62%. Don’t worry about your score. The most important part is that you are understanding the questions when you see them. That sounds vague, but you’ll know what I mean. The questions will stop looking like world salads and more like puzzles to be solved. You’ll start to see the pieces clearly. Remember the NCLEX is often a lot easier than UWorld.
I choose to schedule my exam at a time of the most that I would be at my best performance. A time that I wasn’t bleeding. I picked the 10:45 am time slot because that’s when I would be at my prime. The day happened to be the 13th of December exactly 2 months after one of my dear friends took hers. I felt at peace about it.
Take the test
The routine that comes with taking the test comes the day before. I stopped studying and spent the day relaxing. I got up late. I went outside. I ate good food. I wrote in my blog.
The day of the test, I ate a good breakfast including a banana. I got to the center on time. When, I got to the testing center I was a bit nervous especially when I got in front of the computer. I quietly repeated scriptures and sang to myself. I felt like I would fail for sure. I decided I was just going to answer the questions as quickly as I could. However, the questions were surprisingly engaging and I wanted to solved them correctly. I was getting a lot of stuff I studied.
I fully expected to get more than 100 questions; however, at 75 questions the text shut off. I panicked. I was alarmed! It didn’t feel like I was doing poorly because I was getting a lot of Select-All-That-Apply (SATA), but I didn’t think I was doing amazing. Yet, the last question was a SATA. Worst yet I felt at peace. Wasn’t I supposed to feel like a totally failed?
It was only a couple days later that my friends did some snooping and discovered that my license already was posted. Apparently, you can searchto see if someone is actually a registered nurse. I had passed by exam!
Is there anything else I didn’t include that you want to know? As me in the comments!