Probably the hardest part of studying for the NCLEX is know how to pick and use your resources. The there is such a wide variety of resources out there. Should you pay big bucks for Kaplan? Is NRSNG really the best package out there? Once you settle with a set of resources, how do you make the most of them? Do you copy the entire book by hand? Do you memorize all the questions?
After writing my first post, I received a flood of questions on my study routine. Therefore, I share in a little more detail in this post. Hopefully, it helps.
When it comes to the NCLEX there are two sides of the coin content and application. Most of my exams in nursing school could have been passed by memorizing the information. However, the NCLEX is not like that. Each question is puzzle in which requires you to use critical thinking to pick tools out of your tool box to solve it. If you don’t have any tools in your tool box, how you can use them to solve the puzzle. Yet, practicing solving puzzles will teach you to reach for the right tools.
In plain words, start with studying your content and end with practicing your questions. I am going to share with you how I made the most of my material. You are going to use your critical thinking to make this model work for you.
I started with content. I have a heavy preference for auditory learning; however, years of homeschooling and studying nursing in a foreign language at Antillean Adventist University
in Puerto Rico forced me to learn to absorb by reading and writing as well. Nursing school should have given you most of your tools. You should know the basics and simply be fill in the gaps.
I copied the entire cheat sheet from Nursing Labs by hand and posted in on my wall. The point of this was to absorb all the lab values subconsciously. I also tried to memorize them with Quizlet flashcards. I recommend you use the labs from Saunder’s since there are slight discrepancies between the labs from different sources. I really wished that I had memorized all my labs in nursing school!
The Comprehensive Review
Saunder’s Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination was the most cost-effective solution for me. It was chock full of basically everything I needed to know plus access to an online Q-Bank. I highly recommend it. I spent a month speed reading through the book. At the end of each chapter, I did the questions in the book and in the Q-Bank. I went through the questions in that section until I was getting 80% before moving on to the next section.
The Evolve Portal also has a few little videos on procedures. I went through every single one of them. It helped me visualize what was actually going on. Whatever else I needed to know, I looked up on YouTube.
I was woefully lacking in the knowledge of medications. I always was a little lost in my Pharmacology theory class. I made an attempt to study the little Kaplan’s NCLEX-RN Medications You Need to Know for the Exam 4th Ed. I don’t think I got through the whole book, but I tried. I also attempted to make little flash cards. Meh, they still aren’t finished… I little bit more effective was listening to NRSNG’s MedMaster Podcast two times.
The most important part is practicing put the puzzle together. The key to that is practice questions. As many as you can. No actually, at least 4000 of them… That’s pretty much the entire UWorld Q-bank twice over. My path through this section was pretty crooked. I didn’t allocate a certain number of hours. I just budgeted out how many questions I needed to finish in a day. If I didn’t make the quota, I would make it up the next day. Some days, I’d blaze through 150 questions. While other days, I would barely finish 50.
Kaplan is supposed to have the best test strategies. My mentor sent me a student who had recently taken Kaplan’s test prep program and successfully passed the exam. She told me everything that she remembered. I wrote down lots of notes. I posted Kaplan’s Decision Tree on my wall. I read the chapter in on Test Taking in Saunder’s twice and carefully studied the questions. You might want to grab a Kaplan test strategy book if you think you need a boost. Shoot me a comment if there’s one that you have used with success.
I started out with timed UWorld tests about 75 or more questions a day. Then, I would remediate. Reading through the rationales and writing down any key points. I would listen to a lot of Sarah’s videos at RegisteredNurseRN
on YouTube. I actually figured out how solve ABG’s with her phenomenalTic-Tac-Toe method
. I finished the Q-Bank that way. However, my score was still lacking. I wasn’t scoring much over 50%.
After talking to a close friend who recently passed the NCLEX, I decided to follow her example and do all the questions I got wrong in tutor mode. I also wrote down all the rationales. Especially the ones that I didn’t understand. UWorld has this handy note taking section so I just wrote everything down in there. This helped immensely. My score didn’t go up a whole a lot, but I was seeing the puzzles and their solutions.
At the same time my cousin, Carol Y Hacker from CAPSCARE
–an amazing exam preparatory center in Florida, came to my rescue and pointed me to the HESI case studies. I was supposed to finish all 40 case studies before the exam; however, I only did about three. Yet, one of the three was Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and the majority of questions on my exam were about that. These questions helped me organize my tools and see the big picture.
A few days before the exam, I wasn’t sure what to do. I had a more than 30 case studies unfinished. Should I finish them or go back to UWorld? After praying a bit, I decided to go back to UWorld. This proved to be a good idea because it prepared me for the atmosphere of the exam. It brought all the tools together honed for action.
Intermittent rest is also important while studying for the exam. Rest a little and rest a lot depending on what your brain on body needs.
I never studied on Saturdays. It’s my Sabbath. I spent that day with family, friends and worshiping God. If I got the chance, I would go out in nature. I would read and sleep. I attended worship concerts and Christmas plays.
I spent one weekend (Friday and Sunday) volunteering at a free medical/dental clinic nearby. I took a couple days break around Thanksgiving because I was too overwhelmed. You what feels best to you.
Before the Exam
The day before the exam I just rested my brain. I didn’t touch a single book or open an practice test. I went out. I read. I wrote in my blog. I ate good food. Then, I went out and passed the exam.
What are you doing to study for the NCLEX? Share in the comments!