Dos and Don'ts for Passing the NCLEX
By Leigh Morgan, contributor
In the United States, anyone who wants to work as a registered nurse must pass the NCLEX-RN examination to obtain a valid RN certification. The exam contains questions from several content categories, making it necessary for graduate nurses to study consistently between the time they register for the exam and the date the exam takes place. If you're registered for the exam, keep these dos and don'ts for passing the NCLEX in mind.
Do: Download the NCLEX test plan
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing offers a comprehensive test plan to help graduates understand what to expect when they take the NCLEX. According to the NCSB, the plan includes nursing activity statements, sample test items, detailed content examples and a summary of the scope of the exam. Downloading the test plan several months ahead of your exam date can help you achieve your goal of passing the NCLEX.
When you register for the NCLEX, you'll receive an authorization to test (ATT), which is only valid for 90 days. This means you should start studying well before your register; otherwise, you may not be prepared in time for your test date. The NCLEX is a comprehensive exam, so two or three weeks of intensive study probably won't be enough to help you pass. Furthermore, first-time test-takers had a passing rate below 90% in 2019; this speaks to the difficulty of the test and the importance of planning ahead when creating your study plan.
Do: Join a study group
When you join a study group, you can benefit from the strengths of other group members, making it more likely that you'll master the content that will be on the NCLEX. In a study published in the Journal of Nursing and Education, Ashley and O'Neil report that at-risk students who joined a faculty-led study group did significantly better on the NCLEX than at-risk students who studied on their own. This demonstrates that joining a study group can help you achieve your goal of passing the NCLEX.
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Don't: Cram for the test
The NCLEX covers several content categories, some more difficult than others, making consistent study the best way to master the material. If you wait until the last minute to start reviewing, you're likely to forget important information on the day of the test, making it less likely that you'll pass. One of the reasons cramming doesn't work is because your brain tricks you into thinking that you have memorized the material. In reality, your brain is merely familiar with the material; when the time comes to take the test, you're likely to forget much of what you reviewed during a last-minute cramming session, explains psychologist Tom Stafford.
Do: Take several practice tests
Kaplan and other educational publishers offer NCLEX study guides and practice tests, giving you an opportunity to find out what the test is like. For best results, take the test several times in the months before your exam date. Taking the practice test before you start studying can help you establish a baseline and determine which content areas are your weakest. Giving the practice test another try a few weeks before your scheduled exam can highlight areas that are still weak, giving you an opportunity to brush up on difficult concepts. To get a good idea of how you'll perform, behave as if the practice test is the real exam. Put away your study materials, sit in a quiet room and time yourself as you work through the test items.
The NCLEX is a high-stakes test, so it's only natural to be a little nervous about how much you know and how well you'll perform; however, panicking about the test is likely to make it difficult to remember what you studied, resulting in poor performance. If passing the NCLEX is important to you, try to stay calm. On the day of the test, eat a nutritious breakfast, avoid caffeine and take some deep breaths before you enter the test center.
If a career in travel nursing appeals to you, passing the NCLEX and obtaining your license is the first step to reaching your goals. To increase your chances of passing, study consistently, join a study group and take several practice tests in the month before your exam. Avoid procrastination, cramming and panicking about the test. Following these NCLEX tips can help you achieve a passing score.