Tips on how to prepare for NCLEX EXAM

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You have completed a nursing program, so you should already be familiar with the material. However, you will need to review the material and practice many multiple choice questions before you are ready to take the examination.


You will need to review content in an organized fashion. This book will help you do that. As you review the material in the book, note any areas that are particularly difficult for you or that you do not remember well. You will need to put more effort into these topics. As you are reviewing, remember to relate pathophysiology to nursing care. Be sure to understand the “whys” of procedures, treatments, and nursing actions. Consider priorities when reviewing nursing care. Ask yourself which of the actions listed is of highest priority. Prepare a calendar and schedule for review. On a calendar, schedule which content areas you will review on which days. Allow time for both content review and multiple-choice questions. Try to study in an environment where you can concentrate. If you cannot study in your home, go to the public library. You need uninterrupted study time.


The examination consists of multiple-choice questions. You need two things to pass the examination. One is knowledge of nursing care. The second is the ability to answer multiple-choice questions concerning that knowledge. You should plan to practice several thousand multiple-choice questions as part of your preparation before taking the examination. You should be consistently answering correctly 75% of the questions in the review books. Answering many multiple-choice questions not only increases your skill in answering multiple-choice questions, but it also helps you review the content and look at the same information from different perspectives. Be sure to read all the answers and rationales, even for the questions you answered correctly. You need to be sure that you chose the correct answer for the right reasons. You can learn a lot from reading the rationales. If you notice that you are missing several questions on the same subject, then you should review the subject again, clarifying any areas about which you are confused. If you have a computer available, you might want to practice at least a few questions on the computer. Answering questions on the computer might make you more comfortable with the computer and the screen. It is not essential to practice on a computer, however. The key point is that you practice thousands of questions before you go to the examination. You want to be well prepared.


When taking the examination, you might find that you become anxious. You should practice a stress reduction technique to use during the examination. Some candidates find that closing their eyes and taking several slow, deep breaths helps clear the mind when stress is rising. Some candidates have found that closing the eyes and taking a “mini vacation” to the beach or the mountains or to their favorite rose garden helps reduce anxiety during the examination. Another technique that candidates have found helpful is getting up and taking a short walk when stress is building and the mind does not seem to function well. The key to implementing these stress-reduction techniques is first learning to recognize the signs of anxiety that will keep you from thinking well and secondly to practice whatever technique you choose during your study sessions. As with any skill, you need to practice it before you become good at it. When you are practicing multiple-choice questions, note when you start to miss a lot of questions. What sensations are you experiencing at this time? How many questions have you done already? How long have you been sitting? Learn to recognize the clues that your body and mind are giving you that suggest you need to take a brief break. Use a stress-reduction strategy. Practice several techniques and see which one works best for you and then use that one when your mind starts to wander during study. Do not use alcohol or sedatives as a way to reduce stress before or during the examination. These substances might reduce stress, but they also interfere with thinking and problem solving.



Plan to spend all five hours at the examination. If you do not take the maximum time, consider it a gift and do something special for yourself. Do not have someone waiting for you outside the testing center because it might make you feel as if you have to hurry during the test. You want to be able to take as much time as you need to read the questions carefully before answering them. Eat breakfast. Remember that your brain needs fuel. You cannot think well if your brain cells do not have any fuel. Dress in layers. The room might be cooler or warmer than you like, and the temperature might change. Dress comfortably.

Bring a picture Identification with you to the testing center. Acceptable forms of Identification are a United States driver’s license issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, United States state Identification, or a passport. Also bring your ATT letter from the testing service. When you get to the testing center, you will be asked for a picture Identification. They will take your thumb print and your picture. This picture goes with your examination results (it does not go on your license).

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