If You’re having problems passing the NCLEX, these tips may just put you on the other side
hese tips may be specially helpful if you are not a English native speaker. Or, you have taken the test more than twice and need a new strategy. I’ll focus on strategies few people talk about. Not understanding how different the NCLEX is from other tests is a problem for those who fail multiple times. You have to have a good nursing knowledge, but you must understand how to play the test. Keep reading.
With the NCLEX timing is everything. You should answer your questions within one minute. How fast you answer questions will affect how you’re graded on the NCLEX – you don’t necessarily need to get them right but you need to answer them fast.
The NCLEX gives you brownie points when you answer fast. Remember you’ll not be penalized for answering them wrong but you’ll be rewarded for answering them quickly. You’ll also be penalized if you answer them right but take too much time.
What you want is to keep a above the passing line right questions but answered quickly. This is what a NCLEX staff person told me over a long phone conversation. This is extremely important but seldom talked about. Knowing that alone might keep you in the game long enough for you to pass, even if you’re performing poorly in some questions. What you know is important but equally important is the rhythm of the test. It is really like a video game, you have to know your game but you also have to know how to play it in real time…or is game over.
It make sense because in nursing you need to make fast decisions over situations you know little about. So when people say don’t overthink, it’s because you really don’t have the time to do it. When you answer a question right but uses about 5 min. the same question come up again, just worded differently. They want to know how well you know about a subject, and if you know really well you answer it fast. The best method is to look at each question, read it carefully, make a decision, select the best answer and move on. Another issue involving timing is how long you take to retake the test if you failed – don’t delay. You are never really ready for this test. If you failed go back and do it again!
2) NURSING KNOWLEDGE
Of course the more you know the better…but not really. All you have to have is “NCLEX – type knowledge”. I call this NCLEX building blocks. You can get it with books such as Kaplan, and other similar courses. Here’s an example: lets look at a question about chest tubes. When asked about chest tubes, they will usually ask you about factors a, b, or c about chest tubes. Usually it does not stray too far from 5-6 “things” about chest tubes. These a,b,c options will be found throughout every nursing subject and you just have to learn by heart what these options are.
The more questions you practice you begin to see the pattern repeat over and over and you’ll learn what they are looking for. Those are the building blocks of the NCLEX and without them you can’t play the game. The collection of building blocks is huge, and the more you are familiar the better. The more of these you know the closer you are. You must be able to know these blocks so well that when you read a question, you instantly know what they are looking for, and that’s how you can answer the question in less then a minute. So the way to look at knowledge is not in the traditional way of really knowing it but using your NCLEX little blocks to play the NCLEX game. Think of it as a game.
3) HOW TO IDENTIFY THE BUILDING BLOCKS
When you look at a NCLEX question your first impulse is to pick the right answer but that’s wrong. The first thing you need to do is to identify what is the question testing you on. The test might be asking you what’s safe, what do you consider a priority, how to maintain oxygenation so on and so forth. The test might be asking you about your good judgment. The good news is that these questions have a limit and after you practice NCLEX questions for a while you begin to see the patterns over and over again. These repetitions will help you to identify the building blocks. The building blocks is the essence of nursing.
- patient safety
- decision making
- the nursing process
There are hundreds of this “blocks” and listing them here would not help you because you must be able to identify them quickly and intuitively. The only way to identify them is to practice hundreds of questions and start identifying the patterns because you’ll run into them over and over. So next time you look at a question you already know the answer because you know the exact building block that will fit. The reason why I think this is important is because you’ll have no idea on how to answer half the question they will be thrown at you; no matter how hard you study. The building blocks offer you another way to visualize and make a better decision.
4) STUDY TIME
Don’t drive yourself crazy. I would practice 60 questions a day in one hour’s time. Buy a timer and keep the pace, don’t ever take more than one hour. If you are getting above 65% in one hour you looking good but try to get higher. One day a week go all the way to 265 (ouch!) because most likely this is what your test will be like! You are building endurance in test taking rather than becoming a nurse genius. Have fun with it, if you drive yourself to pain it might be counter productive. Just relax (but do what I say).
5) THE TEST
It is important to know what is under the hood. One fact to note is that the NCLEX will test everyone differently. The NCLEX has two ways to make a decision about you:
- Pass or fail with an “X” number of questions, so if you are really good you can pass with as little as 75-180 (average) questions [and if you are doing really badly you will fail with 75-180 questions];
- At a certain point in the beginning of the test the computer makes a decision. It can’t figure you out: you have missed a bunch of questions but you also hit some important ones, so it decides that you need to be tested using all the questions. You are going all the way to 265 baby (ouch again!).
Remember, if you are not consistent and begin to do poorly because you are tired you can fail with 265 questions too. Answering all the questions is OK as long as you have the stamina to do so. Don’t lose power. If you are struggling, forget about that magical “oh a passed with 75 questions” mindset; be prepared to go all the way and most importantly be consistent throughout the entire range. That’s why is so important to train yourself to handle 265 questions in 6 hours ounce a week. The NCLEX will be really impressed with your consistency and you will be credited for that. Remember, the NCLEX is not about getting questions right and building up points like in regular tests, the NCLEX is testing how you perform under stressful situations and what kind of choices you make. The NCLEX computer program measures and grades you in everything you do.
To critically think about the questions require a different set of tools. You must go deep into the question, you must zero in on that question alone and not stray one bit from it. You have to ask yourself, “What are they asking me to do?” I developed this way of thinking: I would imagine myself there, at the hospital with a real situation and then think “What would I do here…for real? What would I do in order to be the safest?” After you decide what to do using the knowledge you have, you then compare it to the choice 1,2,3,4 and pick the least wrong. Never pick the right answer. Remember, there is no right answer in the NCLEX.
Tetris is one of the first video games made for computers and in my opinion it simulates several of the brain functions which are similar to the ones used for the NCLEX. It will help you with the mental stamina you need to endure all 265 questions without lowering your performance. You have to make quick decisions in shorter and shorter amounts of time. It forces your brain to critically think faster and faster as the geometrical shapes fall down and you have to figure out where they fit. I was amazed to find how much I improved as I started to play. If you don’t believe this, just play for fun anyway to help you relax.
PRAY FOR ST. JUDE THE PATRON OF THE IMPOSSIBLE CAUSES AND THE BEST LUCK TO YOU.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
Persistence will see you through.
Image credit: flickr.com