If You’re having problems passing the NCLEX, these tips could be the big change
hese tips are good to anyone, but even better if you are not a native English speaker. You’ve taken the test more than twice and failed, is time for a new strategy. The NCLEX differ from other tests, and failing multiple times demonstrate you don’t understand how this thing works. Good nursing knowledge is important, but first you must learn how to take the test. Keep reading
With the NCLEX timing is everything. You should answer your questions within one minute (get that through your head). Depending on how fast you answer questions, there could be a difference on how you’re graded. You don’t necessarily need to get them right every time but you need to answer them quickly.
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. You are given a certain advantage on the grading by answering questions quickly, even if some of them are wrong.
You need to keep a above the passing line correctly answered questions and you are most likely to get that by answering them 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 could lead you right into a trap. The first thing you need to do is to identify, is what are they looking for. Let’s look at that in detail: they are testing your critical thinking. In nursing, your critical thinking is one of the most important assets. Your critical thinking is composed of two elements – (1) your good judgement, (2) your experience. Your judgment comes with time and experience and is associated with many other things like your integrity, intelligence, and the ability to consider all factors in a given situation. But your judgment is also based on how many times you’ve seen a certain situation occur.
Even though medicine presents in multiple almost infinite number of scenarios, each scenario repeats itself identically. Remember the human body is basically the same for everyone. Your ability to make a quick decision has a lot to do with how quickly you retrieve events you’ve seen before and their outcomes.
Of course the NCLEX writers don’t expect you (a student) to know to many things. But they want you to at lease be familiarized with some of the most common scenarios in nursing – and that is what I call the NCLEX building blocks.
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. 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 are the essence of nursing quick thinking.
- 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 noticing the repetitions 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. This is important because you’ll have no idea on how to answer half the question they will thrown at you; no matter how hard you study. The building blocks offer you another way to visualize and make a quick 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 mega-hit video games from the early 80’s It simulates several of the brain functions which are similar to the ones you need for the NCLEX. It will help you with the mental stamina needed to endure all 265 questions without lowering your performance. When playing tetris you need 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. After playing tetris daily and getting better at it, I was amazed on how much I improved. If you don’t believe it, just play for fun anyway it will 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