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How to Prepare Yourself Before Taking the NCLEX for Becoming an RN

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The NCLEX-RN exam is the final obstacle you have to overcome to actualize your dream of becoming a Registered Licensed Nurse (RN).

Naturally, it’s hard to keep stress levels to a bare minimum and be mind-focused on the test’s curveballs.

However, understanding the NCLEX format and question types, researching extensively about study materials, and taking mock tests can lift your confidence and play a pivotal role in making the test seem a lot easier than it is.

Understand the Test Format

To prepare for the NCLEX exam, understanding the basic format will help you get acquainted with the test’s structure.

The test is designed according to four major client needs categories. Here’s how the test is divided these categories:

  1. Safe and Effective Care Environment
    • Management of Care (18–23% weightage)
    • Safety and Infection Control (9–16% weightage)
  2. Health Promotion and Maintenance (6–12% weightage)
  3. Psychosocial Integrity (6–12% weightage)
  4. Physiological Integrity
    • Basic Care and Comfort (6–12% weightage)
    • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies (12-18% weightage)
    • Reduction of Risk Potential (10–15% weightage)
    • Physiological Adaptation (11–17% weightage)

It would help if you had a game plan to tackle each section. Here are some tips to nudge you in the direction:

  1. First, focus on areas of weakness. If you’re not sure which category you’re weak in, give the practice NCLEX-RN exam a go, and use it to narrow down your shortcomings.
  2. Know the type of questions the NCLEX will present. Here is a brief rundown:
    • Multiple choice questions have the highest percentage. These questions will have four possible choices. You’ll have to choose the most accurate choice.
    • Multiple response questions are a bit different. In these, you’ll have to choose all the correct choices—not just one.
    • Then, comes the charts and graphs section. In these, you’ll have to interpret the information given in the chart to give the best possible answer.
    • Drug questions will involve mathematical calculations. Make sure you’re well-acquainted with different formulae before attempting this section.
    • Ordered response questions will require you to arrange responses in order of correctness.
    • You might also encounter graphic questions on the test. In a graphic test, instead of words or numbers, images are given as multiple choices. You have to choose the picture that accurately answers the question.

Don’t Self-Evaluate During the Test

The NCLEX is based on computerized adaptive testing (CAT).  No test is identical. Each exam has a different set of questions.

The test repository is also very comprehensive. You’re given a variety of question types, from multiple choice questions to charts.

You’re required to answer at least 75 questions on the NCLEX. The maximum number of questions is 265, with a time cap of 6 hours.

The NCLEX exam also follows the 95% confidence interval rule. If you answer enough questions correctly, you will cross the pass line with 95% confidence interval.

However, if your test performance is below par, you’ll stay below the 95% mark. At the end of the test, you have to make sure you’re above the pass line.

The difficulty of questions increases as your test performance improves and decreases as you answer a string of wrong questions. It’s important to get entangled in complexities.

Don’t evaluate yourself after every question. If the test algorithm delivers a couple of easy questions, don’t think you’re failing the test.

Just tackle each question to the best of your knowledge and mental capacity. Sometimes, the questions that might seem easy to you are difficult for other test-takers.

It all boils down to how much you can take. Make sure your mind sees the test through to the end and be free of stress afterwards.

Don’t Base Answers on Clinical Experiences

For test-takers who have prior experience working in healthcare institutions, such as hospitals or clinics, the test can somewhat cloud your ability to think critically.

Even if your healthcare facility’s methods are accurate, it doesn’t mean they will apply to the NCLEX.

Keep in mind that the test is scholastic, empirical, and evidence-based, rather than experiential and circumstantial. The correct answers may not always be consistent with real-life situations.

You’ll have to activate your textbook brain to get the best possible results.

Invest in Resources

Investing in NCLEX review materials and resources are a big help. Review classes are also a great way to get a head start on the exam.

You can look for recommendations online, or ask from previous test-takers about their selection of study material to make sure you’re choosing the best possible resources for your test prep.

NCLEX study materials and resources produce comprehensive guides to make sure every section of the test is covered.

Take some time out to research and select the guide that best fits your study and review methods.

Also, find out which NCLEX review prep services offer the most varied question types and choose accordingly.

Practice Questions  

Practice exams are the best course of action to analyze the complexity of the exam. However, simply depending on practice tests isn’t enough. You also have to:

  • Look up the explanations to your answers. Practice tests provide a detailed explanation of why your answer was correct or incorrect, along with highlighting the particular category the question was given from.
  • Take note of topics you’re constantly performing badly in and stress on their improvement.
  • Not just practice but do the right practice. Make sure you take at least 3 to 4 mock exams, keeping in mind the pointers mentioned above. These tests will also familiarize you with computer testing and its various nuts and bolts.

Final Thoughts 

The text anxiety will creep in if you don’t practice a lot for the NCLEX exam beforehand.

You have to make sure you take ample practice tests, find the best study resources online, and familiarize yourself with the test’s structure to avoid a study burnout.

Most importantly, give yourself the best chance of passing the test with flying colors.

About the author

CB Community

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