From the very beginning of nursing school, you've heard the stories about the NCLEX, the exam that determines if you can practice as a Registered Nurse. You've heard the stories of those fortunate enough to complete the test in 75 questions and those with the task of staying focused for the whole 265 question test. We firmly believe with the right preparation that anyone can pass in 75 questions. Read on to discover how we passed in only 75 questions and how you can too.
Our school used ATI as the main source of NCLEX prep and we wondered how similar the actual NCLEX exam would be to the ATI tests. During our final semester of nursing school, we took an 180 question ATI Comprehensive Exam on April 13, 2015 that generated a score of our chances of passing NCLEX. Kleneice had a 98% chance of passing NCLEX on the first try, and my score was 97%. We did not achieve these scores with intense content review. To prepare for the ATI Comprehensive Exam, we did 1 or 2 practice tests for each subject (Med-Surg, Peds, Maternal/OB, etc) and moved on.
After completing the ATI Comprehensive Exam, our school had a mandatory ATI Live Review Session that included 3 days of fast-paced content review on nearly every subject. We thoroughly enjoyed the ATI Live Review and felt like we could have tackled NCLEX the day after the review!
We graduated with our BSN on April 25, 2015. We didn't open any books or study for two weeks following graduation because we anticipated an early June test date for NCLEX and wanted to relax before we started studying :)
The main tools we used to study for NCLEX:
Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment Practice Exercises for the NCLEX Examination by LaCharity
NCLEX RN Mastery App
We began our studies on May 8, 2015. For the first two weeks, we were diligent about doing 50-75 Kaplan questions with each study session. We started out scoring just over 50% on the Kaplan tests. They are HARD. Kaplan test questions WILL challenge you to think critically in order to select the correct answer. (Check out our review of the Kaplan QBank). We actually started to dread doing the Kaplan questions because we were scoring so low at first, but if you stick with it your scores will improve.
During each study session we would also complete 50 questions from the online LaCharity test bank. We really liked the LaCharity test bank because there are several ways to organize your studies such as selecting strictly delegation, assignment, or supervision questions! (We completed this test bank fairly quickly) Completing these questions helped us get stronger at prioritization and reinforced what could be delegated to nursing assistants and LPNs.
During this time we were also using NCLEX RN Mastery. We highly recommend using the NCLEX RN Mastery app because it allows you to select questions based on subjects like Med/Surg, Lab Values, Fundamentals, etc and these are all broken down into smaller sub-categories. The best feature of NCLEX RN Mastery is how you can really target your studying! (Check out our review of the NCLEX RN Mastery App) We would do about 50 questions for each study session.
The week of the test we incorporated a study guide we found on Allnurses.com into our study sessions. We did not read every page in detail, but we did find great tips for remembering concepts by skimming through this study guide. (download here)
The Wednesday before the exam we took one final 75 question test from Kaplan. I scored a 64%. The day before the exam we did not do any questions but talked through the main concepts of the procedures, diseases, and drugs that we encountered the most during our studies for about 20 minutes.
The day of the exam we treated ourselves to an early lunch and then browsed stores in a nearby mall. We arrived at the testing center shortly before 1pm and walked inside around 1:10 for our 2pm test. I can't say for sure when we started testing because we were not wearing watches and left our phones in the car.
During the test I was surprised at how similar the set-up was to Kaplan. Even the questions were similar in difficulty level to the Kaplan QBank. While I was taking the test I did experience a headache and some nausea because my nerves were so bad, but I really took my time answering the questions. I used the strategies I learned in school and from the Kaplan QBank to answer the questions. I felt like I had to rely on testing strategies to complete the test because a good portion of the content was challenging. A large portion of my test was SATA questions, so pacing myself and analyzing the stem of the questions served me well. I finished in about an hour and 40 minutes, and Kleneice finished in about an hour.
Kleneice and I achieved our ultimate goal of passing NCLEX in 75 questions. While we were studying, we had doubts. We did not feel like we were studying enough. We heard of people who spent 6 hours each day studying for NCLEX. We also did only two days of brief content review. Our main focus was to get better at answering NCLEX style questions, which truly paid off.
It is important to note that we were not studying every single day. At most, we studied five days a week, for about 3-4 hours each day.
A typical study day for us:
1 set of 25 Kaplan QBank questions & review of rationales
2nd set of 25 Kaplan QBank questions & review of rationales
1 set of 25 NCLEX RN Mastery Questions & review of rationales
2nd set of 25 NCLEX RN Mastery Questions & review of rationales
Skim 5-7 pages of study guide (Remember, we didn't incorporate this until the week of the NCLEX)
NCLEX seems like a dark cloud looming over your head from the moment that you enter nursing school, but I am hoping that by sharing our NCLEX story you will realize that passing is not only attainable, but you don't have to study day after day for 8 hours at a time. Kleneice and I never thought that we were studying enough, and to be honest, no one can study to the point that they know everything on the exam. You are going to be asked questions about drugs you've never heard of, scenarios that you've never encountered, and procedures about which you don't have a clue, and that's ok!
So what can you do to have the best chance of passing NCLEX in 75 questions?
1. Devote your energy to no more than 2-3 NCLEX resources
Preparing for NCLEX can be a stressful time with the anticipation of the test alone. The last thing you want to do is add on to that stress by stretching yourself thin with the amount of NCLEX resources you use. By narrowing your focus to no more than 2-3 NCLEX study tools, you will be able to sharpen your test taking strategies as you begin to excel at each resource.
2. Give yourself a month to study
It is important that you do not rush your studies for NCLEX. While in all honesty you have been preparing for NCLEX since you began nursing school, that does not mean your NCLEX prep should be rushed. Devoting 3-4 hours of studying a day for 4-5 days a week over the course of a month will increase your chances of success.
3. Be consistent
Adding structure to your study time can only benefit you even further. By sticking to a schedule and committing to answering a certain number of questions each day, not only are you more likely to actually study, but you will see results faster. For example, because of the difficulty of the Kaplan QBank questions, it is easy to neglect the QBank altogether and seek out less challenging questions. However, your test scores will only improve with practice and consistency as you learn the best strategies to answer the questions.
4. Pay attention to the rationales
There are usually lessons to be learned in the rationales of the answer choices. The rationales explain why a certain answer choice was a distractor, and how the stem of the question specifically matched the correct answer. By reading the rationales (even for questions you answered correctly), you will quickly learn how to identify the correct answers and which strategies you can use to eliminate the distractors.
5. Focus on answering questions instead of content review
I cannot stress enough the importance of focusing on answering as many questions as possible instead of reviewing pages and pages of content. Not only was nursing school primarily content review, but to be honest, there is no way to predict what content will be on your NCLEX test. The best way to prepare for NCLEX is truly to answer questions so that you ace the test taking strategies you need to pass.
Need help organizing your studies for NCLEX? Download the FREE NCLEX STUDY PLAN! :)
Have a question about our NCLEX preparation? What resources will you be using for NCLEX? Be sure to comment below and tell us how you plan to prepare for your own NCLEX success!