TEN LISTED GUIDES TO HELP YOU PREPARE FOR THE NCLEX
Studying for the NCLEX can be real tasking; you need all the support, guidance and mentorship you can get to pass the test on your first attempt. This is entirely different from how you studied for Exams back in Nursing school or the University as the case may be and comes with its own demands. First off, you should know this is a professional Exam to take you on that career leap; get you licensed as a Nurse in the USA and not just an examination to have you move to the next class or improve your CGPA. Understanding this from the very set go of the process puts you on that very right path to success.
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I will share with you key guides to follow during your NCLEX preparation till test day, this will help you through the entirety of the process and get you on that right track to success. This was borne from my personal experience studying for the boards and also my experience as an NCLEX Educator.
HAVE A MINDSET OF A BEGINNER.
The NCLEX syllabus is very different from what the Nigerian Nursing Curriculum covers, preparing for the Exam launches you to a world entirely different from what you are familiar with. There are more Nursing responsibilities, more disease processes to learn, different hospital settings and lots of cultural differences to understand. You have so much to learn and a lot of wrong practices to unlearn. Do not start studying for the NCLEX with the mindset of ‘I have 10 years of bedside experience, this will help and make preparation easier for me’ or ‘I was best student back in school and so the NCLEX will be an easy task’ or ‘I am fresh out of school, this shouldn’t be any difficult’ All these put you In a very vulnerable position and at a high chance to fail. You will be dazed at how this works. Put all your bedside experiences aside, all the confidence from being a fresh Nursing grad or A list student, take down all that pride and put on that mindset to start learning all over again. The NCLEX works with a perfect hospital setting which is very different from what we have in Nigeria, Our Nursing Curriculum does not cover half of what we have in the NCLEX, so what exactly does all that assumption lead us to?
CREATE A FLEXIBLE STUDY PLAN FOR YOURSELF
It can be real difficult keeping up with study plans due to other responsibilities we might have, such as being a spouse, a parent, demands from work place and a lot of other challenges. This should not in any way discourage us from creating one as we cannot meet up with the daily targets. When we have our goals written down, we are already halfway reaching them. Creating a study plan keeps you aware of what you need to do and what you haven’t done and keeps you motivated to accomplish them. When creating a study time table try to make it as flexible as possible for yourself, so you do not feel overwhelmed with so much to cover. It doesn’t have to be very long hours in a day, It can just be 2 hours daily, 6 days of the week, provided you meet up with the daily targets, you are doing just fine. Have a Mix of different topics in the NCLEX when creating a study plan, so it doesn’t get boring for you. It can be a mix of pharmacology, disease processes and practice questions. For Example, 1 disease condition in a particular system, 2 medications from another system and 20 questions from different subject areas using a reliable Q bank. Following this will give you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling you are making progress.
REGISTER WITH NCLEX STUDY GROUPS
Study groups can be real helpful in your NCLEX preparation , as it allows you network with other Nurses on the same journey with you, this gives you that feeling of not being alone and eliminates all uncertainties and fear you might have with the process. It makes studying more interesting, opens you up to new information and makes it easier to retain them, all these you can get from discussions on the forum and the interactive sessions. It is important you join in active study groups, where the purpose of the group is strictly maintained and you have Nurse Educators to mentor and guide you through the entire process.
SAJO ACADEMY is a great choice for this. These Groups keep you motivated to learn, as you are constantly in a study environment.
CHOOSING NCLEX STUDY MATERIALS
When preparing for the NCLEX, you are exposed to a lot of resources for study, the ones you get when you surf the net, the ones from study groups, the one a Nurse colleague might have sent to you or the one a USRN friend recommended and you purchased. It is great to have a lot of materials for study, but at the same time this can pose a problem too. I have books I recommend for my students and I will have them listed out here, these are the same resource materials the Academy uses, this doesn’t in anyway mean others not listed are not reliable, but these are books that I have had students use overtime and worked just fine, they are tested and trusted. You really do not have to load yourself with too many kind of information from different texts. This often leaves you confused with so many things it tells on your results on practice tests, as there are so many controversial information you have exposed yourself to. I see it as you filtering what you allow in, not to pollute the valid information you already have.
For Content Review – Saunders Text Book / Online HESI, Illustrated Study Guide.
For Q banks. – U world , Kaplan.
For Audio Lectures – Mark Klimerk (First Edition).
For Video Lectures – RegisteredNurseRN on Youtube
Studying the above resources diligently, will have you bag that USRN qualification.
FEELINGS OF UNPREPAREDNESS FOR THE TEST
Preparing for the NCLEX most times you feel as though you are not learning anything new or you aren’t in any way different from how you started. Sometimes, you finish up with a System, try practice questions on it and you perform poorly. You solve Q banks read up the rationales over and over again and it just never sticks. This is to let you know all these are challenges virtually everyone faced and it does get better with time, most definitely with constant practice. Do not get discouraged but have it inspire you to work harder. Ask questions, figure out how best you learn, join study groups, keep at it and never stop.
FIGURE OUT THE LEARNING METHOD THAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU.
Are you a visual learner? Auditory Learner? Do you learn best by watching clips or by listening to audio tapes, or by diagrams and pictures or you learn easily by discussions and interactive platforms. Find the category you fall in and use it to achieve maximum result. This does not mean you focus solely on one method of learning, you can make this a primary method for yourself and try using that method in areas you find difficult in the NCLEX. Studying for the NCLEX will have you use all available reliable resource there is and you really don’t want to limit yourself to just one. If you enjoy Visuals, you can make use of RegisteredNurseRN on Youtube, she is a great resource. Auditory Learners, Mark Klimerk, is a great resource too.
TRAIN YOURSELF TO ATTEMPT CORRECTLY UNFAMILIAR QUESTIONS, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO COVER THE ENTIRE NCLEX SYLLABUS.
Believing you can cover all there is in the NCLEX syllabus is a great mindset for the test preparation but preparing yourself to answer correctly questions on topics you have never come across before is the right mindset to take into the Exam hall. Be prepared to attempt unfamiliar questions, be prepared for anything, as the NCLEX can take you to any angle. Rather than working towards covering all there is in the syllabus, why not devote sometime on leaning strategies and understanding how best to use them. You do not have to know a particular disease process or nursing procedure before you can answer correctly questions on it. Know when to use your strategies; Elimination, Visualization, Rewording of question and even common sense. A lot of common sense is needed on that exam day, a whole lot. You should train yourself to be able to answer correctly questions, you are unfamiliar with too using strategies, once you can achieve this then you are set for the test. Have it in mind you will always find questions you know nothing about in the NCLEX, but this does not mean you cannot answer them correctly. Learn to give each question ample time, pick out key words in the question stem, look out for familiar options, link them up, eliminate the obviously incorrect options (there are always 2), Visualize the scenario if it requires that…. If all these are applied the right way, I am absolutely confident you will get it right.
ATTEMPT AS MANY QUESTIONS AS POSSIBLE, STUDY THE RATIONALES OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
You cannot overemphasize the importance of answering as many questions as possible before the NCLEX. Truth is the more questions you expose yourself to the more you learn. You tend to discover areas you haven’t touched in content, understand better application of what you have learnt before and also retain properly key information. Practice exercises build your critical thinking ability and Nursing judgment, these are key areas the NCLEX tests you on. The more questions you attempt, the closer you are in getting set for that beast. It is also important to know you have to be careful of the Q banks you use as some will only get you more confused than you already were. I addressed this previously on the use of too many NCLEX resource. U world, Kaplan, Nurseslab are great Q banks you can use. Also note that, answering the questions either correctly or incorrectly just covers 20% of what is expected of you and what actually helps you. This takes me to the importance of studying rationales to questions you attempt. This covers the remaining 80%. Study the rationales to questions as though you are going to find that exact question on the test day. This is not me telling you to cram, but to understand the rationales really well to the point you can apply them to other questions. Never expect to see exact same questions on your test day, this doesn’t happen and will not happen in your time. You can see questions similar to what you have on these Q banks but you cannot find the exact replica, reason you have to understand the rationales properly to be able to apply them to questions framed differently.
A normal level of anxiety is just perfect for the NCLEX. Anxiety at a good level keeps you in the right state of mind and driven to prepare adequately for the test. This anxiety is always at the normal level months and weeks to the said date of your Exam, but starts to go over the roof when it is days and hours to this day. This is the area we need address. Question is how can we manage anxiety on the test day? I will have this listed out below, this has helped countless Nurses overtime and I believe it will help you too.
Stay off the books 2 days to your test date.
Truth is this is the hardest part ever and most people eventually don’t do this, they as a matter of fact stop reading when they get to their exam center. I know this is hard, but you have to be disciplined enough to go by it. You should also know that nothing you read minutes or hours or a day to your exam freshly actually sticks, most of the time your residual knowledge; what you learnt months back is what helps you in that hall. You need all the rest you can get these few days to your test date as the brain needs that rest to be able to process information better and more accurately. What happens when you turn on a generator for straight hours in a day? The brain also works that way, you need allow it rest for better brain activity.
Do something different on these 2 days, step out the hotel where you lodged, go to the mall, engage in site seeing, meet new people, socialize, see a movie, listen to music, do things you find as fun, get on social media, do every other thing but not study. This helps your brain get back to its normal state.
• Eat right, Eat healthy. Eat lots of vegetables & fruits; this contains vitamins to help that brain function better and also keep you refreshed. Avoid staying hungry, we have considerable number of Nurses coming up with stress ulcers during this period, these are ways to help manage this. Ensure you travel with lots of snacks too from Nigeria if you are testing in the Philippines, as they do not have the best meals. You can prepare your favourite soup, have it well frozen for travel. I had a friend who travelled with frozen ogbono soup and garri and according to her was the best decision she made during the process. She fed well and had that right energy for the exam.
• Go to your exam hall a day to your test, get familiar with the place, how to transport yourself , meet the staff, ask questions on what is required of you on the test day, get all the information you need for this gracious day. This definitely helps alleviate anxiety.
• Be aware of jetlag. When in flight to the country where you are testing, ensure you try get enough sleep, don’t go about seeing movies in the plane or trying to read more. Sleep, sleep and sleep. This helps you adjust to the new time zone real quick upon arrival and also helps you get settled.
• During your exam, you have 6 hours to answer at least 75 questions and at most 265 questions. This is a lot of time and you can achieve a lot within that time space, if used judiciously. It is not advisable to sit on that exam seat the straight 6 hours, no way! You can have breaks during the test, as a matter of fact the computer notifies you when you can go on one, or you can voluntarily request a break time, if you feel tired to continue. This helps a lot with anxiety.
• Go into the exam hall prepared to answer the entire 265 questions. Most Nurses who test starts to panic when they hit next on number 75 and it takes the to76. Do know this simply means you are still in the game and still has a chance in passing. You need not panic, or lose concentration. You can request a break during this period to get back yourself, restrategize and also figure out what you might be doing wrong. Do not let this get you discouraged or so anxious, you miss out entirely on the success story.
• Answer each question like it’s the very first. This simply means when you hit the next button, take your mind completely off the previous question, all your concentration should be on the question you are currently on. Do not start analyzing the answer you chose previously, if you made a mistake or not. Once you hit Next, that should be the end of that question to you, as there is virtually nothing you can do about it. To help you with this, ensure you give each question ample time, study the questions properly, give yourself reason(s) why the answer you chose is the correct one also give yourself reason(s) why the options you didn’t choose are incorrect. If you are able to do this well, you can at that point hit the next button. Most of the time you always get the answer right, if quality time and analysis is made on each question that way.