The secret to passing the NCLEX: Mental Aerobics

We hire a lot of new graduate nurses where I currently work. I actually help with the orientation and transition process of new grads transforming from Student Nurse (SN)to Graduate Nurse (GN), to the auspicious Registered Nurse (RN).

The biggest question on all GN’s minds is taking the NCLEX-RN.

“What’s the best way to study?”

“How did you study?”

“I don’t want to fail! I only want to take it once.”

Of course, we all want the above. The NCLEX-RN exam is simply a pressure cooker. It doesn’t really measure your knowledge or your total knowledge of nursing basics. What it measures is how you react under pressure. Do you crack, or do you rise to the occasion? Because the reality is, that’s exactly what an RN does every day.

“It doesn’t measure our knowledge?”~ It does, but not like you think. It wants to know how sound your nursing judgment is, and how developed are your critical thinking skills. Nothing more.

You’ll find that some of the most intelligent nurses you attended classes with will have difficulty passing their boards, due to this very simple fact. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you have consumed, if you can’t apply the given lessons to everyday nursing responsibilities, it will only do one thing. Get a patient hurt. A good nurse has sound judgment and good critical thinking skills, not a know it all.

So here is the key to passing the NCLEX-RN: Mental Aerobics.

We have all heard and done our homework when it comes to the specifics of the exam. We all know that you will be asked a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 260-ish. It all depends on how well you answer your questions. Answer them correctly and you’ll have fewer questions.

So. 75 questions MINIMUM.

There is the key. You need to guarantee your mind will be sharp all the way up to that 75th question (or more). Because if not, you will be sitting in front of that computer to answer the 260!

Practice questions. Practice questions. Practice questions. Do them. And when you’re done doing them. Do some more.

You have to start small and work your way up. You’d be surprised at how fast your mind will wander and lose focus after just 20 questions. And remember… you have no idea if you’ve answered them correctly. So your anxiety is building with each additional question.

Practice daily. Start with 20. Once you can efficiently answer 20, move to 30. Then 40, 50, 60, etc. You get the idea. My suggestion is to be able to sit in front of that computer screen for 100 questions before you become mentally fatigued. That way you’ve factored in fatigue and anxiety. (Trust me, the pressure cooker is a quaint description of the exam environment)

Oh and one last thing. Do nothing 2 days before the exam. You’ll do nothing but drive yourself crazy if you study up to the night before. Give yourself the mental break to refresh and revitalize.

Best of luck!

Blog reheated: I originally wrote this post August 22, 2008


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