The NCLEX-RN® exam is, among other things, an endurance test, like a marathon. If you don’t prepare for the NCLEX-RN properly, or approach it with confidence and rigor, you’ll quickly lose your composure.
The first step to becoming a better NCLEX-RN® test taker is to assess and identify the following:
- The kind of test taker you are
- The kind of learner you are
How to Pass the NCLEX-RN®
If you are a successful test taker, congratulations! The following tips will reinforce your test-taking skills. If you have many of the characteristics of an unsuccessful test taker, don’t despair! You can change. If you follow these strategies, you will become a successful test taker.
7 strategies that DO NOT work on the NCLEX-RN®
Whether you realize it or not, you developed a set of strategies in nursing school to answer teacher-generated test questions that are written at the knowledge/comprehension level. These strategies include the following:
- “Cramming” in hundreds of facts about disease processes and nursing care
- Recognizing and recalling facts rather than understanding the pathophysiology and the needs of a client with an illness
- Knowing who wrote the question and what is important to that instructor
- Predicting answers based on what you remember or who wrote the test question
- Selecting the response that is a different length compared to the other choices
- Selecting the answer choice that is grammatically correct
- When in doubt, choosing answer choice (C)
These strategies will not work on the NCLEX-RN® exam. Remember, the NCLEX-RN® exam is testing your ability to make safe, competent decisions.
An NCLEX-RN® strategy that works: Visualization
It is important for you to identify whether you think predominantly in images or words. Why? This will assist you in developing a study plan that is specific for your learning style. Read the following statement:
As you read those words, did you hear yourself reading the words? Or did you see a nurse walking into a room, and see the client lying on the floor? If you heard yourself reading the sentence, you think in words. If you formed a mental image (saw a picture), you think in images.
Students who think in images sometimes have a difficult time answering nursing test questions. These students say things like:
“I have to study harder than the other students.”
“I have to look up the same information over and over again.”
“Once I see the procedure (or client), I don’t have any difficulty understanding or remembering the content.”
“I have trouble understanding procedures from reading the book. I have to see the procedure to understand it.”
“I have trouble answering test questions about clients or procedures I’ve never seen.”
Why is that? For some people, imagery is necessary to understand ideas and concepts. If this is true for you, you need to visualize information that you are learning. As you prepare for the NCLEX-RN® exam, try to form mental images of terminology, procedures, and diseases. For example, if you’re reviewing information about traction but you have never seen traction, it would be ideal for you to see a client in traction. If that isn’t possible, find a picture of traction and rig up a traction setup with whatever material you have available. As you read about traction, use the photo or model to visualize care of the client. If you can visualize the theory that you are trying to learn, it will make recall and understanding of concepts much easier for you.
It is also important that you visualize test questions. As you read the question and possible answer choices, picture yourself going through each suggested action. This will increase your chances of selecting correct answer choices.
Let’s look at a test question that requires imagery.
Sample NCLEX-RN® Practice Question
Don’t panic if you can’t remember crutch-walking gaits. Instead, visualize!
Step 1. “See” a person (or yourself) walking normally. First the right leg and left arm are extended, and then the left leg and right arm are extended.
Step 2. Put crutches in your hands. Now walk. Each foot and each crutch is a point.
Step 3. “See” a person (or yourself) with a full cast on the left leg, with the foot never touching the ground.
Step 4. Visualize the answers
Once you’ve had a chance to think through the questions. Click below to reveal the explanation.