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5 Ways to Prepare for the NCLEX

Higher Education Articles November 26, 2013

When facing the task of studying for the NCLEX exam nurses prepare in a variety of ways. Cultivating strong study skills ensures that you will perform well on the NCLEX, preparing you for an excellent career in nursing. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that jobs for registered nurses are expected to grow 26% from 2010 through 2020. As a result, this is a great time to go to school and pursue a nursing career. In order to become licensed as a nurse in the United States, all nursing candidates must successfully complete the NCLEX exam. Learning how to prepare for the exam is an important component of performing well when you take the test.

Be proactive

Because the NCLEX is an important part of establishing your career as a nurse, it is essential to be proactive about studying. At least several months before the exam, begin setting aside time to study. Although you may be busy with work, school, family life, and other personal responsibilities, it is important to devote time and resources to your test studies. Explain to friends and loved ones how important the NCLEX is for your career, and be specific about the type of social support you may need to help you through this challenging study period.

Familiarize yourself with the NCLEX exam

Knowing how the exam is organized, the major content areas covered, test duration and question format will dramatically improve your ability to master the test. For example, know roughly what percentage of the test covers a general content area (e.g., management of care, safety and infection control, health promotion, pharmacological and parenteral therapies, etc.). Also ensure that you fully understand the computerized adaptive testing (CAT) process, which varies the difficulty of questions based on your responses. Simply being familiar with the test environment and CAT computer system can make you feel more comfortable on test day.

Make a study plan

When preparing for the NCLEX, it is necessary to ensure that you are fully prepared by test day. To facilitate this preparation process, make a detailed study plan. Set aside a realistic amount of time to study, keeping in mind your other responsibilities. In general, studying for one or two hours at least three or four days per week is more effective than one or two very long study sessions. When creating your study plan, note the key content areas and devote several hours of study to each one. Leave approximately two weeks before the test to brush up on the concepts you struggle with the most. Most importantly, stick to your study plan as closely as possible to ensure that you are prepared on the day of the NCLEX.

Know your study style

Understanding how you study best allows you to strategically deploy your study resources. Do you like visual aids to help you remember key information? Make flashcards or diagram important concepts. If you prefer an auditory learning style, make tapes of yourself repeating key concepts or review relevant lecture materials. Using your strengths during the study process ensures that you will consolidate the material and perform well on the test.

Seek help when necessary

Today, there are dozens of study aid options available to nursing candidates taking the NCLEX. From formal NCLEX class sequences to online resources, there are guides and aids to help you learn the material. Don’t feel like you need to learn everything by yourself. Checking in with a friend about key concepts, or creating a productive study group can help the process. Seek help when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and remember to take time to yourself to physically and mentally recharge.

Although passing the NCLEX is an essential part of becoming licensed as a nurse, being prepared makes the exam process less daunting. Employ good study strategies and stick to your study plan. By the day the NCLEX rolls around, you will feel fully prepared to pass the exam and move on to your exciting nursing career.

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