If you are a nursing student or a recent graduate, you probably have one goal in mind: passing the NCLEX-RN exam and becoming a licensed nurse. The NCLEX-RN is a standardized test that measures your ability to apply the knowledge and skills you learned in nursing school to provide safe and effective patient care.
Passing the NCLEX-RN exam is not easy, but it is not impossible either. You can ace the test on your first attempt with proper preparation, dedication, and confidence. In this article, we will share some tips and tricks on how to pass the NCLEX-RN exam successfully on your first sitting.
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What is the NCLEX-RN, and How is it Structured?
The NCLEX-RN stands for National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. It is a computerized adaptive test (CAT) that adjusts questions based on performance. This means that the difficulty of each question depends on how well you answered the previous ones. This design aims to accurately assess your level of competence and readiness to practice as a nurse.
The NCLEX-RN covers four major categories of nursing practice:
- Safe and Effective Care Environment: This category includes questions about management of care, safety and infection control, delegation, supervision, ethics, legal issues, quality improvement, and emergency preparedness.
- Health Promotion and Maintenance: This category includes questions about growth and development, health screening, prevention, wellness, immunization, family planning, prenatal care, newborn care, aging, and end-of-life care.
- Psychosocial Integrity: This category includes questions about mental health, coping, stress management, crisis intervention, substance abuse, violence, abuse, neglect, grief, loss, cultural diversity, spirituality, and therapeutic communication.
- Physiological Integrity: This category includes questions about basic care and comfort, pharmacological therapies, reduction of risk potential, physiological adaptation, fluid and electrolyte balance, acid-base balance, oxygenation, nutrition, elimination, mobility, sensory perception, pain management, wound care, infection control, and complications.
The NCLEX-RN consists of multiple-choice questions as well as alternate item formats such as fill-in-the-blank calculation, multiple response (select all that apply), ordered response (drag-and-drop), hot spot (identify an area on a picture), chart/exhibit (interpret data from a table or graph), graphic option (select an image), audio (listen to a sound), video (watch a clip), or SATA (select all that apply).
The NCLEX-RN has a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265 questions. You will have up to six hours to complete the exam, including two optional breaks. The exam will end when one of the following conditions is met:
- You have answered the minimum number of questions (75) and demonstrated above or below the passing standard with 95% confidence.
- You have answered the maximum number of questions (265) and demonstrated above or below the passing standard with 95% confidence.
- You have run out of time and have answered at least the minimum number of questions (75). In this case, your last 60 questions will be used to determine whether you have demonstrated above or below the passing standard with 95% confidence.
The NCSBN determines the passing standard for the NCLEX-RN based on a statistical analysis of the difficulty level of each question and the expected performance of entry-level nurses. The passing standard is periodically reviewed and adjusted to reflect changes in nursing practice. The current passing standard for the NCLEX-RN is 0.00 logits, which has been effective since April 1, 2019.
Tips to Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam on Your First Try
1. Study Consistently and Effectively
One of the most important factors determining your success on the NCLEX-RN exam is how well you study. After graduating from nursing school, you should start studying as soon as possible and devote at least 25-40 hours per week to reviewing the content and practicing questions.
To study effectively, you must use reliable and updated study materials that cover all the topics and formats of the NCLEX-RN exam. Some of the recommended resources are:
- Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination: This book provides a comprehensive review of all the nursing content areas, along with over 5,000 practice questions, rationales, test-taking strategies, and online resources.
- Lippincott PassPoint: This online platform offers a simulated NCLEX-RN exam that adapts to your performance and gives you feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. You can also access thousands of practice questions, quizzes, videos, and study plans.
- UWorld NCLEX-RN Content Review Guide Book: This book contains over 2,000 high-quality questions that mimic the style and difficulty of the NCLEX-RN exam. It also provides detailed explanations, illustrations, charts, tables, and mnemonics to help you master the concepts.
- HESI Live Review Workbook for the NCLEX-RN Exam: This workbook is designed to complement a live review course offered by HESI. It contains practice questions, case studies, critical thinking exercises, and tips for each content area.
- Kaplan Test Prep: This company offers various options for preparing for the NCLEX-RN exam, such as online courses, live classes, books, apps, and flashcards. You can also use their decision tree method, which helps you break down complex questions and eliminate wrong answers.
2. Focus on Your Weak Areas
As you study for the NCLEX-RN exam, you will discover that some topics are easier for you than others. You should identify your weak areas and review them more until you feel confident. You can use online tools such as Pearson VUE’s Official NCLEX Candidate Performance Report (CPR), which shows you how you performed on each content area and question type on a previous attempt. You can also use self-assessment tests or quizzes from your study materials to gauge your progress.
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3. Apply Critical Thinking and Test-taking Strategies
The NCLEX-RN exam is not just about memorizing facts and definitions. It is also about applying critical thinking and clinical judgment to solve real-world scenarios. To do this, you must use test-taking strategies to help you analyze the questions, eliminate wrong answers, and choose the best option.
Some of the test-taking strategies are:
- Read the question carefully and identify what it is asking. Look for keywords such as “most likely,” “first,” “best,” “priority,” or “most appropriate”.
- Pay attention to the patient’s condition, vital signs, symptoms, history, medications, allergies, and preferences.
These clues can help you narrow down your choices.
- Remember the ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation) of needs prioritization. Always address life-threatening issues first before moving on to less urgent ones.
- Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Choose interventions that meet the patient’s physiological needs before addressing their psychological or social needs.
- Remember the nursing process (assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, evaluation). Follow the steps in order and choose interventions that are based on evidence-based practice and standards of care.
- Avoid answers that suggest doing nothing, leaving the patient alone, delaying treatment, or delegating tasks that are within your scope of practice.
- Be careful with “select all that apply” questions. Treat each option as a true/false statement and check whether it is relevant to the question.
- Trust your intuition and go with your first answer unless you are sure it is wrong. Avoid changing your answer unless you find new information or realize a mistake.
4. Practice as Much as Possible
One of the best ways to prepare for the NCLEX-RN exam is to practice as much as possible. Practicing questions will help you familiarize yourself with the exam’s format, content, and difficulty. It will also help you improve your speed, accuracy, stamina, and confidence.
You should aim to practice at least 3,000-5,000 questions before taking the exam. You can use online platforms such as UWorld, Lippincott PassPoint, or Kaplan Test Prep to access thousands of questions that simulate the real exam.
You can also use books, apps, or flashcards to practice on the go.
When practicing questions, you should:
- Set a timer and limit yourself to one minute per question. This will help you manage your time and avoid getting stuck on difficult questions.
- Review the rationales and explanations for each question. This will help you understand why an answer is correct or incorrect and learn from your mistakes.
- Keep track of your scores and performance. This will help you monitor your progress and identify your strengths and weaknesses.
- Simulate the actual exam conditions. This will help you get used to the environment and reduce your anxiety. You can take a full-length practice test at a Pearson Professional Center or at home with minimal distractions.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Studying for the NCLEX-RN exam can be stressful and exhausting. However, you should not neglect your physical, mental, and emotional health. Taking care of yourself will help you stay focused, motivated, and positive.
Some of the ways to take care of yourself are:
- Get Enough Sleep: Aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night. This will help you rest your brain, consolidate your memory, and improve your concentration.
- Eat Well: Choose nutritious foods that can boost your energy, mood, and immunity. Avoid junk foods, caffeine, alcohol, or drugs that can impair your judgment, mood, or sleep quality.
- Exercise Regularly: Engage in physical activities that can relieve stress, improve blood circulation, and enhance mood. You can do aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming for at least 30 minutes daily.
- Relax and Have Fun: Find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety. You can do relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or massage. You can also do hobbies that make you happy, such as reading, listening to music, watching movies, or playing games.
- Seek Support: Contact your family, friends, classmates, instructors, or mentors for emotional support. You can also join online forums or groups to share your experiences and tips with other NCLEX-RN candidates.
6. Be Confident and Positive
The last tip on passing the NCLEX-RN exam on your first sitting is to be confident and positive. You have worked hard to get this far and have what it takes to pass the exam. Believe in yourself and your abilities.
To boost your confidence and positivity, you can:
- Review your achievements and accomplishments: Remember how much you have learned and grown as a nursing student and a future nurse.
- Visualize your success: Imagine yourself taking the exam calmly and confidently and answering the questions correctly. Imagine receiving the good news that you have passed the exam and celebrating with your loved ones.
- Use affirmations and self-talk: Repeat positive statements to yourself, such as “I am prepared,” “I am capable,” “I am confident,” and “I am a nurse.” Avoid negative thoughts or doubts that can undermine your self-esteem or performance.
- Be prepared for any outcome: While you should aim to pass the exam on your first sitting, you should also be realistic and accept that there is a possibility of failing. Remember that failing is not the end of the world and that you can always retake the exam after 45 days. Learn from your mistakes and use them as motivation to improve.
The Bottom Line
Passing the NCLEX-RN exam on your first sitting is not a matter of luck or chance. It results from hard work, preparation, strategy, and attitude. Following these tips and tricks can increase your chances of taking the test and becoming a licensed nurse.
We hope this article has been helpful and informative for you. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. We wish you all the best on your NCLEX-RN exam!