How to Study for the NCLEX: Tips and Tricks

The whirlwind of nursing school has finally come to an end. You’ve grown from a nerve-wracked student nurse to a slightly-more-capable new grad with shiny new pin. You’ve mastered getting by on no sleep, learned how to read charts, document, and decipher the differences between diseases. You’ve passed the gauntlet of impossible-to-please clinical instructors, met nurses and patients in the field who inspired you to keep going, and finally got the hang of navigating your teachers’ insane test questions and rationales. Now you have one final hurdle before you can put those coveted letters behind your name. After all you’ve been through, you’ve got this in the bag, but here a few tips to remember as you study for the NCLEX.

1. Don’t wait too long to take it. Nursing school crams a lot of information in a short period of time. Schedule the test as soon as you receive your ATT (authorization to test) from your state’s Board of Nursing (BON). Waiting a few weeks after graduation will give you time to relax and review, but content will still be fresh.

2. Practice SATA questions! Though you may hate hearing the dreaded acronym, practice SATA questions like your life depends on it, and be sure read the rationales for each and every question. For those not in the know, SATA stands for “select all that apply”, and consists of a question with multiple answers, with any number from 205 being correct. If you do not choose the correct number of answers, even if all of your selected answers are correct, you will get the entire question wrong. There was no partial credit in nursing school and there is definitely no partial credit on the NCLEX.

3. Take a review course if you feel rusty on content. If you are feeling less than confident in a number of areas, sign up for an comprehensive review. Most courses focus on how to approach and answer exam questions, and go over topic areas that the NCLEX likes to ask about. Taking a review course a week before your scheduled exam may give you a boost and the reassurance you need to conquer the big test.

4. Rest before you test. The day before your scheduled test, relax. It’s easier said than done, but stress can shut down rational thought, and the whole purpose of the exam is to test your understanding of the nursing process. Make a spa appointment, head to the beach or find some way to pamper yourself. Get to sleep at a reasonable hour and wake up ready to become a licensed nurse!