test taking tricks
Sure, there are people who breeze through test-taking of any kind without breaking a sweat. But most of us have a tendency to fret over the outcome. This can happen even if you’re smart and studious.
What’s the best way to prepare for your licensure exam so you can take it feeling confident about your ability to pass? passed test after test share their secrets below.
Practice Makes Passable
The one thing all nurses agree on is the importance of practice. Some start preparing in earnest more than a year out, while others set aside a substantial amount of time closer to the date of the test. What works for you will depend on your study style. Some people feel that cramming in the last couple of months helps ensure everything is fresh in their mind. Others find that letting the information sink in over a longer period helps them feel less anxious.
Jessica Sposili James describes how she preps for a test: "I started six months before I graduated, doing 25 to 50 questions per night with rationales. At the end, I had done over 5,000. I completed the minimum questions (60) on the actual test in less than 30 minutes. It was a piece of cake!"
What Type of Practice Works Best?
There are two main areas of focus that nursing students find most helpful. First is having a good grasp on the actual content covered in the test. Kendra Willbanks shares:
"At the beginning of my last semester, I bought a well-known book for NCLEX prep. However, it just taught me how to take the test and strategies. It didn’t review the content—which was what I needed. In picking up another review book, I learned so much! I hadn’t had some of the material in almost two years, so it was a great refresher. Knowing your core content is key to passing the NCLEX. You can’t know the answer if you don’t know the topic that the question is inquiring about! Hope this helps all those future nurses out there who are as scared of this test as I was."
The other key appears to be focusing on the rationale behind each answer. You need to understand what the test makers are getting at when they ask the question, since that’s your biggest clue to the selecting the correct answer. Amanda Hoke used her last-minute cramming time to go through an NCSBN learning extension course. "It takes you through all the review and gives you hundreds of test questions with full rationale. Not to mention they are the nursing board that creates the NCLEX, so the questions are a dead ringer for what you actually see on the exam."
Test Preparation Courses
You don’t necessarily have to pay a lot of money to prepare yourself. One classmate and I just kept doing the study practice tests (provided by our school for free) over and over…reading the rationales for every question, every time. We both thought boards were easy!"
Day of the Test
Getting ready for the big day means preparing yourself both mentally and physically. Jeannie Hall reminds us that you don’t have complete privacy and quiet to take the test. This can rattle you if you aren’t used to distractions. She suggests, "Buy ear plugs and go to the public library. Take the practice tests there on their computers, which are usually in cubicles. That is the way the exam is and you will be used to it by the time it’s for real."
Leah Spear has this advice to offer to make sure you have the attention span needed for a full test: "During spring break and starting the day after graduation, review 100 questions a day. If you can sit and answer 100 questions in one sitting, you can be fairly sure that you have enough stamina for the NCLEX."
Jennifer Haynes Woodworth stresses the importance of being well rested before any exam. "I had to travel a little way to get to the testing center. So, I booked a room in a hotel near the testing center and stayed there the day before the test. That way I was not stressed about getting there on time or worried about getting lost."
Laura Bond has additional tips for getting things right. "Always remember when answering questions: ‘Which would I do first, or which is the most important?’ Remember your ABCs—airway, breathing, circulation. Pay special attention to possible answers that are longer and more detailed than others."
"Eliminate what you know cannot be the answers and then go with your gut. Do not sit and belabor a question. You know more than you realize!"