How I Successfully Prepared for the NCLEX®

You’ve made it to the end of nursing school and you’re ready to start your life as a registered nurse! But before that, there’s one final step before you can begin: the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

The NCLEX is an exam every nursing student takes upon graduation to determine a candidate’s readiness to practice nursing. The computer-adaptive test ends when it can be determined that a candidate's performance is either above or below the passing standard.

We asked recent 3-Year Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate Catherine Resendez about her experience preparing for the NCLEX, as well as her life after nursing school. Check out her advice below:

How did you approach studying for the exam?

I did anywhere from 75-150 questions from my NCLEX prep book every day. It worked best for me to do 75 questions test with questions from all topics. After going through questions, I would go back and review content on what I had missed and write notes. I studied 5 to 6 days of the week. I alternated days as far as how many hours I studied so I wasn’t draining myself too much. I made sure I took breaks. Coffee became my best friend for four weeks.

I’m not sure when or how it happened exactly but the week before I tested I got this sense of, “Okay! I think I’m ready, can I get this thing over with tomorrow?!”

When did you start studying for the NCLEX Exam?

I went full-blown study mode a month prior to my exam. Chamberlain starts preparing us way before. We were always encouraged to do NCLEX style questions every week. I believe our Capstone course is the beginning of the official preparation for the NCLEX.

When should students take the NCLEX?

I would suggest testing no later than two months after graduating. The sooner, the better because all the information and test-taking strategies you have gained are still fresh in your brain! I had the green light to test from ATI two weeks after graduation. I waited for my authorization to test from the board for 2 weeks after and the next available date was two weeks after. I tested a month and a half after graduating.

Any tips for the day of the exam?

I would say do not look at anything the day before. I watched movies all day and just relaxed, which was wonderful. Have a good breakfast on the day of the test. It’s hard to eat anything but eat something. Take snacks with you to put in the locker they give you just in case. Make sure you arrive to the testing site early. I live in Atlanta and traffic is terrible!

Don’t let anxiety get the best of you. If you need to stop and take a moment, do it. Read the question, as many times as you need to make sure you understand what the question is asking. We always feel like were racing against the clock (we’re programmed to not take any longer than 1-1.5 minutes per question) but it is okay to stop and take a breath if you need to before answering a question.

How does it feel to officially be a nurse?

The feeling is indescribable. It’s amazing to finally have your hard work pay off. I’m ready to put all this knowledge I have gained to work. I feel accomplished and honored to be part of the nursing field. I look forward to being compassionate and offering patients the best quality of care that I can provide. I look forward to continue growing as the extraordinary nurse I have become.

Tell us about life after nursing school. What sort of career you’re pursuing and what your plans are moving forward?

I started my new grad residency on a Neuroscience ICU unit on February 27th and I am so excited. I can’t wait to be engaged and learn as much as I can. It’s an amazing feeling to finally be pursing what I have worked so hard to accomplish.  Chamberlain definitely did a great job in preparing us to walk out of school feeling ready and feeling like the extraordinary nurses they always pushed and taught us to be. I do see myself returning to Chamberlain and continuing my education. I’d love to one day be a clinical instructor.

What advice would you have for a new student at Chamberlain?

I know when we start we think it’s crazy. How are we going to do extra questions every week with all the test, assignments, papers, case studies, care plans, etc.? Every week, take some time to do NCLEX-style questions even if you do terrible on them. Start to familiarize yourself with how the questions are asked. Learn how to break them down. Go to the test-taking strategies workshops. It is repetitive but the more it is heard, the more it sticks. Those strategies are what will get you through any NCLEX question regardless if you know the subject of the question. Use all the resources that are offered.

Make the best of the experience you are getting. Learn as much as you can. Get involved as much as you can. If there is the chance to perform skills you want to do, ask if you can. Put yourself out there. I know it is easier said than done because it can be scary but the more you are exposed to the more confidence is gained. Before you know it, you will be part of the most rewarding profession and have accomplished something great.

Additional NCLEX Preparation Resources:

Important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended this program can be found at chamberlain.edu/ge.

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