There are various challenges and opportunities on the path to becoming a registered nurse. From fascinating coursework to hands-on learning, nursing school can be both exciting and exhausting.

One of the most noteworthy challenges to address is the NCLEX nursing exam, which is a must for securing your license as a full-fledged registered nurse. This is a common source of stress among aspiring RNs, and it’s easy to see why: Fail to pass, and you will be unable to secure licensure as a full-fledged RN. Thankfully, though, most test-takers pass on their first attempt.

The key to acing the exam? Studying smarter, not harder — plus seeking a nursing education that emphasizes exam prep. In this guide, we’ll show you how to get started as well as the value of a strategic NCLEX preparation process.

Importance of the NCLEX for Nursing Careers

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) plays into your path toward becoming a registered nurse. This exam determines whether you have the comprehensive knowledge needed to achieve a desirable standard of care as you embark on your nursing career.

The NCLEX is notoriously rigorous, and for good reason; this exam is tasked with determining who is truly prepared to enter the high-demand world of registered nursing. It reveals not only the extent to which aspiring RNs have mastered difficult medical terminology and concepts but also whether they have sufficient critical thinking skills. Also important is verifying the ability to excel under pressure.

While many nursing students regard this exam as an obstacle to be dreaded, it may feel a lot more worthwhile if reframed as an exciting opportunity to demonstrate your competence as an RN and feel confident in all you’ve learned as a nursing student.

Passing the NCLEX can be wonderfully satisfying, and this achievement will leave you feeling fully prepared to excel as an RN. This is one of the most essential milestones in your professional journey.

Differences Between NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN

Though the NCLEX is typically associated with RNs, there are multiple forms of this exam: the NCLEX-RN and the NCLEX-PN. Also known as the NCLEX for Practical Nurses, this version is designed for those who hope to work as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs).

Different educational requirements apply to these exams. Aspiring RNs need to obtain their Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), while those testing to become an LPN or LVN can qualify by completing a relevant certificate program. Based on these educational requirements, the content within the RN version of the exam is far more advanced than its PN counterpart.

How Does a BSN Degree Impact NCLEX Results?

It is possible to sit for the NCLEX after earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), and by extension, becoming an RN is also well within reach. That being said, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a worthwhile pursuit, as it provides better and more comprehensive exam preparation.

The BSN is more research-focused, with a clear emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving. As mentioned, these skills are thoroughly put to the test (literally) while taking the NCLEX nursing exam.

There is still great value in the BSN if you have already aced your NCLEX. Yes, you may already be making your mark as an RN, but additional academic training could open the door to new specialization or leadership opportunities.

Key Areas in the NCLEX Exam

The NCLEX covers a lot of ground, but is divided into a few main sections that relate to the challenges most RNs face:

  • Safe and effective care environment – Encompassing subcategories that delve into infection control and management of care, this category makes up a significant portion of the NCLEX. In general, this category will reveal how nurses can promote an optimal care delivery environment and, in doing so, improve patient outcomes.
  • Health promotion and maintenance – Today’s nurses are responsible for promoting preventative strategies to help their patients improve their health on a long-term basis. To that end, this section references risk factors, routine exams, prenatal care, and much more.
  • Psychological integrity – Patients’ mental health should be top of mind, so this section takes a close look at crisis intervention, behavior management, stress management, and end-of-life care.
  • Physiological integrity – Comprising four subcategories, this comprehensive section highlights everything from daily living tasks to pharmacological therapies and reduction of risk potential. In addition, the monitoring of bodily functions is a key exam topic.

Five Study Tips for the NCLEX Exam

Now that you know which topics will be covered, it’s time to ramp up your NCLEX preparatory efforts. Pursuing your BSN should provide a solid start, but there are numerous other effective strategies that could increase your likelihood of passing on the first try:

1. Create a Study Schedule (and Stick to It)

While your BSN can provide plenty of study opportunities that help cement your high-level nursing knowledge, you need to commit extra time to studying beyond the scope of your coursework. This is best achieved with the guidance of a study schedule, which serves as a valuable blueprint for your exam prep efforts.

2. Review Notes and Key Concepts Regularly

Your notes from previous nursing courses could prove invaluable as you prepare for the NCLEX nurse exam. These should cover a variety of concepts that will appear in critical test questions. If, while reviewing, you come across terms or concepts that you struggle to remember, take some time to brush up on these areas until you feel confident you can answer relevant questions correctly.

3. Use Flashcards or Other Memorization Techniques

Flashcards are a time-honored studying tradition for a reason: They work! Opt for physical versions over digital solutions, as the act of writing can help you mentally cement complex information. Align these flashcards with the already referenced NCLEX categories. Review your flashcards regularly and monitor your results to determine the categories in which you most frequently make mistakes.

4. Collaborate With Peers for Group Study Sessions

In all likelihood, you are not the only student in your nursing program who is currently preparing for the NCLEX. Others may also need support or accountability. Use this opportunity to form a dedicated study group.

While many people benefit most from in-person study sessions, online studying can make a world of difference as well. Look to platforms like Zoom to help you study “together” in separate locations, or simply commit to covering the same material and checking in.

5. Utilize Mock Exams and Sample Questions

Some nursing students have a strong command of the concepts covered in the NCLEX but still struggle when the actual day of the test arrives. If you relate to this problem, you may simply need more practice with the test-taking process. The more often you sit for mock exams, the easier you’ll find it to adjust to the inevitable pressure of taking the real NCLEX.

Practice tests abound, and at minimum, you should glance through these to get a better sense of the types of questions you’ll encounter. Better yet, recreate an exam environment, complete with a five-hour time limit and at least 85 questions, just as you’d face if taking the actual exam. Pay attention to the types of questions you find most difficult and commit to focusing on these areas more during future study sessions.

Handling Exam Day Stress

Even if you take multiple practice exams, nothing can truly prepare you for the stress of the big event. It seems counterintuitive, but this is best handled by forcing yourself to take a step back and relax.

Strive for more sleep the week leading up to the exam. Skip the stress eating and instead try to pack your diet with produce and healthy foods. Physical activity can be an excellent source of stress relief, too, so plan to hit the gym or go for a walk. If you feel anxious on the day of the exam, practice deep breathing. A quick call to a loved one can also provide confidence and comfort.

Interpreting Your NCLEX Results

Once you complete your exam, take a moment to celebrate. Regardless of the results, you should be proud of this accomplishment. You might need to wait a full six weeks to receive the full results — although a quick, unofficial version of the results could be available sooner.

Keep in mind that NCLEX results are provided on a pass/fail basis. A pass means you are ready to practice as a registered nurse. If you fail, you may receive a form that details how exactly you fared in each content area. Take a close look at this breakdown, and use these insights to inform your studying efforts as you prepare to retake the exam.

Advance Your Nursing Career With a BSN Degree

Are you eager to advance your nursing career? Salem’s RN to BSN program could set you on a positive path forward. Reach out today to learn more about this exciting opportunity, or feel free to get started with the application process

Tags: , ,

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts