It’s always the few days leading up to exam day that’s the most nerve-wracking. You couldn’t even begin to relax even if your life depends on it.
Then, you start to wonder–should you go through your study plan again? How about cramming a few concepts here and there? Maybe you should just do nothing!
To help solve this dilemma, we listed down a few helpful last-minute NCLEX tips.
Important Things to Do
Before anything else…
- Prepare an ID (1) that is government-issued, non-expired, your name in Roman characters, with signature, and with a recent photograph.
- You no longer have to bring a hard copy of your Authorization to Test (ATT) for your admission to the NCLEX. For further details, you can check the NCSBN website (2).
- There are NCLEX candidate rules (3) you need to be aware of before taking the test. This set of rules includes policies on specific items to bring, break procedures, examination administration, and confidentiality.
You would also need to provide your biometrics, such as a photograph, signature, and palm vein scan. Also, keep in mind that you are not allowed to bring any paper and other writing materials.
Now, on to our last-minute NCLEX review tips.
NCLEX Test Day Tips…and More
1. Schedule your exam based on your preference
Schedule your NCLEX examination according to your usual preference for testing. If you usually perform better in the mornings, schedule a test in the AM. The same goes if you perform better in the afternoon.
You are also free to change your test date and time if there is a need to. You can also extend or move-up the test schedule when necessary.
2. Simulate the test day
I encourage that you simulate the environment of the test day and not just the test itself. For example, if your test schedule starts at eight in the morning, then you have to wake up at five or six in the morning to prepare yourself as if you are taking the actual test. You can do this a week before NCLEX to get your body accustomed to the schedule.
You must also take a full-length practice exam using a question bank like what BoardVitals (4) offers. Make sure that your practice test is using a computer-adaptive technology so you will have an idea of what to expect during the exam day.
3. Visit your testing site
Familiarize the location so you won’t have trouble getting to the testing center on exam day. The last thing you want is to lose your way 1 or half an hour before the NCLEX examination starts. This is going to take a huge toll on your nerves. You can do this two weeks before NCLEX.
It would also help if you check the locations of the nearest comfort rooms to your testing room, so it would save you time during breaks.
4. Have an abundant sleep the night before the test day
This is non-negotiable. Remember, it’s not only your brain that’s supposed to be prepared for the NCLEX but also your body. Give it a good rest. If possible, achieve eight hours of sleep or more provided that you wake up on time. I know you can’t help but feel nervous as the test day approaches but try as much as you can to sleep early and well a day before the NCLEX.
5. Eat a healthy and full breakfast
You may not have a good appetite due to test anxiety, but you have to compel yourself to eat. Your body won’t be able to function at its best with an empty stomach. Also, make sure to feed yourself with a healthy and full breakfast. Stock up on high-energy giving foods like eggs, sweet potatoes, and bananas to help you last the lengthy test.
I also recommend that you bring snacks in case you feel hungry amidst the test period. Only bring easy-to-grab food items as you wouldn’t want to spend so much time during your break trying to finish a loaded meal. Don’t forget your water for hydration!
6. Arrive at the testing center early
Being late for your NCLEX test is the last thing you want to happen. Keep in mind that when you’re in a rush, your anxiety levels are likely to shoot up. This can create an unhealthy situation for you.
Arrive early so you will have enough time to make last-minute preparations. You will also have sufficient time to present your documents and go through the entire registration process. When you’re relaxed, you can focus better.
7. Be aware of the check-in procedures
I have already mentioned the importance of arriving at the testing site early, so make sure to be there at least 30 minutes before the test starts. Upon arrival, present the necessary documents and sign up. There is a computer photo that will be taken of you, and you will also be fingerprinted.
Also, keep in mind that all of your belongings should be placed in a locker outside of your testing room. Bringing study materials is also prohibited, so better leave those cheat sheets at home.
Good to remember: If you feel distracted by background noise while taking the test, you can request for earplugs from the test administrators.
8. Dress comfortably and bring extra clothes
There is no dress code during the test day, but I still recommend that you dress appropriately and comfortably. You should take the test environment into consideration when dressing up yourself. The testing room can get too cold for you.
You need to be comfortable with your clothing so you won’t be distracted as you answer the test. Therefore, it’s much better to dress in layers so you can easily remove any part of your clothing when you’re feeling warm and then cover up when you’re feeling cold. You may also bring extra clothes in case there’s a call for you to change clothing.
9. Make use of test kits
Another last-minute NCLEX tip is to take your time where needed. Start off by reading the introductory screens. Make use of the scratch card that will be provided to you so you can jot down some key points to remember. As for math calculations, you can use the same scratch card, and then a drop-down calculator on the computer.
10. Read questions carefully
You will only have four hours to complete the NCLEX-RN examination, including the two optional breaks and a brief tutorial. Analyze each question thoroughly as you won’t be able to return to that question after you submit an answer.
Don’t make your anxious feelings cause you to rush in answering the questions just to finish the test. Remember, success in the NCLEX examination takes an in-depth understanding of the questions.
11. Take it one at a time
Another NCLEX test day tip is to expect to feel that you would only be getting half the questions right, regardless if you perform above the passing standard. Keep in mind that the NCLEX examination is designed to challenge your knowledge of the nursing practice. Therefore, expect to only get half of the questions correctly.
Concentrate on the questions one at a time and keep going. Focus on what’s currently on your screen and it will more likely lead you to answer the questions accurately.
12. Take note of the little details
Pay attention to keywords, such as immediately, initial, early, late, never, and best. Never forget the six rights in medication administration (5), and memorize the laboratory values as they’re likely to keep coming up throughout the test.
As for prioritizing, use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory (6), which means that physiological needs should come first. You may also think of the ABCs–breathing, airway, and circulation. The nursing process is another concept you need to keep in mind, which involves assessment, analysis, planning, implementation, and evaluation.
13. Think: You are taking care of a patient
This tip may be odd, but it’s the first thing that you should always remember. Therefore, if an answer reflects the patient’s feelings, then it’s most likely the correct answer.
When confronted with questions that involve taking care of a patient and handling a piece of medical equipment at the same time, attend to the patient first before the equipment. You must also learn how to handle positioning questions. You can ask yourself – Am I preventing or promoting something?
14. Don’t freak out
Let me tell you, you could freak out in the middle of the test, especially when the questions become harder and harder and time is ticking away like a bomb. However, don’t let your anxiety eat your concentration. According to several test-takers, choosing a random answer is never the right approach.
If you begin to feel nervous, take a deep breath. Do it when necessary just to drive your anxious feelings away. Also, ask yourself on the worst thing that can possibly happen. If you fail, you will definitely take the same test again. Do you want this to happen?
15. Believe in yourself
This is the most important last-minute NCLEX tip of all. It may be cliché but it bears so much truth. Remember, you deserve to pass. You survived nursing school and finished an intensive NCLEX test prep. Therefore, you have already proven your competency. Now, it’s time to believe in yourself that you are competent enough to ace the NCLEX and start a lifelong career in nursing.
Follow the NCLEX test day tips we’ve provided and you should do great! Do you have your own habits and practices for preparing for an exam? Combine them all together to better prepare for the exam ahead.
We hope that you find this article helpful. If you do, kindly share it with your nursing pals who need these test day tips, too!