While I was in nursing school, talk of the daunting NCLEX began on day one. It sounded like this big scary hurdle that would be near impossible to overcome. Nursing school got busy and stressful right away and I decided to put any thought of the NCLEX out of my mind until I graduated. Well, 4 years came and went and I had graduated with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing, had gotten my provisional nursing license and was working the day my license processed. Speak of a high demand job!
After years of being a student and pinching pennies I was so excited to finally be earning real money and being able to work toward my financial goals - more to follow on that in a future post. In Canada you can work with a provisional nursing license for one year - this means you have not completed your NCLEX. Once you finish your NCLEX you will be given a full nursing license. I knew that I wanted to get the exam over with as soon as possible so that I could just focus on working and doing all the things in my personal life that had been put aside which being a student. Although I wanted to get the NCLEX done, I knew that I would need to dedicate enough time to study for it which meant less time working. It was the final sacrifice I needed to make before I was totally free of student life.
So, after speaking with friends and colleagues who generally said they gave themselves a month to study, I cleared my schedule for two weeks to dedicate fully to studying. I told myself that if this plan failed, I would give myself much more time the next time if I had to rewrite it.
Here's how I studied:
UWorld - I paid for a subscription that provided me with two of the assessment exams. These evaluate your chances of success on the NCLEX. I did one at the beginning of my studying, and the second one two days before my scheduled exam.
Mark Klimek Reviews on Youtube - the videos total about 16 hours and I put aside two full days just to sit through his lectures and I took notes on absolutely everything he spoke about. His reviews honestly saved me. He highlights certain things you don't need to study, and every single thing he said not to focus on was not on the exam!
I highly suggest to give all of your attention to his videos, he provides excellent mnemonics, he organizes lab values by level of importance and helps you categorize them in a way that is easy to remember. I used colourful post-its and had all of this stuff on the wall next to my desk so that every time I looked up or went into the room I'd see them which helped me alot. Further, he gives you tips on how to approach questions.
Once I had finished watching the reviews I moved on to UWorld and did quizzes for 8 hours a day.
I highly recommend you read the rationale behind questions, I mostly focused on the rationale behind incorrect ones, but read the correct rationales too. I wrote down alot of these in a notebook while I studied.
I also did not refer to any notes from school once. I only focused on the above two resources.
The day before the exam
Many suggest not to study the day before the exam, but I was honestly too anxious not to. I studied for the 8 hours that my husband was at work because I just couldn't fathom not doing it. Side note - when I'm nervous I generally clean, and the house was absolutely spotless those two weeks while I was at home studying. Doing something mindless during a break from studying is a great way to process all of the information you are taking in.
My husband's cousin was in town that evening for an unplanned visit and he brought beer with him, and I had initially planned to step out from the visiting and keep studying but the beer and good conversation was a good distraction and I decided that I had studied enough, especially with my last UWorld assessment quiz showing a 75% chance of passing the NCLEX. I was shockingly able to fully put the NCLEX out of my mind and we stayed up until about 10:00pm.
I made sure that I had enough gas in my car that evening, and mapped the route to my exam location so I knew how much time to allow.
The morning of the exam
I was wide awake at about 5:00am, and with the previous nights beverages I was feeling a bit dry-eyed and hung over, and almost too tired to be my strung-out level of nervous wreck that I had become accustomed to feeling throughout my nursing degree.
I didn't shower, I usually don't before an exam, a bit of a personal flaw perhaps, but I find that it tends to bring me good luck. Maybe the universe would realize that I am this desperate? Also, it's an excuse to have a long therapeutic shower after the exam.
I was so antsy at home that I didn't finish my coffee, I instead brought it with me and got to my exam early.
During the exam
I went through the usual process of checking in to my exam, and being told that if my facial mask were to come down past my nose once during the exam I'd be given a warning, and if it happened the second time I would be sent home. It was during the pandemic so it made sense, but I was suddenly panic-stricken that perhaps my mask would fall down, even though it had never in my life before. This weird little thing was what really put me over the edge of panic before going into my exam.
I sat down, logged in and began my exam. I took a deep breath and told myself that this was just like doing another UWorld quiz at home on the couch, sipping my morning coffee. I made myself believe that.
Questions came and went, and after 75 questions the computer shut off. I was the first one done.
After the exam
I left the building, which was in a nice business area of downtown Vancouver, and the concierge at the entrance saw my disheveled self and just asked, "Nursing exam?" and smiled.
I sat right there on the front step of the building and called my mom. She assured me that if it quit at 75 questions I passed. But I reminded her that there was a 20% chance that I failed miserably. (UWorld stats indicate this, there is an 80% chance you passed if it stops at 75).
I had booked a waxing appointment for after my exam to get my mind off the exam. Why not follow emotional pain with physical pain?
I then went home and obsessively tried the #PearsonVueTrick which produced the desired result that I had passed. I still could not tell myself that I passed until I received that email. I just wanted that email.
Roughly a week later I received an email from my respective regulatory body that I had indeed passed and I was now fully licensed! I was at work at the time and went to the bathroom and just cried. All the stress of school and all the fear of failing just came out. And now I have a license that has opened so many doors for me.
I booked my exam for June, as it is my birth month, my middle name, and good things have always happened to me during this month. Maybe it's superstitious, or true but I recommend choosing a time to schedule your exam that feels good in your gut. I also wanted to have the summer free from studying so I scheduled it early.
Booking your exam in the morning or afternoon is completely your choice. I however, knew that I wanted to get the exam over with, and the longer I waited during the day the more I would overthink and panic more.
Finally, you need to believe in yourself. Don't let the option of failing enter your mind. Tell yourself that you will pass. I did this throughout school and for my NCLEX.