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NCLEX Test-Taking Tips

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NCLEX Tools You Can Use

There are several research tools for preparing for the NCLEX exam. One such book is the Review for NCLEX-RN (Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins), which includes practice exams to identify areas of strength and areas needing further study, according to author Diane Billings.

“Students’ chief concerns are that they want to know the nature of the questions, they want to practice and they want to know what they should study,” she said.

The review book contains more than 5,500 questions with rationale and can be used for traditional study; the CD-ROM includes more than 1,500 questions with rationale and provides ample opportunity to experience computer-administered questions. p>

“You can use these resources in any combination to meet your own study and test-preparation plans,” Billings said.

NurseZone’s Student Nurse Center's NCLEX Exam Prep also features free NCLEX-RN exam questions, which changes monthly.

By E’Louise Ondash, RN, contributor

When you think about the Big Test—the Nursing Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)—think Diane M. Billings, EdD, RN, FAAN.

As the author of Review for NCLEX-RN (see sidebar), keeping track of NCLEX-RN changes is her mission. “The NCLEX-RN is ever-evolving and students need to pay attention as to what kind of content is emphasized and what kind of questions are asked,” Billings said.

Billings said the best pointer for taking the exam—besides studying—is to try being relaxed. “[New grads] let their anxiety get out of hand and they don’t prepare enough or think through what the experience is like,” she said. “You don’t want to wait forever to take the NCLEX-RN, but if you’re under too much stress, you can wait for a time so you can focus.”

Billings had several tips for studying for the NCLEX-RN:

  • Take the exam within six months of graduating.
  • Assess your study needs: What areas were difficult? Which topics have not been reviewed recently? How are your test-taking skills?
  • Develop a study plan: Identify a stress-free place to study and set a regular time. Have your study resources handy (books, notes, review cards etc.). Develop effective study skills.
  • Refine test-taking strategies: Understand the types of questions and their components and what the question is prioritizing.
  • Rehearse anxiety-management skills: Mentally rehearse. Practice relaxation. Talk to yourself positively. Learn to concentrate and block out distraction.
  • Evaluate progress regularly: Don’t waste time on content you know. Decide what needs further attention.

    Billings suggested that students monitor the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Web site for changes in the exam.

    And lastly, a few tips from those who have gone before and triumphed:
  • This is not a time to plan a wedding or vacation.
  • Do not boost your caffeine, alcohol or sugar intake two days before the exam.
  • Get adequate rest.
  • On testing day, dress comfortably; layers are best.
  • Know directions to the exam site and how long it takes to get there.

    Billings received her BSN from Duke University, and a doctorate in instructional design and community health nursing from Indiana University. She is the university’s chancellor's professor emeritus of nursing and was formerly the associate dean of Teaching, Learning and Information Resources. These responsibilities include overseeing the Office of Lifelong Learning, the Center for Excellence in Teaching, the Learning Lab, the Computer Cluster and the technical support staff. With a $2.3 million grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, Billings recently developed three online academic courses for critical care nurses, and she has won numerous awards for her work.

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