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NCLEX Wednesday #14 – Test-Taking Strategies

NCLEX strategies

All right. After a series of tips about specific topics you’re probably going to see on the National Council Licensure Examination, we have some more general NCLEX study tips for you.

Studying all of the material is hugely important, and knowing the different kinds of questions you’ll see is critical too, but you also need strategies to tackle the whole test. That’s what this week’s set of NCLEX study tips addresses: How to take the test strategically, from start to finish.

1. Aim for 60 seconds

When you take practice exams, try to spend about one minute on each question. Obviously, you may answer some questions more quickly than that, but know it will take more time to answer others, so 60 seconds is a good target to shoot for. Also, if it helps alleviate some pressure, remember that the NCLEX is set up so that you have a little more than one minute per question—1.3 minutes to be exact!.

2. Stop after 2 minutes

Similarly, you should avoid taking more than two minutes per question. If you’ve sped through a series of questions in under a minute, you will have accumulated enough extra time for harder questions, but even so you should set a limit. Two minutes is a long time, so if you can’t figure out the answer by then, you likely don’t know the answer, and strategically you just need to move on.

3. Avoid changing answers

Sometimes, with a jolt of inspiration, you’ll remember the exact calculation or word you need to answer a question that’s stumped you. If so, it’s great to change the answer you first put down as a guess. If you never feel so inspired with certainty, do not change a previous answer. You’re going to second-guess yourself on questions where you never feel certainty. That’s common, but you need to have a reason for changing your answer that makes more sense to you than your first inclination. Otherwise, you will often switch to the wrong answer.

4. Remember it’s random

The answer to each question is randomized by the computer, so your answer option strategy should be to abandon strategizing. Do not always choose option 3, and do not avoid option 3 just because you chose it for the past two questions. It’s random, so focus on the options and choosing the correct one, not their order.

5. Remember you can go back

When analyzing a question, eliminate all of the options you can, choose the best answer, and then move on, emotionally and strategically! Even if you feel evenly split between two options, it’s wiser to keep going through the exam than to sit and worry over a single question—especially if it’s taking you more than two minutes. You can’t go back and change your answer later, so forget about the question once you move past it. Worrying and obsessing over a question you didn’t know will only distract your focus from the rest of the exam.

P.S. We love feedback. Post to our Facebook page or give us a shout on Twitter with comments or requests for specific information you’d like to see in the series.

Happy studying, and see you with more NCLEX study tips next week!

– Cheryl Armstrong, MS, RN
– Britt Baer, RN, MSN-HCSM, SANE

For more NCLEX study strategies and advice, you can download our full NCLEX ebook here, for free!

About NCLEX Wednesday: AmeriTech’s NCLEX review course has helped our nursing students pass the NCLEX with flying colors. We’re spreading the love to all nursing students as part of a weekly series. Nurses unite!