So far in our series, you’ve learned how to take notes and to study like a nursing school ninja. You’ve built the foundation, and now it’s time to take down your biggest opponent – The Test. Here’s a few NCLEX® test prep tips before, during and after:
BEFORE THE TEST
Prepare and Practice
Use practice exams regularly. In the days leading up to the test, complete 50 to 100 practice exam questions every day. Determine what questions you answered incorrectly, and review the correct answers. The following day, go over any questions you got wrong. Another way to do this is to use every ninja’s favorite weapon: Picmonic. After learning new Picmonic cards, test yourself to see how much you remember from the card. It’s a quiz and fun in one!
The final day before the test, don’t do any practice questions. Give your brain a one-day rest.
Fuel Your Brain
Nutrition plays a vital role in the function of your brain. Your brain needs glucose and fat to function, so be sure to eat a healthy dinner the night before and a healthy breakfast the morning of the test. Even if you do not usually eat breakfast, try to get something in your system. We offer some quick breakfast suggestions in this blog.
Incorporate polyunsaturated (healthy) fats into your pre-test meals, such as fatty fish like salmon, flaxseed, almonds and walnuts.
Kick That Test Anxiety Right in the Face
About 16 to 20% of students suffer from high test anxiety, while another 18% experience moderately high test anxiety. If you belong to either of those groups, there are a few things you can do:
- Come prepared – the worst thing you can do for your test anxiety is give it legitimate fuel, such as coming unprepared to a test.
- Visualize your success – Visualize yourself passing the test. Refer to this meditation before and during the test, especially when you start to get really worked up.
- Arrive early – Show up early for the test. Running late will only contribute to your anxiety. Give yourself time to get settled in the testing atmosphere.
- Stay quiet – Avoid talking to other students who are messing around before the test. Maintain your focus.
- Get a good night’s sleep – Come to the test rested. Try to also exercise the day before. This will sharpen your mind and calm negative emotions, as well as flood your body with healthy chemicals like serotonin.
Also, be sure to check out our post about the NCLEX® exam. This exam is unlike all your other nursing tests. What you don’t know about the NCLEX® could keep you from passing, and we tell you all about it in The Shocking Truth About Passing the NCLEX®.
DURING THE TEST
Read the Whole Question
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to see a term you recognize and skip the rest of the question. This is how tricky professors catch the skimmers. Don’t be a skimmer. Read the question thoroughly and be sure you understand it before you move onto the answer options. Some test masters even recommend thinking of what the answer could be before reviewing the options below.
Remember, a great ninja knows when to be patient and thorough (hint: always!).
Pay Attention to Indicators
Simple words like always, most, first, and initially can change the context of a question dramatically. Be sure you identify these words and how they affect the question’s scenario before choosing an answer.
Those with test anxiety often return to questions and change their answers. Don’t do this! Statistically, your first answer is more likely to be the right one. Overthinking will just lead to confusion and second-guessing, which are not good test-taking companions. Go with your gut, and leave your answers once you’ve chosen.
Take the Sure Bet, Come Back to the Rest
We don’t recommend this strategy for everyone, however it can be effective. Perhaps try it out on a smaller test, and see if it works for you. The strategy is this: Read the question. If you know the answer immediately, answer it and go to the next one. If you don’t know the answer right off the bat, then skip it and move on to the next question. Once you’ve answered every question that you knew right away, return to the ones you skipped and work through them.
This is a helpful tool for those who stress over the test time limit and mentally freeze up. It ensures the test taker answers every “easy” question correctly and can devote time to the more complex questions.
AFTER THE TEST
Celebrate, Don’t Wait
If you’re waiting on test scores, don’t let the worry consume your life. Instead, grab your fellow nursing school ninjas and head out for some stress-busting fun. Instead of an all-night rager than will leave you feeling spent the next day, go play mini golf or cook up your favorite dish. You deserve a brief rest before you get back to it!