6 Tips for the Night Before the NCLEX
I’m going to make an educated assumption. It’s the night before the NCLEX, you’re staring mindlessly at a pile of books, old exams, and flash cards, and your computer battery keeps reminding you to plug in soon before your Mac goes to sleep. You’re scrambling through your emails to find any past daily nclex questions that may have given you trouble. You’re exhausted, nervous, stressed, and maybe, just maybe, you’re ready too.
Does this sound familiar? Are you pretty sure this will be you in a few months? Do you remember this? Most nurses feel all of this the night before their NCLEX exam. It’d be nearly impossible not to. The NLCEX is the last thing standing between you and your license, the last obstacle before finally being able to get a job, to finally being able to exchange that “Student” badge for an “RN” badge. It’s no surprise you’re nervous or stressed.
But, I’m going to bet that there’s a good chance you are ready for this test. And if you really think you aren’t, then why don’t you let the following tips help prepare you in the best possible way for tomorrow?
6 Tips for the Night (Or the Week) Before Your NCLEX Exam
1. Get Your Sleep: Studying for the NCLEX is a marathon, not a sprint. Successful test takers rarely report study habits that include staying up all night, drinking too much coffee, and cramming for three days. Close your computer and go to bed at an appropriate time. If you have to get up early the day of the exam, start setting your alarm earlier a few days before, readying your body for that early morning day-of wake up. A rested brain is certain to perform better than a poorly rested one, regardless of how much information was or was not crammed in it.
2. Don’t Avoid Distraction: There are numerous studies about the right work/break balance, both for students and professionals, that show that the most effective and productive people take breaks. Do you need to take a break from studying and mindlessly scroll Instagram? Watch ten minutes of your favorite show? Laugh at YouTube? Read a magazine? Set a timer for yourself and do it. These breaks are important for both your sanity and your mental wellbeing.
3. If You’re Over-Caffeinating, Stop: There are many students who spend the days leading up to their NCLEX exam over-caffeinating (and ruining their sleep). This cumulative sleep loss will prove detrimental to your wellness the day of your exam. In the days before your exam, and especially the night before, you should be tapering off or maintaining your normal intake of caffeine. If you want to caffeinate the morning of your exam, drink what is normal for you.
4. Move Your Body: Something very neat available to nursing students today are study podcasts. The Unofficial NCLEX Prep Podcast is a popular one. The ability to combine studying, moving your body, and getting outside is a unique privilege – take advantage of it.
5. Know the Facts About the Exam: There are a lot of myths about the NCLEX test, particularly related to the number of questions you get and whether or not you can determine if you are passing or failing while you are testing. You do not need this added stress while you are taking your test. Utilize the information on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website to really understand the style of test and how it asks its questions.
6. Take Plenty of Practice Tests: It can feel like you need to memorize everything: every medication, all the signs and symptoms, every hierarchy of need. But familiarity with both the way the NCLEX asks questions and the different question formats is going to make you a lot more comfortable when you are sitting in your actual exam. Rote memorization may prove semi-helpful, but your comfort level with what you see on test-day will greatly help or inhibit your ability to rationally assess and answer each question.
Trust Yourself: You’ve Made It This Far
Nursing school is not for the lazy student. If you have gotten yourself this far, then you clearly have the skills to pass this test. Trust your years of education and the success you have shown to get this far. Trust the success of prior students (in 2019, 89.6% of first-time NCLEX candidates passed their exam). Trust your studying process, your mentors, and the people who have believed in you all along. Go join that passing percentage – you are ready.