How to Not Overthink the NCLEX

Staff Writer
May 3, 2022

Here they are! Your weekly set of NCLEX study tips.

The National Council Licensure Examination can loom over nursing students the whole time they’re in school. While stress is never good, the upshot of that constant awareness is that you can be thinking about and studying for the NCLEX long before you have to take it. At Joyce, we’re committed to helping all of our nursing students pass their licensure exam, which is why we outline strategies every week on our blog. In last week’s post we focused on patient positioning, but today we’re returning to some more general NCLEX study tips.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice Exams

Practice exams aren’t just good for introducing you to more content and giving you a better idea what you should be studying. They also familiarize you with the NCLEX itself, which can make the actual exam less daunting. Especially in the months leading up to your exam date, find a quiet place several times a week and take as many practice tests as you can. The more questions you can review, the more prepared you will be for the real NCLEX.

2. Always Read the Rationales

One of the most valuable components of practice exams are the rationales, explaining the question and the answer. You should always read the rationales for every question—even those you got correct. This will help you learn why the correct answer is correct and the wrong answer is wrong, which will better guide you to the right answer for similar questions.

3. Think of the Implications

One of the simplest and best strategies for multiple choice questions is to narrow down your options to two. Once you’ve done that on the NCLEX, choose the answer that has the greatest client implications. For instance, think about which option will cause the greatest harm to the client if you don’t address it—client can’t breathe vs client who has pain. The client isn’t going to die from the pain, but does need to breathe.

4. Trust You Have Enough Information

When you’re really stumped on a question, you often wish for more information to guide you—but remember, you don’t need it! Every answer on the NCLEX can and must be determined from the information given to you. There will be no one there to clarify or give more information about the question, and that’s okay. The answer is there; you have enough information to find it.

5. Assume They’re Textbook Scenarios

Obviously, as you’ve learned from clinicals, every situation has many variables, and every patient can react and behave differently. The NCLEX is a national, standardized exam, so it can’t take those what-if scenarios into consideration. That means you shouldn’t either. You must assume that the client will respond exactly as the textbook indicates, and you should base your answers around that assumption.

P.S. We love feedback. Post to our Facebook page 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: Joyce’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!


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