The NCLEX looms large for nursing students. It’s not an exaggeration to say the test is one of the most consequential academic endeavors any nurse will ever encounter, and that can create a fair amount of anxiety while studying. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the prospect of the NCLEX, but here are a few tips on keeping your cool as you prepare for nursing’s biggest test.
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All-nighters don’t work. Staying up and sacrificing your well-being is not an effective approach to academic performance. You won’t retain most of the information you read, you’ll comprehend little of what you do, and you’ll be in bad shape the next day. A fatigued state is a compromised one, and you don’t want to take the NCLEX while you’re at anything less than your best.
Instead, study at regular, scheduled intervals. Build it into your schedule and treat it like any other recurring task. Work with your peers to form a study group and quiz each other to stay accountable. The NCLEX is a big test, but you’re more likely to rise to the challenge piece by piece, as opposed to trying to learn all of it in a few intense study sessions.
A regular study group also offers one of the best ways to learn something: teaching it to others. If you have to read something, take notes, then find a way to explain it to others in a concise way, you will retain that information better. You won’t just be teaching them; you’ll be deepening your own understanding of the topic, which will further increase your confidence.
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Sometimes instead of reading about muscle groups, you need to put yours to work. Exercise relieves stress and is healthy for you in general (you should do it even if you’re not preparing for a major test). It’s a great way to momentarily forget about something causing anxiety. When you’re in the midst of a long run or on your fifth rep of weightlifting, the world often goes away. Other stressors like money or academic concerns recede in the face of the very basic, visceral activity before you, and when you’re done you’ll find yourself flooded with endorphins and a sense of accomplishment. That can motivate further positive choices and achievement.
Plus, if you’re studying anatomy, you’ll know exactly which parts of you hurt and why. Unlike other folks at the gym who just hurt, you know what those deadlifts did to your posterior chain, and why you feel both great and tired afterward.
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You can’t be on all the time. Trying to work long hours, know everything, and tackle every challenge available is what leads to burnout in nurses and students. If you’re going to be an effective nursing student, you’ll need to take occasional breaks. Taking breaks isn’t cheating or selfish; it’s a necessary thing to do so that, when you do get back to studying, you’ll be able to give the task your best. Oftentimes something that seemed incomprehensible or difficult when you were fatigued will make much more sense after you’re rested or you’ve spent time on another topic.