This title may be deceiving because I didn’t pass my NCLEX the first time but once I took the time to study the right way, it took me 6 weeks to pass. So if I studied the right way and passed in 6 weeks, what did I do wrong the first time? Well, I used Kaplan for my studying tool the first time. Kaplan is great if you are unfamiliar with the format of NCLEX questions like the select all that apply, application/analysis, multiple choice, etc., but I didn’t feel like it prepared me content wise. It also didn’t tell me why the answers I chose were wrong – it just told me that the other answers were wrong without any explanation. I needed to know what I was doing wrong and how to fix it. This was back in 2016 and things may have changed now but at the time, this was how it was set up.
I studied for three months with Kaplan and felt like I needed to take a shot at the exam. I really didn’t feel prepared and the computer adaptive test technology that NCLEX uses knew it too. So after answering all TWO HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE questions, I failed. I knew I failed. I knew that the computer couldn’t tell if I knew what I was doing. I felt like I would get a couple questions right then miss a couple and as the number of questions increased, I knew that I was losing steam. I just wanted it to be over. I knew I wasn’t going to pass so I ended up just bombing the last of the questions. After this defeat, I already knew I needed to try something different but it was hard for me to get myself prepared again.
After I failed, I felt like a wounded warrior. I was incredibly discouraged and put off retaking my NCLEX for a long time. So in January 2016, about a year after graduating nursing school, I hunkered down and invested all of my time and energy into passing this test. I was hearing about UWORLD and decided to check it out. I thought it was a pretty expensive subscription but I needed to try it… at least try it! And so I did… for 6 weeks straight. I answered questions all the time. Downtime on my work break – answer questions. Can’t fall asleep at night – answer questions. Bored during a commercial of my favorite TV show – answer questions. I dedicated so much time to answering these questions. In the beginning, I was doing horrible but at least it was telling me why the correct answer was correct and why the wrong answers were wrong. The more I did, the more I got to develop my critical thinking skills. Everyday became easier. I would take key information from the wrong answers and use them to build up my knowledge of the content. Soon, I was able to pick up quickly what lab values were important and figure out the patient who needed to be taken care of first. It was also important to know that with NCLEX, when it asks for the first thing you do, you should do the least invasive thing first… remember that. Anyway, the more I did, the stronger I became. The question bank was plentiful and I always felt like I was learning.
UWORLD was also good because it really showcased how NCLEX would look like so when it came time for the test, it looked familiar. Comparing UWORLD questions versus NCLEX, I felt as though the UWORLD questions were harder so when I was going through NCLEX, I was actually confident in the answers I was giving. After 110 questions, the test ended and I felt really good about the test but of course there was that doubt that made me question it. Thankfully, Massachusetts let’s you see a preliminary score soon after you take the test. I paid the fee to see my preliminary results. My heart was racing, my stomach in knots and nausea setting in as I waited for the result to load online. It seemed like it took an eternity for the page to load but when it did, it said PASS! I literally jumped on my bed and had happy tears rolling down my face. I could finally start working as a nurse.
This experience was very stressful and taxing on me and as it should be. You take years worth of college in order to pass an online test comprised of 75-265 questions that is supposed to deem you competent enough to practice as a licensed nurse safely. All that content, all those clinical hours, all of it to come down to this one test. It IS stressful… it’s MEANT to be stressful. But it has all been worth it. For any nurse that is approaching their first NCLEX or those who are trying it again, I highly recommend UWORLD. Practice questions everyday. Understand why the wrong answers to the questions are wrong and understand why the right answers are right. Figure out your weakness and focus on building that knowledge. No matter what though, do NOT give up. I promise that a job does not care how many times you failed the test or that you passed the test on the first try. As long as you have been licensed, you will get hired. So don’t be afraid to try again. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to admit that you are stressed out. You CAN do it!