The Lowdown on Passing the NCLEX

How do you see the NCLEX? Is it the end of a nightmare, or the beginning of the dream? For most of us, the NCLEX is the pinnacle of the future – pass it, and move on to the career you’ve worked so hard for; fail it, and sit in the uncomfortable limbo between finishing school and advancing into the workforce.
Whether you’re an LPN graduate, a BSN graduate, or an ASN graduate, everyone has to pass the NCLEX. And you’ve probably read thousands of tips, hints, and ‘cheats’ that you hope will help you achieve that all-important PASS.

But before applying any of those tips, take a step back and look at these two pictures.


You can probably identify with both these images – we all have good days and bad days. But what about when it comes to exams, whether they’re mid-terms, finals, or the NCLEX. Are you the relaxed, happy nurse, or the stressed out nurse?

In an ideal world, you’d be the cheerful nurse on the left during every test, and pass with flying colors, but, in the real world, nerves kick in before an exam, ratchet up a notch during the exam, and leave you second-guessing yourself after the exam (yes, we’ve been there too!)

However, research has shown time and time again that stress levels can greatly impact how well you do on any test. As a medical professional, you can even apply your knowledge to understand the physiological impact stress has on a person.

And you do have the knowledge, it just sometimes gets buried in the mountain of stress you put yourself under. So, what can you do about it? Well, this is where you use the power of ‘not-so-negative’ thinking. It’s a bit like positive thinking, but more realistic, because let’s face it, you can tell yourself you’re going to ace every single exam, but unless you truly believe it, it’s not going to work.

Not-so-negative thinking is exactly how it sounds. How many times have you opened an exam paper, looked at the first question, felt your mind go completely blank, and thought “I don’t understand this question. I’m going to fail!”? If you don’t fall completely apart at this point, then chances are you go on to give yourself a mental pep talk. “You do know this, you’ve got this, let’s go!” That’s positive thinking but, if you still don’t understand the question, it’s not going to help. This is where not-so-negative thinking comes in. Be truthful with yourself; “OK, this looks tricky, but I know the subject so let’s see how that helps.” Suddenly, you’ve given yourself something attainable.

The same principles can be applied to the pre-exam studying period. Nobody is asking you to be ecstatic that exams are looming, but you can neutralize the negativity. Instead of worrying about whether you know everything, or if you’ve studied enough, or how you’ve only slept 4 hours a night for the last week, try some of these not-so-negative thoughts instead;

• Every student in the world does exams, there’s nothing unusual about it
• It’s not like I didn’t know the course involved sitting exams – lots of them!
• It’s an exam, not a death sentence!
• Four hours of sleep last night, that’s how much Thomas Edison slept every night, and he did okay.

So, while being the cheerful, positive nurse might be falsely optimistic, stressed-out nurse has to go. Instead, here’s a not-so-negative compromise.


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