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My NCLEX-RN Experience: 4 Take-Aways

nclex examinations - magoosh blogI wanted to take a moment to share with you all my NCLEX-RN experience. Like many, I experienced the full range of emotions from bewilderment, to feeling ‘ok’, and back to despair throughout the exam. It was tough. Truthfully I never want to do it again. But I learned from valuable insights that I wanted to share for those taking it in the future.

So to start…..

I arrived at the testing facility early and prepared. I saw a couple of my classmates from nursing university and we proceeded to chat before the exam. Once in the exam, I began answering questions. Much to my chagrin, the questions were really hard. Much harder than I expected. However, I stayed calm, remembered my test taking strategies, and forged ahead. After 75 questions, the exam continued. I was disappointed that the exam didn’t shut off. I probably wasn’t doing well enough. So I continued.

I ended up going the distance – all 265 questions. I was exhausted and feeling defeated by the end of the 4.5 hours. Walking out to my car I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why didn’t I expect the exam to be like that?” And, “Why didn’t anyone tell me what the exam was really going to be like?”

Full disclosure – I passed on my first attempt.

Additional disclosure – I was sure…. I’m talking crystal clear sure that I failed.

Arrested Development Falling Down - Magoosh Blog

Take-Away #1 – If you follow a study plan, chances are you’ll succeed

Once receiving my Authorization to Test (ATT), I followed a 1 Month Study Plan. I focused on my problem areas while reinforcing my strengths. The NCLEX-RN review materials I purchased were all over the map. Some materials I used I was testing with a 90% pass rate while others I was around 50% (not high enough to pass). The materials that most closely mirrored the difficulty level of the NCLEX-RN was the Kaplan Qbanks

Take-Away #2 – Take time to research the exam BEFORE HAND

Like many, I simply studied and took the exam. I didn’t do any research into how the NCLEX-RN works, I didn’t look into what other new grads were saying about the exam, nor did I really look into the subjects that were most heavily tested on. I decided to do all this immediately AFTER taking the exam. Bad idea. I wish I would have done this beforehand.

arrested development hug mistake - magoosh blog

Take-Away #3 – Two most heavily tested on subjects are PRIORITIZATION and INFECTION CONTROL

I was grossly underprepared for these two subjects which made up about 85% of my exam. Unfortunately, both of these subjects made up only 10% of my study time combined. I prepared for categorical subjects (med/surg, critical care, respiratory, cardiac, psych, maternity, etc.) which was helpful, but these categorical questions show up within the prioritization and infection control questions. I’m not saying don’t study specific categorical questions, but definitely take time to apply them with lots of prioritization. Also questions were either multiple choice or select all that apply. I had zero math questions, zero audio based questions, zero video based questions, maybe one or two ‘order of operations’ questions, one hotspot question, etc. I’m not saying these won’t come up on your exam, but I was surprised these types of questions never presented themselves on mine.

arrested development expectations - magoosh blog

Take-Away #4 – Nursing school didn’t prepare me for the NCLEX-RN

This may be school specific. However, my experience was that I did great in school. I passed the HESI exit exam with flying colors (an exam that’s supposedly “harder than the NCLEX-RN”). I wish someone would have told me that PRIORITIZATION and INFECTION CONTROL would have been two major subjects that integrate what we learned in school. And, that I should be studying these types of questions heavily to pass the NCLEX-RN.

I digress. Luckily, when the results came in, my hard work and ability to reason prevailed.

arrested development job magician - magoosh blog

How I felt after passing

I hope these take-aways help you in your preparation for the NCLEX-RN.

What are some of your take-aways?! Please leave a reply below and let me know!

For additional posts on the NCLEX-RN, check out more of the blog.

About Chris

Chris is a new grad RN in northern California currently working for Dignity Healthcare. When he's not going ham sandwich, he enjoys playing the guitar, making amateur dance and hip hop mixes (, and exercising. He is a lover of GIFs and a would be happy to be a guest speaker at your next office function or nephew's bar mitzvah.

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