I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve completed a blog post, but I’m back!
A huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders…the dreaded NCLEX-RN. I spent weeks on end studying and focusing on passing and, that’s right, I passed! I am officially a licensed registered nurse.
Today’s blog post is dedicated to all of my future nurses out there who want to pursue a career in this wonderful field, or those of whom are almost out of nursing school and need some tips on studying for the NCLEX-RN. I’ve got you covered.
Before Nursing School
As I’ve stated in previous posts, becoming a nurse isn’t something that I’ve wanted to do my entire life. I started thinking about it my sophomore year of college at the University of Georgia, and applied in the Fall, having sent in all of my requirements before the new year began.
I get asked frequently the classes I took while at UGA, my GPA, TEAS score, etc, so I’m going to answer some of those questions for you below:
*Just as a disclaimer, I can only speak for applying to the Augusta University College of Nursing, not any other program, but I will give you some general tips at the end of this section as far as applying goes.
What was your major at UGA?
Coming into UGA my freshman year, my major was Biology, but I changed it a couple of times and left UGA after the completion of my sophomore year having been a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major.
Why did you leave UGA?
I get asked this question all of the time. I wouldn’t trade the memories I made there for anything, but UGA does not have a nursing school. Some years ago, they did, but consolidated with the nursing school in Augusta, what was then the Medical College of Georgia (now Augusta University [AU]). I needed to look ahead to my future, and going back home to Augusta and attending nursing school there was the plan. And I don’t regret the decision I made.
When did you apply to nursing school?
I applied relatively late in the process. Like I said before, applying to nursing school was a last minute idea for me. I started the process I believe in November 2013. And was able to get my application, transcripts, and other necessary materials in by the new year (January 2014) or shortly thereafter.
Did you apply to several nursing schools?
No, I didn’t. I absolutely do NOT recommend you doing as I did though. I just banked on getting into the program. I honestly didn’t have a backup plan in case I wasn’t accepted. If you’re seriously looking into getting into a nursing program, I suggest looking at several colleges months beforehand because different schools have different requirements as far as pre-requisite classes and standardized tests.
What all do you need to get into the nursing program?
There really isn’t that much that you need. There’s the generic online application that you have to complete. Then, you have to submit your official college transcript along with the essay (for AU, the essay portion was built into the online application process) and TEAS score. The application process will also prompt you for 2 references.
Just a few quick tips about the application process before I jump to the next question:
- Do your research. Whether you’re planning on applying to a nursing school in-state or in another state, know which programs require what. You will be absolutely frustrated if you’re in the process of applying to somewhere and discover that you haven’t completed something that you need.
- Use professional references. One of the most important things that I learned in college was networking. Networking allows for beneficial professional relationships. Use these professional relationships as references, namely, your professors, TAs, academic advisors/mentors, etc. Employers can be great references, but if you’re applying to an academic program and your employer hasn’t witnessed you in the academic setting, then they probably aren’t a good reference. Exceptions to this would, of course, be positions in internships and externships pertaining to the program you’re applying for.
How many people apply?
I was told that the number of people who apply to the AU Nursing Program is around 500.
How and when did you find out that you got in?
All Augustans know that everything is centered around Master’s Week. I was told that all acceptances would be received by students by the beginning or end (I forget which) of Master’s Week. The deadline for all applications was January, but then got moved to mid-February. I believe I received by acceptance phone call about a month to a month and a half later, then my acceptance letter came in the mail about a week or two after that.
However, AU starts accepting student into their nursing program as the applications are completed, so in essence, you have a greater chance of getting in if you apply early in the process because there are only so many people they can accept.
How many people get in?
Approximately 200 people get into the program. That includes students on both the Athens and Augusta campuses. The program is competitive. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t.
So…what happens after you get accepted?
Well, if you’ve completed all of your classes and don’t have to take any pre-requisites over the summer (I was one of those who had to take classes over the summer because I didn’t complete them all beforehand.), then it’s just a waiting game until the semester starts in the Fall. During the summer, you’ll be receiving correspondence from those in the College of Nursing regarding what you need to buy as far as the materials you’ll need for class and clinical.
General Tips When Applying:
- Apply as early as you can. As I previously stated, AU’s program accepts applications as they come, and you very well may have a greater chance of getting in if your application is one of the first to be seen. Make sure that you have all of the necessary requirements for the application sent in. I recommend sending everything at the same time or around the same time to avoid items getting lost in transit.
- Communicate with the program(s) of which you’re applying. Make sure that you’re checking daily on the status of your application. There’s nothing worse than finding out that you didn’t complete certain portions of your application and it being too late. If you have any questions whatsoever, please contact your program’s point-of-contact.
- Make yourself standout. Many programs require that you write an essay. Whatever the question may be, make sure that, in some way, you’re not giving the same generic answer as everyone else. It doesn’t have to be a book. Stick with their requirements, but pack a powerful punch. And, as always, don’t forget to proofread! Another subjective part of the application process is the resume section. In the same way as with the essay, make yourself stand out. Type any relevant experience. Make sure the template is neat and professional. I will be writing a post later about how to apply for a job/career.
During Nursing School
What do I need to buy?
- In the classroom. Laptops are allowed in the classroom. So, for those who like to take notes electronically, you won’t need more than your laptop. However, I’m old school (at least I thought I was) and decided to buy spiral notebooks for all of my classes and took my notes with pencil and paper. It’s really just about personal preference. And of course, you’ll need pencils, pens, highlighters, notecards, books, and anything else you’ll think you’ll need to study with.
- For clinical. The College will tell you where to get your scrubs from. We had to order them online. You can get as many pair as you’d like. I just bought 2 pair. The first semester isn’t as clinical-intensive, and if you find that you need more, you will be able to buy more throughout your 2 years. You’ll also need to purchase a stethoscope. I’d also suggest a pen light and some bandage scissors as well. That’s the gist of it as far and clinical goes.
How long is a typical day?
A typical day of lecture is from 0800 to 1600 (And if you don’t know how to tell military time, then start. That’s a universal system all hospitals use.). But class is only about 2 days a week, so it’s not terrible. On the “off” days however, you might have lab or simulation or clinical. Each week is slightly different than the one before.
How do I keep up with all of my assignments?
Get a planner. A planner will be you BFF without a doubt. At the beginning of each semester, I recommend you gathering all of your syllabi and physically writing in your calendar what is due when. It will help you tremendously when you’re looking at what you have to do in the weeks ahead.
Are the professors good?
You have to take the word ‘good’ with a grain of salt. It’s really such a subjective word. Just as with any college professor in my opinion, it all depends on the way you like to be taught. (In some cases, however, the professor really does suck no matter how hard you try to learn from them.) You have to remember, nursing school is another animal. You will be learning things you have never learned before, because in 2 years you will be in charge of someone’s life. It’s a scary thing to think about. Some professors are better teachers than others. Regardless, you’re going to have to retain the material for tests and practice yourself. They can’t and won’t do it for you. AU has a handful of professors that I loved throughout my 2 years there, and were very helpful in explaining material and making sure that the students knew the essentials.
Are the classes hard?
Some of them are. I believe that 99% of my class thought that the third semester was the toughest. Not only was the course load heavy, but the clinical rotations were abundant too. Know yourself and know how you study. If flashcards help you, use them. If drawing on a whiteboard helps you, get a room in the library and use it. Do whatever it takes for you to know and understand the material. Just as a note, I made all As and Bs in nursing school.
What is clinical like?
It honestly depends on the course. For instance, a med-surg clinical (Adult Health I & II) is (supposed to be) from 0700 to 1900. Depending on your clinical instructor, the times will vary. However, for courses such as Geriatric Nursing and Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, the clinicals were not as long, maybe 5-8 hours as opposed to 12. Clinical can be anywhere from once every other week (like in my first semester) to 3 days every week (like in my third and fourth semesters).
Each course also requires a different skill set. For med-surg, you’ll be participating in what people typically see nursing as–initiating IVs, giving meds, starting tube feedings, etc. However, in Geriatric and Psych Nursing, you won’t be as engaged in those types of skills; a majority of the time, you’ll be listening to the clients and talking to them. Not to say that it’s less important by any means, it’s just a different type of nursing skill that one must have.
Generally speaking, you’ll be with your clinical instructor and 8-10 students the entire length of the clinical day. After the clinical day is done, you’ll typically have a few days to write up your assessment data from that day and send it to them for review and comment.
To say you have successfully completed the nursing program, the state requires you to have a certain number of hours before the completion of the program. The clinical assignments are made so that you will have gotten these hours before you graduate.
Do you get to choose your clinical site?
No. At least for the first 3 semesters you don’t. They and your clinical instructor are randomly chosen for you. Your instructor will let you know where to be and when.
During your last semester, you will have somewhat of a say concerning where you’re placed. The majority of your clinical for your last semester will be at your practicum site. Your practicum is where you will be assigned one nurse ahead of time to follow and basically act independently as if you were a nurse. We were able to rank 3 places that we’d like to work, and the instructors tried to place you in one of those areas.
What stressed you out the most?
I’ve always had a Type A personality and feel the need for everything to be perfect. At the beginning of nursing school, many people have the ambition of starting and finishing with all As, and some do. However, it became apparent to me that perfection doesn’t exist. It’s great to have goals, but just remember not to be so hard on yourself when you don’t reach them right away. Nursing school is tough. With the support of friends and family, you’ll make it out. At the end of the day, a degree/license says the same thing whether you’re a C student or an A student.
What helped you the most?
Really, knowing myself and my study habits helped me the most. When you’re able to manage your time and make your education your priority, then you will always do what you know needs to be done. Also, use your friends as a resource. Chances are, if you don’t understand something, someone else can probably help you to understand it. My nursing class’s Facebook page was a great resource if anyone had any questions or was kind enough to post their notes.
After Nursing School
What did you do after graduation?
I graduated on a Friday, then started the NCLEX-RN review course that following Monday.
What exactly is the NCLEX-RN?
The NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) is a nationwide examination for the licensing of registered nurses in the United States and Canada since 1994 and 2015, respectively. After graduation from a school of nursing, one takes the NCLEX-RN exam to receive his or her nursing license. A nursing license gives an individual the permission to practice nursing, granted by the state where he or she met the requirements.
Why did you take a review course?
I decided to take a review course for a couple of reasons. For one, I heard that the information given in the review was very helpful as far as condensing the material that you needed to know for the exam. Secondly, for the very reason of the condensing of the material, I wanted to take a course that would allow me to focus on what I needed to know instead of having to review everything in greater detail than I needed.
Which review course did you take?
I took the Hurst Review. Information about the course was provided by the school. I didn’t have to actively seek it out. However, there is an alternate course–the Kaplan Review. Information on this course was not provided by the school, so I didn’t know much about it. The Hurst Review cost $350 USD and lasted 3 days. It was held on the Summerville campus of Augusta University from 0800 to 1600 each day.
How long did you study for?
The Hurst Review was from May 16 to May 18. I started studying a week or so after that. It’s important to give yourself some time to both study and relax. I spent a total of about 4 to 6 weeks reviewing material. Each day, I spent about 3 or 4 hours looking over material and answering questions.
Did you use anything else to study besides the Hurst Review material?
Yes. In fact, towards the latter 2 weeks of my studying, I didn’t really use the Hurst material that much. In retrospect, I found that the Hurst material wasn’t as detailed in explaining things as I would have liked. No doubt, the information was helpful in breaking things down, but I knew that I wanted more supplemental material. In conjunction with Hurst, I used the Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination and the NCLEX Mastery app that I purchased on my phone.
*If you are a nursing student and would like a PDF of the entire Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination, then I will email it to you.
*There is also a 35-page content document floating around online that thousands of students have used to prepare for the NCLEX-RN. I also have that available and will email it to anyone who needs it.
Out of all the study materials that you used, which was the most helpful?
I’d have to say the NCLEX Mastery app was the most helpful for me for several reasons. For one, it has 1800+ questions to answer and review on several topics. It also contains practices tests, mnemonics, terminology, resource guides, and NCLEX simulations all embedded in the app. Also, I’m constantly on my phone, so if I’m out and about and have some free time, I’d just whip out my phone and start answering questions just like that. The app does cost $30, but it was worth it. Sometimes, they’ll have a promo for the app and you can get all of the material for a discounted price.
Which is more important to study–content or questions?
Some say content. Some say questions. I say both. Spend about 3 or 4 weeks reviewing material and another 2 0r 3 weeks just answering questions, but do something everyday.
Which questions were harder–the ones you studied or the ones on the NCLEX-RN?
I thought that the questions that I studied were slightly more difficult. I say that because the content needed to know how to answer the questions was vital to understanding. So, if you didn’t know your content, you couldn’t answer the questions. That’s why I say you have to study content and answer questions. If you go about studying and find that the questions you’re being asked are too easy or are simple recall questions and not critical thinking questions, then you probably need to find another source for questions. I’d rather study hard questions, get them wrong, and learn from the rationales than study easy questions and get panicked when the NCLEX-RN is too difficult to handle come test day.
Was the NCLEX-RN hard for you?
On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being very easy and 10 being the hardest test I’ve ever taken in my life (You see what I did there?), I’d probably rate it a 10. About 90% of my answer comes from the anxiety I had when I actually sat down to take it though. As I stated before, you had to know your content in order to answer the questions.
What kind of questions were on the test?
Without giving too much away for legality reasons, about 40-50% of my test was priority questions. The other half was a random assortment of questions like infection control, maternity, psych, general med-surg, etc. I had 2 med calc questions and only a handful of pharm questions.
How many questions did you get?
I got all 265 questions.
How long is the exam?
You get a maximum of 6 hours to take the entire exam. This 6 hours includes scheduled and unscheduled breaks.
How exactly does the NCLEX-RN scoring system work?
Click here to read exactly how the NCLEX-RN exam works. This link will take you directly to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website. There is much anxiety amongst nursing students correlating the number of questions they get and whether they passed or failed. This site will truthfully inform you about how the test works.
When did you find out your score?
I took the exam on Thursday, June 30 and found out I passed on Saturday, July 2.
How did you find out you passed?
I visited the PearsonVUE website (PearsonVUE is responsible for the NCLEX-RN testing) and paid approximately $8 USD for the Quick Results. If you don’t want to pay for the Quick Results, other people just visit their respective state board’s website and search their name to see if their license if up and active.
What are some common misconceptions about the NCLEX-RN?
Click here to visit a link that will dispel some common myths. (It’s 2 pages, so don’t forget to click over to the next page. It’s easy to miss.)
It’s important not to get worked up about the number of questions you had. Whether you get the minimum of 75 or the maximum 265, that says absolutely nothing about whether you passed or failed. People pass and fail at 75 questions just as they pass and fail at 265 questions.
How did you feel after the exam?
Like I failed. I heard that this feeling is more common than not though. I felt like I didn’t do well at all, but I passed. And so will you. You’re smarter than you think.
Any advice for upcoming test takers?
Yes, I have a few pieces of advice:
- Nursing school is nothing like the NCLEX-RN and vice versa. For each one, you must prepare a different way. Don’t rely on answering questions on the NCLEX-RN like you would on tests in nursing school.
- Work at your own pace. People will tell you to take the NCLEX-RN as soon as you can. Why? Not everyone is the same. Some people need more time to study than others. Who is anyone to rush someone to take the most important exam of their lives? I would suggest taking approximately 6 weeks to study content and answer questions.
- Don’t doubt yourself (even though you probably will). After taking the exam, I was in a serious mood. Like, I couldn’t take my mind off of anything else except knowing without a doubt that I had failed and that I would have to take it again. When I saw my results, I couldn’t believe it! It was the most amazing feeling to finally be a registered nurse.
After the NCLEX-RN
I will be working as a Staff Nurse at Augusta University Medical Center (formerly GRU/GHSU/MCG) starting in mid-July. I will keep you guys appraised of my new career!
In a year or so, I plan on pursing a higher career as a Nurse Practitioner.
You are joining one of the most respected professions in all of the world! Good luck to all!
Below, I will link some resources to sites that have helped me throughout nursing school:
allnurses.com – allnurses.com is a great source of emotional support for both nursing students and practicing nurses.
medscape.com – Medscape is great if you’re into keeping up with current events, both in nursing and in other medical fields. Also, if you’re looking for peer-reviewed articles, which I’m certain you nursing students will need, this site has them. They’re relatively easy reads and you don’t have to search all over the Internet for them. This is also a free app found both in the Apple Store (for iPhone/iPad) and on Google Play Store (for Android).
quizlet.com – In all honesty, I used quizlet.com if I was feeling super lazy and didn’t feel like answering HESI test questions based upon my own knowledge. Granted, it’s not the best way to learn material, but it’s there for your use. We all use it. Don’t deny it.
drugs.com – I use the app more than the website because of its user-friendliness, but if you’re looking for a quick pharmacology guide and don’t want to carry around your dictionary of a drug book, then download this app. It’s free and has all the info you need.