Nursing exams are truly a different breed. It’s probably the only time you’ll have test questions where all the answers are correct but only one of them is the most correct. And with questions like that, it’s so important to have a good test strategy!
And NCLEX style questions can lead to some major test anxiety, self doubt, and plenty of changed answers!
After lots of frustration (and kicking myself for changing right answers to wrong answers), I came up with a test strategy to improve my grades and finally make A’s in nursing school!
Test Strategy #1 – Pace yourself.
This may be easier said than done… It seems like those of us with test anxiety can’t help but to rush through our tests. We feel nervous, our heart is pounding, and we just want it to be over with already!
But try not to let that get to you.
Give yourself time to thoroughly read the question and answer choices. Slow it down. If you rush, it’ll be easy to make a careless mistake.
- Keep an eye on the clock to make sure you have time to finish the entire test.
- Usually 1 minute per question is a good place to start.
- Don’t get stuck on a question for too long.
- Save at least 5-10 minutes to check your answers at the end.
If you don’t know it, mark it for review and move on.
Don’t get stuck for too long and waste time! Mark it for review and come back if:
- You know a question will take a lot of time. (Sometimes I save math questions for last because they take longer than multiple choice.)
- If you don’t know it.
- If you need more time to think about it.
Sometimes a question from the test will give you a hint to the answer of another question. So just keep going and come back to it later!
Now, here’s my secret test strategy!
First, read only the question without looking at the answer choices.
- Read the question slowly and more than once.
- Make sure you fully understand what the question is asking.
- Decide what information is needed to answer the question.
Look for any qualifying words.
Qualifiers are words that can change the meaning of another word. You’ll want to pay special attention to these and note the effect they have on the meaning.
Words such as:
- need for further teaching vs. demonstrates knowledge
Do NOT read into the question!!!
This test strategy right here is HUGE and trips up so many students! Don’t ever say to yourself, “well, technically” or “sometimes/in some cases” or “it depends”…
Take the question for what it is! I can’t stress this enough.
Don’t overcomplicate it. No ifs, ands, buts, hypotheticals, whatever. Never assume anything that hasn’t been specifically mentioned or given to you!
Ask yourself what you think the answer is.
At this point, we’re still not looking at the answer choices! Cover them up!
Got your answer? Ok, NOW you can look!
Read all the answer choices and see if your answer is there.
- If YES → mark that answer. It’s most likely correct.
- If NO → use process of elimination, ADPIE, Maslow, ABC’s, and your best educated guess.
- OR, mark it for review and move on if you need more time to think about it.
- Before you move on to the next question, stop.
Read the question one more time and verify that the answer you selected makes sense with and matches what the question is asking.
- For instance, if a math problem is asking for units in grams, make sure your answer is not in milligrams.
- If a question is asking for an assessment, make sure your answer is an assessment, etc.
When everything looks good, move on and do not come back to this question! (I mean it! Because you’re going to talk yourself into changing your answer!)
Once you’ve answered all the questions, only check/finish answering the questions marked for review.
STOP changing your answers! (unless you are 100% sure)
So many people do this (including myself). You get to the test and all of a sudden you second guess yourself and you end up changing a right answer to a wrong answer.
Usually your first answer is right! Trust your gut and leave it alone, unless you know FOR A FACT you put the wrong answer.
Practice makes perfect!
There are tons of resources out there to practice NCLEX style questions. The advice I hear most from upper level students is to start practicing NCLEX questions from the start.
I use Saunder’s Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN. It’s filled with tons of practice questions and highlights important concepts. You also get online access to more questions. I highly recommend it!
Also make sure to check your textbooks for more practice and chapter reviews.