The NCLEX test is hard and the questions are complex. You’re probably saying “I don’t understand the question.” Or, “There are too many ‘almost right’ answers. I’ve failed this test before.”
Like it or not, the NCLEX is hard for a very good reason – it’s the only way to assess some standard within a profession. There has to be some kind of RN test. If it was easy, you couldn’t trust nursing staff to be competent. Patients want to know that the person monitoring their vital signs took a really hard test to earn the privilege and their fat paycheck.
But it’s even harder for someone who’s first language isn’t English, or slept through English class in school. Some people just don’t like to read. They open a book and fall asleep. This is especially true for RN study guides. It’s just not the way they best take in information.
But you must be able to read fluently to do well on these tests (Even if you’re a genius). Albert Einstein probably couldn’t pass the NCLEX. By passing the test, you’ve shown at least a minimum standard of competence, proving you are able to comply with an accepted standard of care in a wide range of situations. Nurses need to be able to adapt to any medical setting: ER, Surgery, Pediatrics, Cardio or Oncology. You never know if you’ll find yourself on a pediatric burn unit or an Alzheimer’s wing of a nursing home. So you have to know it all.
How To Out-Think The NCSBN
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. (NCSBN) designs the test to specifically measure the knowledge and aptitudes required for the very broad field of nursing. They want you to be prepared for everything. You may have decided a long time ago where you wanted to work, but that doesn’t mean that’s where you’ll end up. And with medical staffing being what it is, you could end up as a floater at a couple of hospitals, filling in gaps wherever they have a need.
They are also NOT checking to see if you’ve read the book. They are testing your professional judgment and understanding of what your job is. You have to combine these to pass. Passing the exam is what makes you a Professional. Your compassion and caring and commitment are irrelevant until after you’ve passed the NCLEX RN exam.
In the case of the NCLEX, the test is designed to weed out people who either cheated in nursing school, or don’t have the judgment to combine what they did learn with professional standards of care in a very broad range of situations. The questions on the test require that you approach each question the same way you think every time you enter a patient’s room. You’re not there to be their friend or comforter or hand-holder, you’re their nurse and first response to whatever issue arises. They don’t want their mother assessing their urine production or colostomy bag. The questions cover such a wide range of possibilities, because you never know where you will end up as a nurse. You could be in a school, on a cardiac floor, perinatal unit or in pediatrics. It has to cover everything.
Unfortunately, there’s an issue in the US licensing process that is largely ignored… and it is language. Everyone expects that if you’ve gotten as far as the test site, you can read. We have an enormous demographic of health care professionals from other countries, where English is not the first or even second, language. Many of them would make tremendous practitioners (and have already shown that). It doesn’t matter,if you can’t pass the test.
Let’s face it, the NCLEX is Hard
The most common problem test takers have – beyond test anxiety – is a deficiency in the language skills required to understand the question. If you don’t understand the question, you can’t hope to choose the right answer to it.
Some people feel that the questions get asked too many times in different ways which they find confusing. If that happens to you, assume your first answer was wrong and they’re giving you another chance, with perhaps one element removed, to get it right. The questions are designed to give you the best chance to pass; if you miss the higher level question, they rephrase it into a slightly lower level of complexity. Or perhaps the first time you got it, it was of a lower level and the second time around they’ve upped the stakes.
We’ve all experienced it. You open the NCLEX RN test booklet or hit the start button and the first question makes you feel like you’re in the wrong room. May be you’ve done all the RN study tips prep you could. You even paid attention in your nursing classes.
So, what’s the problem?
It’s usually you’re not fully grasping what the question is asking. What we as test-takers can easily forget is that there is an intent behind each question. The NCSBN test MAKER has created the question to find out something very specific and your job is to figure out what that is.
In order to do this, you have to be able to understand the question. There are tried and true steps that will better your understanding of what you read. They are used in reading classes everywhere with public school students having reading or language issues. There are accommodations that help them understand the question, so that then their answer reflects what they actually know and how they think. One of those is reading the questions loudly for them. For your RN test, you’re going to have to address this problem, yourself.
You’d Be A Great Registered Nurse..If You Pass The NCLEX RN
Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind. If English is not your native language or you hated English in school, you will have difficulty taking ANY higher level test in English. Those of you who have actually practiced nursing in other countries, may be particularly frustrated. You may know that you have a fine nursing education under your belt and plenty of experience. But you haven’t been able to pass the test. This could be due to the differences in standards of care where you are from, or the availability or common usage of certain pharmaceuticals or simply a lack of fluency with written English. It’s a fact that some people learn a new language by speaking it, but would struggle with the written word. And the opposite is true as well – particularly in some Asian countries – English is taught as written language with little attention to speaking it.
If you’ve failed this RN examination in the past, you may have already figured out that it was your test anxiety that got in the way, or perhaps you got that handled, yet still found yourself baffled again and again when faced with several right answers to a question, but the “all of the above” choice didn’t feel quite right. It may very well be that you need to brush up on your reading.
Well, At Least I Understand the Question
If you speak it well, but don’t read it much, you will probably do better if you read the question aloud. Sound silly? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Yes, people get ridiculed for moving their lips when they read. SO WHAT? Poor or beginning readers do that for a reason…it’s the intuitive solution that helps them better understand what they’re reading. Let them call you “dummy” when you’re reading your passing score. It’s only one word, after all – PASS! (HEY, read that out loud, too!)
We all started by reading aloud. We didn’t do it in our heads till about the 4th or 5th grade. It can work for you, too. This is your career, after all. Many native English speakers have to do this with poetry and Shakespeare or a particularly difficult passage in a textbook; when you say it and hear it, you get a clearer idea in your brain of what the statements in the question mean. It’s then much easier to determine exactly what the question is asking.
Write Down any Words You Aren’t Sure of
Buy a Thesaurus. And don’t buy a little cheap one at Walmart. You can get a decent one for under $10. Your computer will have dictionary websites you can use, and often you can get decent thesaurus help on-line, as well. Your Thesaurus is much more user-friendly tool than a dictionary. It gives you words you could actually replace the weird word with. If you’re a speaker of another language, get an English dictionary, as well.
Now you can go through your list of weird words and get them all straightened out in your mind.
Read the Answers First
The other thing to do, is to read all the answers before you read the question. In this way, you have gotten a “whiff” of the question prior to reading it. The possible answers will lend you a clue as to what the nature of the problem is and you can look for clues in the question as you read it. These professional tests are complex. They will ask you to combine your textbook knowledge with your understanding of your Scope of Practice and combine them to make a judgment. That is what professional nursing is all about.
- Choose a manageable section of your study guide or one bank of test questions.
- Read the answers. OUT LOUD. Stand up, if it helps. Consider the differences between them. Is the difference between choice “A” and “B” something that has to do with clinical knowledge or something that has to do with Scope of Practice? They are asking you to choose the best of the possibly correct answers. This is the key to the question.
- Read the question. OUT LOUD. Do five and check your score.
- If you’re still getting them wrong, find someone who speaks English as their first language or a brainiac friend and ask them to read the questions TO you. Follow along while they read. There may be punctuation or simple words that, as a speaker of English, you use perfectly well, but when part of a written statement, don’t translate make sense.
- Do NOT skip over words you don’t get. Or if the sentence isn’t clear, read it again before moving on.
- It may sound absurd, but pay attention to punctuation. A comma, which indicates a pause, can change the entire meaning of a passage, depending upon where it’s placed. You are more likely to pause at a comma, if you’re reading out loud. A sentence is more than a string of words – it’s an IDEA.
Here’s an example:
(a) My sister eats shoots and leaves. (Vegetarian sister – pretty clear, right?)
(b) My sister eats, shoots, and leaves. (Did you pause at the commas? A bit different – this is a cold blood killer leaving the scene of a crime with a smoking gun.) Same words, completely different idea.
When taking the test:
- Focus only on the question at hand. The test is not timed. Forget about counting how many questions you’ve answered so far, or whatever. Forget about the question you just answered. This is the only question that matters.
- Read the answers. This is your introduction to the question.You’re getting a picture of the patient/issue at hand that is going to be dealt with in the question. It’s like getting a whiff of cinnamon buns when you walk be a bakery – a blind man gets a pretty good idea of what’s inside.
- Read the question. Say it out loud, but quietly, paying particular attention to all the punctuation. It’s really just moving your lips.
- Eliminate the answers that are the least likely to be correct.
- Of the remaining ones check them against the question one more time, take a minute to think and then choose.Now, move on. You’vegiven it your best shot.
Oh, So Your Career Goal is to be an LPN or a Nurses’ Aide
What if you learn how to read the questions?
You’ll know if you’ve succeeded in improving your reading with the first couple of questions. You will have been able to answer them!!!! Imagine looking at your watch – if they let you wear it – and seeing that only ten minutes have passed and you’re on question 5, already!
Imagine the questions making sense!
Imagine, having skimmed the answers, that you know this question is about a surgical patient with concentrated urine, chest pain and respiratory distress – and you do not have an option to call the physician – before you’ve even read it. Do you think you might understand it better and be able to predict some of what it’s going to say?
Picture yourself ignoring the other test-takers, with your hands sort of cupped around your mouth – so they can’t see you moving your lips – reading those questions aloud, and actually feeling confident about your answer. You’ve read them first and already know what they are!
What happens if you don’t?
Hey, you might pass, anyway. It’s a fact that people who take tests over and over again, DO generally improve their scores a bit. But you already know how expensive and time-consuming it is. And if you don’t pass, you can always stay in that LPN or Nurses’ Aide job or worse, and that’s almost half of what you need to live on. You can explain away all that time in school as an experiment and pay your student loans off, later.
you can swallow your pride and brush up on your reading.
Source by Anisul Islam Sumon
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