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Be NCLEX Brilliant

"Our talents are living things; we give birth to them, nourish them until they grow and become immortal." Michael Bassey Johnson 

brilliant: gifted, expert, keen, sharp, accomplished, observant, far-sighted, deep, shrewd discerning, well-read, hard-headed, erudite, enlightened (The Synonym Finder, Rodale Press).

As you prepare for the NCLEX, never underestimate your ability to be brilliant. You can accomplish anything if you set your mind to it. As a former nursing student, you know all too well that pursuing your dream of becoming a nurse requires hard work and sacrifice.

Now it’s time to show yourself exactly how brilliant you are when you pass the NCLEX… even on your first attempt! 

Brilliance made easier

Preparing for the NCLEX does not mean that you need to study every detail you learned in school… but you should review any information you found difficult. Answer practice questions, but don’t try to memorize answers. Instead, you need to train your brain to think critically – to think like a nurse.

Here are my top ten ideas you can use to maintain focus while keeping sane, so you can retain.  Bottom line, exam brilliance boils down to brilliant daily habits, brilliant rewards and brilliant exam day habits.

Brilliant daily habits

1.   Sharpen your readiness daily. Short bursts of studying for about 45-50 minutes, followed by a periods of rest, support how the brain naturally consolidates long-term memory. Be sure to stick to a schedule.

2.   Be shrewd about study breaks. Regular breaks will get your mind off studying and help keep you motivated. Take a walk or close your eyes for a (short) nap. You’ll help solidify memories. Reduce stress by meditating or following NCSBN’s Rejuvenation Station exercises.
(Checking your Facebook page doesn’t count!)

3.   Master the material out loud. It may seem a little weird at first, but research says that you are 50% more likely to remember something if you say it out loud instead of reading it over and over… and over.

4.   Get keen on flashcards. Create your own or use premade flashcards to quickly test your ability to recall facts. Don’t forget about NCSBN Learning Extension’s free mobile Medication Flashcards app, where you can test your knowledge and learn fun facts about drugs and drug classifications.

Brilliant rewards

5.   Bribe your way to success. During your study break reward yourself for meeting specific and achievable study goals. For instance, enjoy a small (and nutritious) treat each time you meet a goal. You might even start a jar and throw a dollar in it each time you meet a goal, then plan a big ending reward!

6.   Reap the rewards of a study group. This is a great way to share resources, discuss topics and solve problems. Use NCSBN Learning Extension’s Student Connection to find online opportunities to connect with others going through the same thing as you.

7.   Enlighten others. Try teaching a difficult topic to your study group (tip #6). If you don’t have a study group, your cat or dog might be willing to listen as you talk out loud (tip #3) – especially if there’s a treat involved.

8.   Nourish exam confidence! Answering NCLEX-style questions takes skill and deliberate practice. NCSBN Learning Extension’s NCLEX review courses include over 1300 questions. As you retrieve and apply information, your ability to select the best response(s) will soar. Then claim confidence as the truest reward of all your work.

Exam day brilliance

9.   Pump up with endorphins. It’s been shown that exercise can boost your memory, brainpower and wellbeing – 20 minutes is all it takes. And while you are walking…

10. Savor a banana. Eating a banana before a test can help you stay alert and boost your thinking throughout the exam. Really! Read my blog for more fun facts on this topic: Got nerves? Eat a banana!

Bottom-line, prepping for the NCLEX can help you nurture and then trust your nursing gifts. And that’s a brilliance that will stretch into a long and satisfying career.

Now it’s your turn

What techniques are you using to be brilliant?

  • Sue,

    I am an educator and we are having a discussion regarding best practice for writing math items. Question: Should distractors,  such as gtt factor,  be added to questions that do not need that information in order to calculate the correct answer?


  • @dmorgan:  We only use fill-in-the-blank question types for our math/calculation questions in our review course. The student would only need to fill in the number; the unit of measure would already be filled in.

    You could create a multiple choice (MC) question type and include distractors that might make sense to the students.  But you should consider the objective you are trying to achieve by using a MC question type.

  • Hello Sue,

    I wanted to post a testimonial, but I'm not sure where to go on this website.  I passed my NCLEX-PN and I want to share my journey.  Please help me navigate to the testimonial page.  Thank you!

  • Hello,

    I am a student in my last semester of nursing school and have begun preparing for my NCLEX. These tips were wonderful, they also include many things that I already do while studying so I'm glad to know I'm on the right track. I can't wait to navigate this site a bit more fully and gather all the knowledge I can from this community before sitting the NCLEX!

  • Hi Sue,

    Thank you for the great tips! I will take my NCLEX in January so they are very much appreciated. I have used the "studying out loud" method throughout my entire nursing school journey and have found it to help me greatly. I will have to remember the "being active before the test" tip. Thank you for ALL of your helpful blogs.

    Katie F.

  • Hi Sue,

    I am a nursing student in the last semester of nursing school. As I prepared to take my NCLEX I took a leadership course and I developed a professional development plan to study for the NCLEX exam that I plan to follow to pass my NCLEX.

    Thank you for all your tips they are going to help a lot.

    Thank you,

    Juana Covarrubias

  • Hello Sue,

    I'm currently a nursing student in my last semester, hoping to take the NCLEX in February. Thank you for your great tips! Some of these I have actually used throughout nursing school and they have definitely helped me pass my classes. Now, as I start to prepare for my NCLEX soon I'm going to be considering your tips, and I'm sure they will help me in succeeding! Thanks again!

  • Thank you for all the tips you provided here! I just wanted to tell you that I agree with you 100% (especially on #7.) Even though I could never study in a group teaching a difficult topic to someone really made me understand the subject better. Since study groups never worked for me, I always used my dog as my student to whom I repeated stuff over and over. This really made me think about the difficult subjects, and helped me remember them as I repeated things out loud.

  • The study techniques you described are what i believe to be perfect ways to study, i have been using them my complete nursing career, and always recommend rewarding yourself after studying.  Thank you for the information provided to do on the day of, ill remember to eat a banana on the day of.

  • Hello Sue,

    I am in my last semester of nursing school at the moment and I've got to say that tip #3 has taken me a long way in nursing school.  That is one of the techniques I use very often when studying and it definitely works.  I really like the "Brilliant Rewards" that are posted, especially #5.  Bribing myself is something I will try in the future and use as I study for my NCLEX exam.  I will remember the banana as well.  Thank you for the tips!

    -Alex M.

  • I 'm so pleased to have a learning companion with this site.  I feel a little less stressful about taking my NCLEX knowing that if I'm having difficulty in a particular subject area,  this site can help me navigate through those areas. It's like having an NCLEX coach in the palm of my hands.

  • Munchie (rhunter) -Hello Sue

    Thank you for offering this site to students preparing for the NCLEX exam. I like your suggestion on study tip #2. You're correct in saying that saying things out loud tend to stay on your mind and makes memory recall much easier. Taking breaks, during study time is also helpful. Your eyes get tired and need a break from white pages or computer screens. This site will be like having an NCLEX coach in the palm of my hand!

  • i took this coure for 3 week and post test i got 80 score in some test and in few test i got only 45so is this ok i can give test soonor not

  • Struggling here,  how can i recover!