(And how to be a better test taker)
I hear this all the time, “I’m just a bad test-taker”. But what exactly does that mean? It can mean a couple things:
1. You didn’t study and you don’t know the material. So, you do bad on tests.
If you didn’t study, don’t be surprised if you do bad on the test. Open that book, go to class, ask questions, watch that video, make those flashcards, write that content down. Do something! Don’t just hope you’ll do good.
2. You did study, but not in an efficient way. So, you still don’t know the material well and still do bad on the test.
This is much harder to fix. Figuring out the most efficient way to study can be difficult because everyone learns in a different way. Most people remember best when they do the thing they are supposed to learn, An example would be at nursing clinical putting in a foley or as an actual plumber fixing pipes. But you can’t learn everything by doing. Do you learn best by reading, hearing, or writing? Or a mixture of all? I do know that repetition is key to learning. And flashcards are great for remembering content.
3. You let anxiety get the best of you. Random answers are chosen when thinking is blocked.
Many times anxiety is caused by a student being unprepared. This can mean that the student didn’t study, didn’t practice enough questions or scores were always low when practicing questions. Preparation can decrease anxiety. There are other things you can do to decrease anxiety such as deep breathing. However, I’m all about being prepared with content and how to answer NCLEX-style questions. The decreased anxiety will follow.
4. You are inpatient and read too fast. You miss important information in the question and choose something that looks familiar.
This isn’t a race on who can finish first. Slow down and pay attention to the key words and key phrases. Don’t be careless and skip over important information. Your patient doesn’t want an impatient, careless nurse and neither does the NCLEX.
5. You don’t think about what the question is asking or about the answers. You just pick answers that look familiar.
Slow down in this situation also. Remember, every NCLEX question is a problem that the nurse needs to solve. Figure out what that problem is before you move on to the answers. Go through each answer and think if that answer is going to fix that problem or addresses the problem in the question.
6. English is not your first language and you misunderstand what the question is asking or don’t know what basic words mean.
Besides medical terms, the words on the NCLEX are written at a 10th grade level. I wouldn’t call that basic reading, but it’s not college level either. If English is your second language and you know you misunderstand words or don’t know words, then get reading! Read modern texts, such as news sites or newer books. Ask a friend who English is their first language to read the same things. See if you are both interpreting the information in the same way. Look up words you don’t know as you read them.
7. You know too much or not enough and you tend to “read into the question”.
This means you say things like “it depends on……”. If you start to do that, just stop yourself. Whenever you’re about to say, “it depends on…”, know that it just doesn’t matter to answer the question. If it mattered the writer would have put it in the question. This happens to students who are very experienced in a topic or don’t know much. The very experienced students (such as LPNs or nurses from another country) know that there are many factors that go into a decision. The question will never have enough details for them. Students who don’t know much will also say “it depends…” to compensate for not knowing.
It’s OK to interpret sign and symptom data in the question – that is not reading into the question. But DO NOT add content to the question and say, “it depends….”.
I hope this helps you become a better test-taker and pass the nclex and your nursing exams!