If you ask a nursing student what they are afraid of, they will probably tell you that the NCLEX scares them more than anything. This is THE test that will determine whether you get to put the letters ‘RN’ after your name.
In the two years I have been going through the nursing program, the NCLEX has always been in the back of my mind. The closer I got to graduation, the more the test started to cause me anxiety.
I registered for the test about a month and a half before graduation, so that once all the school’s requirements were met, there would be no delay in forwarding my information to the testing organization. About a week after graduation, I got an email from the testing organization that I was authorized to take the exam.
I knew that I wanted to take it as soon as possible. I pulled up the three closest testing centers (the closest one was just over an hour away) and looked at the available testing dates. I literally signed up for the earliest one. I had a mini anxiety attack and realized that I only had a couple weeks before the biggest test of life.
I got out my NCLEX review book and started going through the chapters. I knew that there was no way I was going to have time to get through the entire book, so I focused on areas I was weak; most notably, pharmacology. There are so many drugs and they all have interactions and side effects and things to watch for. I knew I needed to review that as much as possible.
The NCLEX is an interesting test. It is a computer adapted test, which means that it adjusts the difficulty of the questions based on how successfully you have answered the previous questions. The test consists of a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265 questions. You don’t know how many you are going to get, because the test will automatically shut off when it has determined that you have met the minimum passing standard, or that you are no longer mathematically capable of meeting the passing standard. To throw another wrench into it, regardless of the number of questions you answer, 15 of them will be unscored-and you won’t know which ones.
My anxiety increased as test day neared. I was glad to have a way to occupy myself the morning of the test, so I didn’t have to be all nervous and angst-y. I drove to the test center and arrived about 20 minutes before my scheduled time. They had me read over a sheet of ‘rules’ about the test and the testing center. They took my driver’s license. They took my picture. I had to electronically sign that I understood the rules. They took my right palm scan, then my left palm scan. I had to pull out my pockets to make sure they were empty. I couldn’t even take in my chapstick. I locked my belongings in a locker.
Then I went to the doorway to the testing room. Again, I had to scan my right palm and my left palm. The administrator gave me a white board and dry erase marker and walked me to the computer station. She logged me and I sat down to get started.
I had to read through a couple screens of instructions and then some practice questions. Then the test started. I took a deep breath and said a prayer and got started. I must have answered the first few questions correctly, because suddenly the questions got really hard. There was one that had something I had never heard of before. I tried to stay calm and use my test tasking strategies. There were a lot of ‘select all that apply’ type questions. I’m pretty sure that ‘select all that apply’ is the most horrifying phrase in the English language.
I got to question number 75. I hit ‘next’ and the screen went blank. Actually, it went blue. I gasped a little. The test was over. Everything I had heard was that if you finished in 75 questions, you did well. I still freaked out a little bit. After the test, there is a short questionnaire that you need to answer. Then you raise your hand and the administrator comes in to log you out of the computer and take you out of the room. Then you have to scan your palm again!
I unlocked my belongings and left. You don’t find out your results right away. Although I did get an email right away with information on how I could pay ($7.95) to get my tentative results earlier. Some of my classmates had taken the LPN exam last summer and had a method of checking to see if you passed by trying to register for the test again. If you weren’t allowed to register-you passed.
I drove to the nearest frozen yogurt place to treat myself for surviving the exam and went to the test website on my phone. It wouldn’t let me register. I was starting to feel pretty good. But, I still wanted the official confirmation before I called myself a Registered Nurse.
I finally got that email the next day…almost exactly 24 hours after I finished the test! I was ecstatic! And when I posted it on facebook, I had over 100 likes in just a couple hours.
I feel like things are falling into place. Graduation-Check. NCLEX-Check. Now-time to find a job. (I’m working on it-had a couple interviews and the potential for another one this week.)
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive through this whole process. I couldn’t have done it without you.