For Recent Graduates or Repeat Takers with a Time Limit
If you have 60 minutes or one hour to devote each day, you can fully prepare for the exam in six weeks. This time-frame is optimal for many new graduates. This plan is also helpful if you're retaking the test and are nearing the expiration date on your Temporary Practice Permit (TPP).
Most states give new graduates the option of working under a TPP for a specified time after graduation. Recent graduates typically have one year to pass the NCLEX and convert their permit to a professional nursing license. Since every State Board of Nursing has different policies, you need to be aware of the expiration date on your TPP and the procedures for applying for a time extension if you need it. Please remember that extensions are granted for extenuating circumstances such as extreme hardship or a serious illness that a treating healthcare provider verifies.
For Those Who Work or Have Other Time Commitments
If you already have a nursing job, congratulations! As a new graduate with a TPP, you already see firsthand how critically important it is to know the content related to your practice area. You're probably learning a lot on the job and end your days feeling tired but accomplished.
Since you only have so much energy and so many hours each day, you might be tempted to save your studying for your off days. After all, it's the only time you have several consecutive hours free. This is true whether you have a family or other non-work time commitments or not.
Why You Need to Schedule Daily Study Time
Please, don't spend six or even three hours per day studying twice per week. I don't recommend this strategy because most people need daily practice to hone critical thinking skills to do well on the test. If you're only practicing these skills once or twice a week, you probably won't be able to develop the cognitive abilities to make it on test day.
Another benefit of daily study is that it makes thinking for the test a part of your everyday life. This does more than make NCLEX-thinking second nature or at least much more natural. As any experienced nursing tutor will tell you, it also makes the test feel more familiar and, therefore, less stressful. When you're under less stress, you'll be able to recall the information more efficiently and effectively use it to solve nursing problems on the licensure exam.
A Time Schedule for Those With Limited Time
The 15-Minute Miracle
If you don't have 30 minutes per day, then you can study for 15 minutes each day. This would prepare you to take the licensure examination in six months. While taking this option means you're much more likely to forget content from nursing school, it offers a great deal of time to reflect on the content and connect it to nursing practice. It can also help further diminish your stress levels and build your knowledge base with less frustration than you might experience during long study sessions.
There are two primary keys to the 15-minutes approach. The first is that you must be wholly focused during these 15 minutes. Please turn off your phone, tell your kids not to bother you unless they have an emergency, and do whatever is necessary to ensure that your NCLEX study has your undivided attention for 15 minute
As you study, you will want to take practice tests periodically. A practice test doesn't have to be a full-length simulated licensure exam but taking at least two or three of these is very helpful. Practice testing can include as few as two or three carefully chosen review questions or a section of a practice test.
Practice tests are essential for everyone, but they are critical feedback for those studying for 15 minutes per day or hoping to take the test in less than eight weeks. This is because frequent testing will give gauge your progress. It can also g quickly tweak your preparation strategy.
Changing your strategy can be as simple as spending more time studying a challenging topic or question type. It can also be more extensive. After taking a test, you might find that 15 minutes per day isn't working for you. If you're not doing well on the 15-minute plan, you might add a second or third 15-minute session to your routine for a week and then retest. If your performance doesn't improve enough, you can try another plan or ask your tutor for additional guidance.
Topics to Add to Your Schedule
If you struggled with certain topics in nursing school or your Candidate Performance Report (CPR) revealed areas of weakness, you need to first focus on those subjects. If you performed evenly in nursing school or want a comprehensive review plan, focus on these topics for at least one to two hours each:
- Ethical and Legal Concerns
- Safety and Infection Control
- Medication Administration
If you choose to study all these topics, you don't need to follow the above list in order. Instead, study the topics in an order that works for you. You may choose to begin with a challenging topic or something more manageable. Many prefer to alternate simpler and complex topics.
This plan is quite simple. The challenge is in the execution. If you're taking or retaking the NCLEX soon, I encourage you to create at least one month of a tentative study schedule, including topics before you begin studying for the NCLEX. Then, reevaluate your progress after a month.
If your time is extremely limited due to professional demands or retest needs, I encourage you to get a tutor. A tutor can help you define your priorities and set a plan that works. They can also provide objective feedback on your performance. Whether you seek the services of a tutor or go it alone, I'll be cheering for you and ready to welcome you as a professional nursing colleague.