Tips & Advice

Nursing School Test-Taking Strategies

Tips & AdviceApril 12, 2019

Once you have been accepted into a nursing program, whether it is an in person or online nursing program, you will begin working towards your ultimate goal: taking — and passing — the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. You will work towards a degree in nursing school. You will study many of the core topics that underpin the art and science of medicine. But you will not gain employment as a professional nurse — an RN — without your license. In the end, then, it all comes down to the NCLEX.

To that end, it is important to learn strategic test-taking skills. To be sure, some students are better at test taking than others. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, rest assured that you will benefit from approaching the NCLEX strategically.

Of course, studying the relevant material is crucial. Between your nursing school courses and assignments, and any (highly recommended) specific test prep studying you may do, you should only take the test if you are confident that you have mastered the material. But there is more you can do to maximize your probable outcome.


Try to spend no more than 60 seconds on any given question. Using practice exams, time yourself so you are sure you can achieve this. Many questions will take far less time, of course, but some may take considerably more. The goal is to spend no more than one minute, overall, on any given question. This will ensure that you have the best chance of completing all questions before your time runs out. Corollary: Move on if you have spent more than two minutes on a given question. Mark it for revisitation, provided you have time to spare at the end of the exam.

Stick To Your Guns

More often than not, your first answer will be the right one. Avoid second guessing yourself. If you go back and change an answer, do so because you are certain, not because you are feeling uncertain about your original response. If you are uncertain about an answer, do your best to eliminate the potential answers you know are not right. Then choose your best answer. You can always return to the question after you have completed the other questions on the exam.

Remember Randomization

Correct answers will be sprinkled randomly among possible answers. Do not assume that choice “B” will most often be correct. It will not. If you absolutely have no idea which answer is correct, choose randomly, but don’t assume that “B” (or “C” or “D”) is more likely to be correct every time. It will not be.

Sleep On It

Few students grasp the true importance of a goodnight’s sleep. In fact, research suggests that few American adults do, for that matter. Sleep deprivation may sound like a good way to cram for a test. But it is likely to backfire. Far better to study steadily, throughout the school year, rather than trying to review everything you may need to know in the 24 hours before you exam. Sleep impacts every aspect of your health, from your immune system’s ability to function properly, to your ability to reason, recall, and memorize. While you may be able to muddle through with a cold, you will not fare well if you cannot think clearly. Get a good night’s sleep and try to relax!

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