Forget all the tricks. The NCLEX makers are wise to those and no longer write questions that can be answered by just any savvy test-taker.
For example, assessment is always the first step in the nursing process, unless there is enough assessment data in the stem to let the nurse take action! See how the trick does not work?
How do you answer NCLEX-style questions?
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Look for choices that stand out. Do three of the choices seem correct? Look back at the question for statements such as:
- “Which finding indicates the need for further teaching?”
- “The nurse intervenes after observing which action?”
- “The nurse clarifies which prescription (order)?
Things you have seen do not apply. In the clinical setting, we see things that are complex and filled with uniqueness. That is not true on a test. This is what is meant by “do not read into the question" or "the NCLEX is not real life."
Determine what you are being asked. If the question says “Which is the priority” or “Which is most important…”, it means all of the answers are important. Use thinking like:
- Is airway relevant? Does one choice apply to airway?
- Which thing causes mortality if I do not teach it well?
- Which lab value is way out of range?
Answer the question, “But do I care about it right now?” Think about what is normal for this client. All of the labs may be out of range, but if the client has renal failure, you expect the BUN, creatinine, and GFR to be terrible.
The potassium is sky-high, though? Nope, gotta fix that NOW.
Do something at the bedside, fast ! Anytime you can do something for the client before leaving them, that is usually the best thing to do. We love our docs, but they are not quick and easy to get ahold of. We are professionals, and we can do lots of things on our own.
Treat multiple response items like true or false questions. Do not look at the answers all together. Look at each one, match it against the question asked. It is either correct or it is not. Do not consider how many you have chosen already or any other mind games.
Sometimes you will not have a clue. Nursing is HUGE. The NCLEX tests for beginning competency, but, let’s face, you slept through at least one class and new drugs come out daily.
Look at context clues in the stem.
(Ex. Adriamycin..."mycin" usually means antibiotic, but the stem says the client is getting cancer therapies...might be a chemotherapy drug.)
Generalize from what you do know.
(Ex. Remember that low platelets in one condition is really similar to low platelets in any other condition. - You may not need to know the disease mentioned in the question!)
Only critical thinkers get through! You have to be able to use the knowledge in every day, clinical decisions. For nurses and other health care providers, this is called clinical reasoning.
Clinical reasoning is a process involves collecting cues, processing the information, understanding a client situation, planning and implementing interventions, evaluating outcomes, and reflecting on and learning from the process.
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