nclex study tips f a davis company

Three study tips before your next big exam

Being a nursing student means taking on a lot of responsibilities: test-taker, clinical-completer, patient-caretaker, and above all, superhero. As a future nurse, you’ll need to complete a series of exams and practical applications in order to pass nursing school and eventually the NCLEX -which can be an overwhelming prospect for new and veteran nursing students alike.
So before you brave the tests, rationales, clinical days, and yes – those pesky select-all-that-apply questions – we’re here to clue you in on the need-to-know survival tips, tricks, and tools that will ensure classroom and NCLEX success.

1. Identify the Word in the Stem that Indicates Negative Polarity

  • Read the stem slowly and carefully.
  • Look for key words such as not, except, never, contraindicated, unacceptable, avoid, unrelated, violate, and least. A negatively worded stem asks you to identify an exception, detect an error, or recognize nursing interventions that are unacceptable or contraindicated.

2. Identify the Word in the Stem that sets a Priority

  • Read the stem carefully while looking for key words such as first, initially, best, priority, safest, and most
  • This type of question requires you to put a value on each option and then place them in rank order.
  • If you are having difficulty ranking the options, eliminate the option that you believe is most wrong among all the options.
  • Answering a test question that asks you to establish a priority (which is “most important,” “best,” “initial,” and “first”) requires you to make a decision using clinical judgment. A strategy you can draw on to help you answer priority questions is to refer to basic guiding theories that are part of the foundation of nursing, such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the ABCs (Airway, Breathing, Circulation).

3. Identify Patient-Centered Options

  • Items that test your ability to be patient centered tend to explore patient feelings, identify patient preferences, empower the patient, afford the patient choices, or in some other way put emphasis on the patient. Because the patient is the center of the health-care team, the patient often is the priority.


Whether you are preparing to take your very first test in nursing school or studying for the NCLEX, these tips are designed to ensure success every step of the way.

Test taking tips are excerpted from Test Success by Patricia M. Nugent and Barbara A. Vitale.

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