Warning: This is a long one. I tried to be as honest and detailed as possible about my NCLEX journey.
Before taking my NCLEX, I had told myself that I would definitely make a post about it. Now, having taken it, I really felt there was an absolute need for it. After reading tons of testimonials as I awaited my results, I found comfort in people’s posts, especially the most detailed ones. Here mine goes.
Context. During nursing core, my school used ATI as our NCLEX prep. As the program progressed, we had an NCLEX predictor score that gauged us every term based on a proctored exam. For Fundamentals, Mental Health, and OB I had a 98% predictor of passing my NCLEX. It wasn’t until taking my Peds one that it finally hit that coveted 99%. This was comforting for me during nursing school and allowed me to just really focus on passing my classes – not worrying about the inevitable NCLEX.
The NCLEX Prep
I chose to trust in the paths that others ahead of me have successfully taken. This included attending the Live 3-Day ATI Review, doing Virtual ATI (VATI) plus Green Light, and using UWorld. The Live ATI Review was a week after my exit exam. Personally, I didn’t feel like it was the best use of my time because I felt that these were test-taking skills that should have been taught while still in school and I had already picked up.
After the Live ATI review, I took 20 days off. 20 days of adjusting to life outside of nursing school and I spent quality, stress-free time with my family and friends. On the 26th, I spent the afternoon game-planning how I was going to tackle VATI, but didn’t actually start till the very next day. I chose to use a small notebook to take notes of topics I thought were either important, I got wrong, or were new to me. I spent about one day per subject with the exception of Med-Surg, which took me two days. I did everything on their provided checklist, except for the concept maps. I was scoring in the 70s and above on my practice assessment with the exception of OB – which ironically enough was my highest scoring class in nursing core. Even though 20 days doesn’t seem like too much, it was enough for me to get rusty on test-taking. That was quite annoying.
On Monday, July 2, I got a letter from the Board of Registered Nursing, which essentially was my cue to schedule my NCLEX. On that Wednesday, I completed my Peds module which allowed me to meet with my school so they could pay for my NCLEX. The very next day I got my authorization to test and I scheduled my NCLEX date.
I planned to not share my date with others because I didn’t want to add more pressure on myself. So I quietly continued on with my NCLEX preparation. By that Friday, July 6, I finished all the VATI modules. During this time, I had started UWorld. I opted for the $99 30-day package. I figured I could custom my own 75-question assessments and save myself some money. UWorld has the same interface as NCLEX and provides excellent rationales. In all honesty, taking UWorld made me feel like I needed to go back to nursing school. I was doing THAT hot. LOL. That weekend, I relaxed a little and took a break from ATI because all I had left was getting my Green Light.
That Monday, July 9, I found out that there was another ATI Practice Assessment that I needed to take before taking the Green Light exam. It’s never-ending!!! This put a wrench in my schedule and it threw me off for the week. I took the practice assessment and finished the remediation assignments that very day. Tuesday, I decided to take the Green Light exam which was 180 questions. I put my earplugs in and tried to create a testing environment. However, it was hard since I was home. I kept taking bathroom breaks and it essentially took me 2 hours to finish the whole thing. I personally didn’t feel like I did well, but I still got an NCLEX probability of 95%. Good enough. Remediation took me a day and a half and by Thursday, I received the Green Light to take the NCLEX. It gave me a really good boost of confidence, considering how UWorld was making me feel.
From that point on, I dove deep into UWorld. I had daily goals and started off doing short quizzes from 15-25 questions and built up to 75 questions exams. Although endurance during testing hasn’t really been a problem of mine, it was crucial for me to prepare myself for taking the whole 265-question NCLEX. I was doing terrible on UWorld, starting in the 89th percentile and dropping quickly to the 72nd percentile. I think a lot of it was due to how used I was to the ATI style of testing and I wasn’t reading questions as thoroughly as I should have. It wasn’t until the following Monday when things just started clicking. I completed all of UWorld two days before my NCLEX date – right on schedule. I finished in the 86th percentile, which for me was great considering the big ditch I had previously put myself in.
The eve of my NCLEX. I drove over to the testing center just to anticipate the drive and what was around the area. When I got home, I chose to not do any questions. I did, however, skim through my notebook of random topics. Other than that, I just lounged at home all day. My anxiety this time around was much higher than when I took my nursing school exit exam. Mostly because then I was with my peers and I spent a longer time cutting down on caffeine, eating better, and hiking. For NCLEX, I tried doing the same, but the only consistent thing working for me was my hikes.
The Day of NCLEX
It was now Tuesday, July 24, 2018. This time around, there was no certain calm upon awakening. I had a very interrupted sleep and woke up at 5:30 AM. I had to be at Pearson Vue by 7:30 AM with the exam starting at 8:00 AM. My mom took the day off so she could drive me there, because I knew there was a high possibility I’d be a wreck going in and out. We left around 6:30 AM because I planned on just getting my coffee and breakfast at Starbucks which was just across the street. As I ate my breakfast, I tried desperately to calm my nerves and relax even the slightest. But it was a hard. My heavy sighs were not doing me much.
I had a hard time actually finding Pearson Vue. The email wasn’t helpful and I had to go to security to get some assistance. When I got to the testing center, there were quite a bit of people already settled in or lined up. I got in line with my Driver’s License in-hand to check-in. They gave me a number and a locker for my belongings. I had left my cellphone with my mom because they had said in the email to bring no electronics. Turns out you could and they would just seal them in a mailer bag.
I awaited them to call my number and it kind of helped a bit calming me down during that time. When I was called, they took my palm print and photo and I sat down again. Now, I could feel the anxiety in the air. I didn’t realize that not everyone in the room was taking the NCLEX. So it brought light to the different anxiety levels in the room.
Eventually they started calling us in, 2-4 at a time for a security check. When I finally checked in at around 8:30 AM, they gave me my dry erase board and my marker and showed me to my little cubicle. They had earplugs and noise-cancelling headphone for me to use, which I thought was great.
I took a few deep breaths in and out and started my test. I tried my hardest to set myself up for taking the whole NCLEX, all 265 questions, because I didn’t want it to affect me if I didn’t get just 75 questions. As I was taking it, I definitely felt the questions were harder than I had anticipated. I had gotten a variety of questions from all nursing topics – Funds, Med-Surg, OB, Peds, Mental Health, Pharm, and even Leadership. I received an abundant amount of Select All That Apply questions and a handful of Drag-and-Drops, with no med math or hot spots. I finished the whole thing in about 2 hours, including the pre- and post-questions. I won’t lie, when I was through I wasn’t feeling so hot about how I did. My mom and dad spent the remainder of the day distracting me, as I would not be getting results anytime soon.
That evening was still hard for me to sleep. I was still waking up every hour, checking Breeze, even if I knew inside it wouldn’t be there yet.
After the NCLEX
The day after the NCLEX, I tried desperately to distract myself even more, as I was home all day. I worked on my planner and watched four movies on Netflix and Hulu. I opted not to do the Pearson Vue Trick. Although I know the success with that has been good, I wanted to be absolutely sure what my results were and not stress myself over false negatives. I tried to take naps to catch up on lost sleep and help the time go by, but wasn’t fruitful at all. When the evening finally came, it was another night of waking up every hour to check Breeze. But still nothing.
When 7:00 AM came the next day, about 44 hours after I finished my exam, I checked Breeze and nothing. It was upsetting because I knew that was approximately the time all my other friends who had taken it in the last couple of weeks had found out they’d pass. So every 5 minutes I was checking my Breeze account and searching for my license. Nothing still. My application was still “Pending”, which was a good sign, but still no license. My only comfort during this time was that I knew a couple of my friends had taken it the same day as I did, but at a different testing center. They also had nothing. Whew, not just me.
This day it was much harder to distract myself. I literally spent the whole day in bed reading message boards about people’s post-NCLEX experiences, while still trying hard to convince myself that there was a delay with those who had taken their test that past Tuesday. It was absolutely nerve-wracking. I don’t think in my entire life I have ever felt anxious, defeated, and hopeful all rolled into one. I mentally analyzed my nursing school journey and how I prepared for the NCLEX. What could I have done differently to help me feel better coming out of the NCLEX? But the answer to it really was nothing. I couldn’t have done anything differently because all throughout nursing school, I worked incredibly hard to be successful. Then with the NCLEX preparation I had scheduled myself with goals that needed to be completed each day and stuck to it.
The whole day went by and about 60 hours had passed. I wasn’t feeling any better about the waiting game, but still had to try and force myself to sleep. I shut the lights off at 10:00 PM and attempted to sleep. I woke up at about 12:15 AM and logged into my Breeze account, and lo and behold no more “Pending” and I HAD A LICENSE NUMBER! 62 hours and I finally got something! When searched myself on Breeze, it still wasn’t showing. I tried entering my new license number, still nothing. I literally spent the next 30 minutes doing so. While searching for my two friends, who’s licenses had now popped up on Breeze. At about 12:45 AM, my Breeze finally showed up. What a feeling. I woke my parents up and my dad had the best response. “Congrats, but I knew you passed anyway.”
My parents spent this whole time not asking me whether I had my results in yet. My mom said I looked like someone had kicked my cat and they didn’t want to upset me any more even though they were both positive I had passed. Nice that someone was positive, because I wasn’t feeling so great about how I did. Especially as time had went on.
I immediately made my announcement on my social media platforms and texted one of my professors who served as my mentor, therapist, and confidant while in nursing school. I could not have gotten through this whole program without her, my friends, and family. That’s for damn sure.
My NCLEX journey has finally come to end. I am so ecstatic to finally put that RN, BSN at the end of my name. It feels absolutely great. To those out there who are preparing to take the NCLEX or are anxiously waiting for their results, I hope that this somehow helps you. I found comfort in reading people’s posts on message boards because it made me realize I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I did. I had to trust in all I did leading up to this exam and took some comfort in the 94% pass rate of all the campuses of my school and the even higher pass rate of my campus alone.
Now that it’s over, I feel a lot of people can say that it was easy. Well, yeah because it’s over. But none of this was easy. And I think that feeling is expected and normal. So don’t feel so low for feeling that way.
Thanks for getting this far. I know this was a lot to read.
Good luck to you all.
Till next time.