The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses is a competency test designed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The exam measures the essential knowledge and abilities necessary for a nursing candidate to obtain licensure. The nursing candidate benefits by increasing test-taking strategies because knowledge alone does not ensure passing the test. Test-taking strategies prepare you to assess your strengths and reinforce areas that need improvement.

Create Study Session Goals

Take an online practice test to assess your weaknesses and strengths. Outline areas that require improvement and spend less time on areas where you already excel. The test does not merely quiz your ability to get a right answer, but it assesses your ability to understand the best answer with relevance to the question. Create a study plan that breaks down difficult content into bite-sized chunks of information.

Prioritize Your Time

Manage your time by scanning through the test quickly before you begin. This allows you to become familiar with the terms and key concepts in the exam. Work on easy answers first and move on to the tougher questions. This strategy helps you gain confidence and spend more time thinking about questions that are more difficult. Prioritize actions for particular situations based on the hierarchy of needs. Ask yourself if a particular action takes priority over another action. A good example is to ask if a psychological need comes before physiological well-being. Ask yourself which actions are at your disposal and use the nursing process to list actions in specific order.

Find Hidden Meanings

Analyze the parts of the question to find hidden meanings. The scenario details the patient’s issue, and the stem asks the question. There may be multiple seemingly acceptable responses, but there is only one correct response. Beware of extra or incorrect information called distracters. This information does not solve the scenario but may seem like a feasible response. Many distracters are not wrong answers; they simply are not the most appropriate response.

Choose Your Words Wisely

Use safe words on the written portion of the test and for case studies. Avoid terms that are absolute, risky or universal. Examples of absolute words are “Nobody,” “All” and “Always.” These words have no exception, which is not usually correct. Use caution with risky words like “Rarely,” “Eliminate” and “Impossible.” Use words that explain the situation but do not claim that there may not be a change in that situation. Safe words to use include “Frequently,” “Potentially” and “Commonly.”

Use Mnemonic Devices

Look for words or terms that are the same or generally have a similar meaning. Often, the answer contains a word, root or synonym used in the question. Look for keywords in the questions and the answers that help you narrow down multiple-choice answers. Study universal precautions that must be taken regardless of the symptoms or patient diagnosis. This includes steps taken in particular order to prevent secondary infections, drug interactions or cross-contamination. Memorize acronyms such as “ABC,” meaning “Airway, Breathing and Circulation,” to help you recall vital information like the order of operations. The majority of the test focuses on maintaining the safety of the patient. Acronyms allow you to recall information quickly so that you can concentrate on the best answer, which usually involves prioritizing patient safety.