a nervous student

You never really get rid of the nerves before taking a test, and an important exam like the NCLEX is no exception.

It can be just as nerve-wracking taking the NCLEX at 22 as it was taking your spelling quiz at age 5!

Here's some advice if you're taking the NCLEX tomorrow and having a nervous breakdown.

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Here's What You Should Do If You're Anxious About the NCLEX Tomorrow

Reaching out for support, practicing relaxation techniques, and a last-minute review can help you manage your nerves before taking the NCLEX. These techniques will help decrease your anxiety, reduce tension, and also help boost your confidence!

NCLEX Prep Academy

Check out the comprehensive NCLEX prep review that I recommend. Don't bother with other NCLEX preps that over promise and under deliver. Did I mention they have a 99.86% NCLEX pass rate?

Why Are You Getting Nervous?

First off, it's important to understand you have every right to be nervous, and you shouldn't beat yourself up for being anxious before taking the NCLEX. 

The NCLEX is the most important test you'll take during your career as a nursing student.

It's the test that allows you to get your RN or LPN licensure, and it guarantees you'll be able to be hired at your dream hospital or clinic.

It's also the test that about 80-85% of first time test takers pass the first time.

Source: NCSBN

You read that correctly! THE VAST MAJORITY of nursing students will pass the NCLEX RN and the NCLEX PN the first time.

I think that's important to highlight because knowing the passing rate helps your test anxiety by you knowing the NCLEX isn't this test that's designed to fail everybody left and right.

On the contrary, the NCLEX test makers want you to pass. They want nursing students who are knowledgeable and will look after the public's best interest to become a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse.

What does this mean? It means if you went to a good nursing school and got a good NCLEX prep (like this one I recommend), your chances of passing are pretty good.

Last-Minute Tips to Calm Your Nerves

Here are some last-minute practical tips to help you stay calm and stay focused before taking the NCLEX exam.

Learn and Practice Self-Care and Relaxation Techniques

One of the best things you can do before taking the NCLEX is to practice self-care and relaxation techniques before your big test.

Besides helping you be less stressed and doing better on the NCLEX, self-care is important for your overall health.

Fun Fact
A recent study showed U.S. medical students who practice self-care have lower levels of stress and a higher quality of life.

To help you de-stress before you take your NCLEX, here are some great tips:

1. Take a Hot Bath

Use your favorite bath bomb or body wash and relax those tense muscles before your big day.

2. Get Enough Sleep

a nursing student sleeping

Sleep is critical in helping manage your mood and helping you think clearly. Don't trade sleep for studying.

If you're having trouble sleeping due to nervousness, some sleep hygiene you can practice the night before includes:

  • Turning off your phone and computer screens at least one hour before bed.
  • Have a set sleeping schedule and stick to it.
  • Don't get on your phone in bed if you can't sleep. Instead, get up and walk around for a bit before attempting to sleep again.
  • If you're nervous and can't sleep, practice some simple cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques for insomnia, which can be highly effective.

3. Meditate Beforehand

Meditation is a powerful way to de-stress and can take just 15 to 45 minutes to help ease tension. Guided meditations are especially useful.

4. Practice Deep Breathing

meditating nursing student

Deep breathing is one of the most effective and proven ways to reduce stress.

It immediately calms you down by sending a signal to the brain activating the sympathetic part of the nervous system, meaning you can use this the day before and even immediately before your NCLEX to relax. 

Practice belly breathing or the 4-7-8 technique, where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds. 

5. Practice Positive Affirmations.

Positive affirmations is something that can be very beneficial. In short, pick a positive phrase and repeat it to yourself over and over again.

Believe it or not, there's some science behind this. Check out this article on positive nurse affirmations for more information.

nurse coloring sheets 1

Positive Nurse Affirmation Coloring Pages

A great way for a little positive pick me up and for encouragement.

Understand What the NCLEX Focuses On

Of note, the NCLEX focuses on “Meeting Client Needs,” with 4 aspects of nursing on the test including:

  • Safe and effective care environment, which includes safety and infection control and management of care
  • Health promotion and maintenance
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Physiological integrity, which includes care and comfort, reducing potential risks, and pharmacological therapies among others

The NCLEX will also test you on self-care, diagnostic techniques, dosage calculation, nutrition and sleep, and more. Knowing this, it's important not to freak out over the little things.

In essence, the NCLEX is more interested in knowing you can think like a nurse rather than remember every single bone in the human body (although that can help)!

Limit Your Studying and Review

Now that you know the NCLEX tests you on the more critical thinking aspects of nursing rather than asking you knowledge-based questions, you can spend more time focusing on limiting your studying to scenario-based questions.

If you feel you're struggling in certain aspects of nursing, and you have your test tomorrow, here are a couple of tips on how to maximize your studying and relax before the test:

Hand-write Your Notes

If you've been taking notes on your tablet or laptop and are in the process of reviewing for tomorrow's big day, try to write out your notes instead.

New research has shown that students who take handwritten notes as opposed to typing their notes are able to grasp and retain the information better.

If you're stressing about how you'll ever learn that one subject, you can always jot it down quickly on a piece of paper and see if this helps you tomorrow!

NCLEX Prep Academy

Check out the comprehensive NCLEX prep review that I recommend. Don't bother with other NCLEX preps that over promise and under deliver. Did I mention they have a 99.86% NCLEX pass rate?

Look up Youtube Videos

If note-taking isn't for you, you can get a quick review in before test day by looking up certain topics you're struggling with on Youtube.

Most millennials and Gen Z'ers now prefer looking up Youtube videos to help them learn. Research has shown that watching videos can help visual learners grasp a concept more quickly.

Furthermore, one of the benefits of videos is that you can rewind to repeat parts you don't understand or fast-forward through through topics you have a firm grasp on.

YouTube will also show you videos of related topics you might need help with.

Stop Cramming

Reviewing your notes and finding new ways to grasp concepts you've been struggling with can all help boost your confidence and ease your nerves before the NCLEX.

However, it's important to understand the importance of not cramming before the test.

To help you avoid cramming:

  1. Set up a study timeline before the test. Stop studying, for instance, before 6 or 7 p.m. the night before to allow you more time to sleep. 
  2. Study with a friend and encourage each other not to study well into the night.
  3. Realize that cramming does not work. Cramming might help you recognize and remember some obscure terms, but it will not help you fully internalize the information you need to pass the NCLEX. It will, however, add more stress and prevent you from performing your best on the NCLEX.
  4. Instead of cramming, review what you know. Study scenario-based nursing questions, and understand if you don't know it by now, you probably won't know it by tomorrow. All you can do is practice positive affirmations and know you're doing everything you can to prepare for tomorrow.

You're Chances of Passing Are Really Good

It's important to know that most students will pass the NCLEX on the first attempt.

This isn't just a coincidence either. Many schools are rated and given funding based on the pass rate of their students.

Chances are if you're attending an accredited nursing program, they've prepared you for the NCLEX, and you're more ready than you think you are!

REMEMBER!
You've gotten this far and passed all your other nursing exams. Even if you don't pass, you can always retake the NCLEX 45 days afterward and up to 8 times a year!

Accept Yourself

The NCLEX is an important test, but you don't have to spend the night before being a total nervous wreck!

Instead, take some time to review effectively (ideally ahead of time), practice self-care, and most importantly, relax!

Once you've passed your test (and you will), visit my job board to find your first nursing job! 

Find Your Next Nursing Job

Use our nursing job board to start looking for and applying to great nursing jobs near you.

Have You Read These Yet?

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Get plenty of rest the night before the NCLEX.
  2. Eat healthy and avoid too much caffeine the morning of the exam.
  3. Learn the general prinicples of being a good test taker, such as take each NCLEX question one at a time and if you don't know it don't dwell on it just move on.
  4. Get a good study routine going and stick to it.