Test Preparation

Test preparation is important if you are to do well on exams that you may need to get accepted into college. Many nursing schools look at test scores as part of your prerequisites and might have minimum levels expected for admission. If you want to be accepted at the nursing school of your choice, you can help your chances by doing well on entrance tests. You will also need to study and prepare for other tests you will need to become a nurse, such as the NCLEX licensing exam.

You can prepare for necessary exams by finding out early what tests you will need to take. This may be while you are still in high school, as some tests are needed for scholarships or admission to college to take courses. Other tests, such as those for graduate school or for licensure, you may already know about well in advance. Checking early to learn about required tests is an early form of preparation to take exams. Do not wait until you have a testing date assigned to begin studying. Your best test preparation comes by planning ahead.

Find a study guide that is specific for your test.


You may purchase study guides online from textbook websites or at college bookstores. A study guide that is specific for your test may provide statistics and helpful tips for how to do your best. Study guides typically have sample questions through which you can practice answering those that are very similar to the questions on your test.

Finding others who are also taking the test may be a resource to practice test questions and review information that may be unclear. Some high schools or community colleges also offer short courses that you can take without credit about how best to prepare for your specific exam. Study often and review the material more than once, as you may have a better chance of remembering the information.

When your testing time arrives, try to relax and do your best. Remember that schools look for many qualities in a potential nursing candidate and that test scores are not always the deciding factor. Even if your test results are less than what you hoped for, if you prepared thoroughly and studied hard, you can appreciate the fact that you still have worked hard to do your best.

Practice Tests

Taking an exam for acceptance into nursing school can be a nerve-wracking experience. You may fear that your admission is based on how well you do on these tests, and in some ways you would be right. Your score on entrance exams may be a part of the admission process, in addition to various other factors. If you study and prepare for your exams, though, you may find that the tests are not as difficult as you once thought. You can find help for studying by utilizing study guides for college entrance tests.

Study guides and practice tests have been developed as methods of helping students to prepare for major tests for entering college or graduate school or for other important events such as licensure. The creators of practice tests recognize that these types of college exams are important and that potential students may be under pressure to do well. They provide an overview of the material found on the test in the form of books or other media and supply practice questions similar to those found on the actual test.

When you know what tests you will be taking, you can find a study guide with a practice test to help you prepare. Choose study guides that are specific for your test. Different exams have variety in what subjects are being tested, question format, and delivery system, so you will want to be familiar with what is needed for your particular situation. You may want to avoid general practice tests, which can provide information about common test concepts that may or may not be on your selected exam.

A practice test that is specific for your exam will provide you with information about questions that will most likely be on the test. The practice questions will be similar to what kinds of subjects you might see when you take the test. By studying through practice tests, you will be better prepared on the day of your exam because you will have already seen many of the same types of questions by using a study guide.

You can find practice tests in many study guides that are found in college bookstores or through purchase online. You may also find websites devoted to studying for your particular exam that offer practice tests, some of which may be free. When studying, use materials that are professional and are offered from an accredited organization. While some practice tests can be found online, determine if what is offered is in line with the information you have been studying. Avoid basing all of your test preparation on a few online practice tests; these can be very helpful for practice, but unless you are working with an accredited program that delivers the questions, you may have a better outcome by purchasing a study guide and working through it.

Some nursing schools offer courses and practice tests that prepare students for upcoming exams. For example, a review class for the NCLEX may be part of the program before graduation, which involves reviewing the information or even taking practice tests to score how much you have learned from the course. Some community colleges may also offer short courses to the public for anyone who is preparing for college entrance exams or admission into graduate school. Not only can these classes help by providing information and test practice questions, but you may also get other tips and advice for how to do your best on the day of the exam.

Studying for admission into nursing school is similar to preparing for other tests you may have taken. Reviewing the information is essential to keep it at the forefront of your mind, so that on the day of the test, you can easily retrieve it. Practice tests are a helpful way to experience some of the material that you may see when you take the exam. By combining subject review with practice tests, you make a big effort to do well when you take your test.

Studying Tips

Studying for an exam that may affect your admission to nursing school will take time and preparation. While you should consider giving plenty of time for studying, there are some tips and resources to think about to make studying for these tests more efficient, which can better prepare you for the big day.

Once you find out what tests you will need, pick up a guide book or enroll in a class that covers the materials that will be on the exam. Start early, and give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the test. When you leave room for studying, you can commit more information to memory where it can be easily retrieved on the day of the test, rather than cramming information a few days before.

Organize your information for your study guide, practice tests, and textbooks you want to review in an area separate from your other projects and homework materials. Set aside an amount of time that works for your schedule, such as each day or every other day, to specifically sit down and review your materials.

Practice reading over the information in the study guides, your notes, and your textbooks. If you have time, read through the information once thoroughly, then return to the information at a later time and skim the material. Skimming the contents means reading the central ideas for each paragraph, as well as any highlighted sections and lists. Review the photographs and illustrations and read any documented data, such as tables and graphs. As you read, try to put the information into terms that you can remember, such as by applying it to realistic situations, if possible. At the end of each chapter, read the summary, if available, then return to the beginning of the chapter and review the course objectives to determine if you can meet the requirements for understanding the material.

If you know that your exam will include an essay, practicing your reasoning and writing skills may be part of your study time. As you study, consider some important concepts from the material that may pose as an essay question on the exam. If your study guide offers sample essay questions, practice answering without using your notes and time yourself, as if you were sitting in the exam. Practice writing a strong opening sentence, followed by supporting your argument and end the essay by summarizing your main points.

The math portions of exams require a different method of studying from essays or reading comprehension tests. To prepare for math problems within your test, you must know the material through memorization, because math questions are usually not conceptual; you either know how to do the problem or you do not. Find out if your test allows use of a calculator and if so, what limitations. Some tests allow calculators but prohibit those that configure scientific equations or have graphing capabilities. Find a study guide that has practice questions in the math areas that you need to know and take as many practice questions as you can until you fully understand the equations and formulas.

If necessary, enlist the help of a tutor for some subjects that you know you may be struggling with. A tutor is trained to help others understand a topic he or she knows very well and can not only teach you the material, but can give you advice for how to recall the information in a testing situation.

Many nursing schools expect not only a minimum score on some college entrance exams, but also provide help for taking the NCLEX following graduation from the program. Utilize the study guide for the class if available and meet with other students who are also taking the test to review pertinent information. While studying, try to apply the concepts to situations that you worked in while practicing as a nursing student. For example, you may remember a specific medication because of the effects it achieved for a patient that you gave it to. Take confidence in the fact that you have understood the information in your nursing classes and have passed your other tests thus far.

By practicing in advance, you can better prepare for what tests you need and avoid cramming information the night before. Rather than spending your last few minutes studying and trying to remember everything, you can focus on caring for yourself by getting plenty of rest and eating well before the test so you will do your best. By spending time studying and utilizing tips, you can feel assured that you have prepared as well as possible for your important test.

Test Anxiety

Having anxiety about nursing tests is a normal part of taking the exams. After all, the scores you will receive can have a big impact on your admission to some nursing schools as well as your potential to work as a nurse. Being nervous about the test shows that it is important to you.

Test anxiety can affect your concentration and ability to focus on the task at hand. You may feel as if you cannot remember a sentence that you just read or feel unable to apply a concept that you once knew without difficulty. Some people have an upset stomach or have an increase in heart rate which leads to faster breathing. You may also sweat more or have the sensation of feeling faint. All of these experiences are normal before a test because your body is responding to a perceived threat; in this situation, the test is looming before you and you are afraid of not doing well. This stress response is your body’s way of preparing for a potential fight, but the more that you focus on these negative sensations, the worse they can get. Unfortunately, anxiety can worsen into a cycle that can become paralyzing, preventing you from achieving your goals.

One of the best ways to reduce test anxiety is to study for the exam well ahead of time and familiarize yourself with the material. Anxiety may become more pronounced if you know you want to do well on a test but you are aware that you could have studied more. If you know that you have spent time reading, taking practice tests, and reviewing the necessary materials, you can have more confidence in your abilities.

Learn some self-calming skills that can help you to focus and complete the necessary work. Some people take deep breaths that are calming, while others visualize a tranquil setting to soothe anxious nerves in the moment. Before taking the exam, take care of yourself by eating well and exercising regularly in addition to studying. Eating nutritious foods and practicing a healthy lifestyle can sharpen your concentration skills.

If you feel confident about your study habits and you feel positive that you are prepared for the material, try to take a little time off on the day before the test to give yourself time to rest. Get plenty of sleep the night before the exam, and head to bed early if you feel you might have trouble sleeping. Avoid going to your test on an empty stomach, as this can be distracting and affect your concentration. Eat a good meal before the test and try to stay away from excess caffeine, sugary foods, and strong or spicy meals.

During the test, read each question carefully before answering to fully understand what it means. Stay aware of how much time you are allotted for each section and try to plan for how long you will need to complete the information. If you can skip a question you don’t know the answer to, move on and return to it later. Try not to focus on what other students are doing, even if they start finishing the exam around you. You will have an allotted time to finish, and students that finish early do not necessarily have all of the correct answers.

Following the test, you may not find out your score right away and you might have to enter a waiting period. Recognize that once the test is complete, you cannot change how well you did, so try to accept the waiting period until you receive your results. By spending time studying and managing your feelings of concern over the test, you can perform well on your exams and head in the right direction toward nursing school.

Licensing and Certification

Once you have completed nursing school, with its clinical practice, lectures, and tests, you are ready to graduate and move on to working as a nurse. Before you can begin working at your first job, you must go through testing and registration to become licensed to work. The type of license you obtain will depend on what type of nursing program you have completed.

Before getting a license, you must first pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for your particular degree. The NCLEX is offered for both registered nurses and licensed practical nurses. You must apply to take the exam with your state board of nursing to receive approval to register for the test. When you pass the test, you will be a licensed nurse to work in the state in which you registered.

Each state is responsible for licensure of nurses, and you can become licensed to practice nursing in the state where you live. If you know that you will be taking a job in another state, you will need to apply for a license specific to the state in which you will be working, in some circumstances. Some states, known as compact states, will accept your nursing license from a different state as long as it is also from a compact state. This is known as the Multi-State Nurse Licensure Compact. If you have a nursing license from a state that is not part of the compact, you may have to show your employer that you are in the process of obtaining adequate licensure in the state where you will work.

The level of nursing program you have completed determines what level of certification you have achieved. The level of certification that you have completed shows on your license, is required for your job, and is written as specific letters following your signature. If you have completed a program to become a licensed practical nurse and have passed the NCLEX for this level, your certification is an LPN. Nursing schools that train students in an associate’s degree or diploma program certify students to become RNs. If you earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing, your certification would be as an RN and a BSN.

Advanced practice nurses have higher levels of certification on their licenses. Once you become a registered nurse, you have that credential as long as you maintain a license, even if you achieve advanced certification. For example, if you attend graduate school and achieve a master’s degree in nursing, your credentials would read as RN and MSN. If you studied in a specialized graduate nursing program to become a Certified Nurse Midwife, your credentials would be that of an RN and a CNM.

State licensure allows you to work as a nurse, and you may be able to start working at many different kinds of jobs that involve nursing care. Some areas of nursing also require other forms of certification, depending on the type of health care setting and the work involved.

Some specialty areas within a health care facility also require advanced certification in order for the nurses who work in the facility to maintain current practice standards. For example, nurses who work in the emergency room may need extra qualifications as a Certified Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), and those who work with kidney patients may need to become a Certified Hemodialysis Nurse (CHN). There are hundreds of different types of advanced certification, depending on the specialty you choose. You may also become certified in several specialties at once, depending on the area in which you work.

Keep in mind that specialty certifications require maintenance, which means you periodically have to renew your certification. This may mean taking a test, maintaining continuing educational credits, and paying associated fees to keep up. Advanced certification also may mean your pay is increased and you might make more money than a nurse without extra training. Additionally, if you choose to pursue advanced certification, you will be learning new skills to practice in an area of nursing that may be of great interest to you.