Musical selection: Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Johann Sebastian Bach, BWV 565, courtesy of Classical MIDI Archives, © 1999 Pierre R. Schwob


There are certain dates that have forever changed the course of history: July 4, 1776 (the signing of the Declaration of Independence); July 14, 1789 (Bastille Day, the start of the French Revolution); December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor); November 22, 1963 (the assassination of JFK). Not to mention, of course, September 11, 2001. And then there's the date you took your NCLEX.

This page is for those of you who have survived the NCLEX, nursing's answer to the gunfight at the OK corral. What words of wisdom can you impart to us still uninitiated, those of us who have yet to undergo our baptism of fire? What test taking strategies worked for you, which review books or courses do you recommend? What thoughts were racing through your mind as you stared at the questions on the computer screen?

We inquiring minds want to know!


Well, faithful readers, now that Iíve been initiated into the mysteries of the NCLEX, I thought you might like to know what youíre in for.

I graduated at the top of my class with a 99.7 average. I answered every question in two review books (Mosby and Lippincott) and got most of them right. I used the software that came with the Lippincott book and got most of those right. I took the sample test that Arnett gave us at school and scored practically off the top. But most of all, my fortune cookie said ďYou will pass a difficult test that will make you happier.Ē With all that backing me up, I figured, how could I possibly fail?

My test appointment was Tues. 2/16/99 at 2:30 pm at the Sylvan Learning Center in Toms River, but I was told to arrive at 2:00 pm. I presented them with 2 forms of ID, one with my picture and both with signatures, and my admission form. They took my photo, thumbprinted me, and made me sign my name (Iím going for my nursing license, not a job with the CIA). They explained the procedures to me but my mind was a million miles away. I vaguely remember the guy saying that I could take a break any time - all I had to do was bring my IDs and sign out and back in. Thereís a mandatory 10-minute break after 2 hrs. They had vending machines and bathrooms down the hall. You canít bring any personal stuff with you into the testing room - they provide lockers and a coat rack. The staff members were very nice and patient.

Then they ushered me into a small, brightly lit room with about 20 stalls against two walls, each one equipped with a computer, pencils, scratch paper, a reading lamp, and a box of tissues. The only noise in the room was the clicking of space bars and enter keys. The computer had a brief, easy tutorial on how to answer the questions and a few sample questions. Then before I knew it, the REAL questions had begun.

Friends, let me tell you that no amount of preparation or study could have prepared me for some of the questions I faced on that test. The questions in the study guides are pretty straightforward (ďYour patient receives Lasix. What should he eat?Ē Well, of course, ďbananasĒ is always among the answers.) But some of these questions were WAY the hell outta left field! I donít recall learning some of this stuff in school. They must have been written by the same people who write the tax instruction booklets. All of the answers seemed to be wrong! Your job is to pick the answer thatís the LEAST wrong! What a fitting metaphor for life itself!


Q. Your patient is a 71-yr old male being treated for CVA. He presents with right-sided hemiplegia, dysphagia, aphasia, and hemianopia. Which of these factors contributes MOST to his diagnosis?

1. The patient is a retired accountant.
2. The patient is a left-handed tuba player.
3. The patient wears a size 10 Ĺ shoe.
4. The patient is a Yankees fan.

The computer shut off after 85 questions, the minimum for the LPN test, so I figured either I did really great or really awful. Then it asked me some general questions, such as did I get the center I wanted (yes), was the staff courteous (yes), how was the lighting (too bright), did I find the place OK (yes), yada yada yada. It took me about 45 minutes.

If thereís any advice I can impart to those of you getting ready to take the NCLEX, itís this: Donít sweat it. You can only prepare so much for it. Get a good nightís sleep the night before -- donít stay up all night cramming or worrying. It just isnít worth it. And most important of all, make sure you enter the testing room with a full stomach and an empty bladder. Remember, you can do it.

Oh, and one more thing: It pays to believe in fortune cookies!

Really CREEPY graphics courtesy of