About NCLEX (aka, any one who is not going to be an RN, the rest of this post is boring), for those who will be taking it in the future, because I know this is a source of great stress and everyone wants to hear everyone's take on the exam. One can never have too many opinions regarding that blasted test, or so it seems. Anyway, I studied for 6 days. Yes, 6- where I actually paid attention to what I was reading and thinking through the questions and answers, not just guessing to get the answer. I'm thinking it's probably pretty obvious to anyone who knows what I went through for the past year that I work best under pressure. Sure, I'm a totally stressed out spaz ball, but I perform very well. I probably studied 9-11 hours each day, doing as many practice questions as I could, which ended up being around 3000 total.
I don't know what other nursing programs use, but my program required us to do various ATI exams throughout the program. I hate ATI. HATE IT. I took a 3 day ATI prep course the week between finishing school and graduation. Again, I HATE ATI. Because of this profound hatred, I had no desire to do anything with ATI in regards to studying. I did one comprehensive exam of 150 questions during my 6 days of studying, but that was it.
The resources I used are as follows: Saunders NCLEX RN Review, 5th edition. This book is amazing. It basically breaks down every system of the body, both adult and pediatric, and gives you info on what you really need to know. Then there are practice quizzes at the end of each section. Furthermore, the book comes with a CD that has 4300+ practice questions, which you can do in quiz mode (10 questions at a time), or study mode (receive rationales immediately). This is pretty much the main resource I used.
I also (briefly) used the 2011-2012 Kaplan NCLEX RN Review. The first 100 pages are tips about how to approach NCLEX and the style of questions asked. These tips were invaluable. I cannot stress how important knowing how to read and answer an NCLEX style question is. This text also has a CD of 150 questions (maybe more, maybe less... I can't remember exactly) that are formated exactly like the NCLEX exam is (meaning the screen for the questions on the CD is comparable to the screen of NCLEX), which was nice.
The other thing that saved my tail was stumbling upon an allnurses.com board that had infection control precautions mnemonics listed. I never learned these mnemonics in school and I am SO glad I found them the morning of the exam because I'm 95% sure without them, I would have failed. Let's just say that apparently knowing what illnesses require what kinds of isolation is very important in the nursing world. Just google "infection control mnemonics" and links to several posts on that message board should come up.
Now, obviously my method of studying is not right for everyone. I didn't eat much the week prior and sleeping was also a bit of a struggle. I also think I burned myself out on doing so many questions in such a short amount of time and I'm not entirely sure I could do it again if I had to, but I just knew I wouldn't take it seriously had I spent the entire month post-grad and pre-exam studying. I needed the pressure to make me crack down. For the actual exam, I ended up having 150 something questions (minimum is 75, max is 265) and it took me 3 hours (max time is 6 hours). I was praying for it to stop. I was so ADD by that point and sick and tired of answering questions, but at the same time I knew every new question meant I was still in the game, so I made sure to read carefully and think logically. When it shut off, I immediately felt a sigh of relief, like "It's over! I know I passed!" Yea, that feeling lasted all of 5 minutes.
Indiana has been posting results very quickly. All of my friends found out within 30 minutes-2 hours of testing. I found out 16 hours after I finished... likely because I finished at 430 and the office responsible for licensing closes at 5. It was hell waiting, but my point is, if other states are as efficient as IN is, don't pay the fee to have your results expedited and don't believe it when they tell you your results won't be posted for a minimum of 48 hours (although the time of year that I took my exam may have something to do with it, since I'm assuming most May grads have already taken it). Lastly, because I knew that I wouldn't sleep well until I had some inkling of an idea of how I did, there is a trick on the Pearson Vue website that you can try after you finish the exam. If you log in and try to register to take NCLEX and a pop up comes up that says something like, "Our records indicate... contact... you cannot register at this time," it likely means that you passed. If it processes your request and takes you to the credit card page, you may have failed (but I know of someone who this happened to and she passed).
So to all of you taking NCLEX in the future, my best advice is to do practice questions and have a clear understanding of how to approach NCLEX style questions. Knowing specifics about a million different diseases really is not necessary. I'm a terrible test taker; always have been, always will be. If I can pass on the first try, trust me, any one can, as long as you put in the effort. And then you get to add RN to the end of your name and do a little happy dance every time you see it because you know that you NEVER have to take NCLEX again!
Hope this helps at least one person out there :)
Marianne Fancypants, RN