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How to Study for the NCLEX when you have no time to study

Updated on December 6, 2012

Where do you/did you do your best studying for the NCLEX?

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Where has the time gone?

If you are single with no rings, strings, or offsprings…have no job…are independently wealthy and have no responsibilities…then this article is not written for you. I envy people like that sometimes, but this article is not for you.

This article is for those students who are getting ready to take the NCLEX who have a spouse, significant other (or significant “others”, whatever floats your boat!), a job (or two or three), a child, children, or an adult parent to look after, a rent/mortgage to pay, and reallllllllly need to pass the NCLEX but you don’t have time to study.

As a nursing instructor and someone who has usually had two jobs at one time, a stay-at-home spouse and two young children and a few goldfish, I can tell you that going to school, studying for the NCLEX, working, being a parent and a significant other can be really challenging at times. This is especially true if you have small children running around at home.

When I decided to write about this topic, the first thing that came to my mind was the scene from the movie, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” starring Will Smith. In that movie, the main character had other responsibilities in his life (including picking up his young son from school) and had to leave earlier than all of the other people who were competing for the same job that he was competing for. How did he do well on the exam to qualify for the job above all of the other candidates? He emphasized quality over quantity. Granted, one of the ways that he saved time to maximize his studying and effectiveness was to forego drinking water so that he would go to the bathroom less. While I certainly don’t recommend that, there are some ways to find time throughout the day.

How do you find time to study amidst all the chaos?

Nap time? You can sleep when you are dead!

There are lots of little ways to find time throughout the day. Say that you have the day off from work and have to watch your child (or someone else’s). Perhaps the baby takes a nap for twenty minutes. Do you take a nap, too? You probably want to, dare I say you probably think you need to. However, you can utilize this twenty minutes to go over some of the most important concepts for the NCLEX. You may be able to do 5, 6, or 7 questions from your favorite nursing book and look at rationales. You might be able to go over some drug cards. You might be able to look at some summaries or charts.

The Bathroom?!?!

As stated previously, I don’t recommend that you give up going to the bathroom. In fact, I advise you to make use of the “throne.” When I was studying for the NCLEX (as well as my other college exams) I would sit on the toilet and study. Why? Because nobody would bother me in the bathroom. I lived with my spouse and two young children in a two bedroom apartment. I would take my book in the bathroom and study. I could crank out about twenty questions in about 30 minutes (including going over rationales). Make sure you wash your hands and wipe down your book when you are done. It works.

At the post office or the DMV

I would carry a book, a chart, or a set of flashcards with me…EVERYWHERE. When I was in line at the post office, I would go through my flashcards. When I had to take a plane trip once, I went through a few hundred practice questions on the plane. When I was waiting forever at the DMV because I didn’t make an appointment, I reviewed my charts and labs. There was always a few times throughout the day to study.

In bed...

Many people, including many people with a lot of professional letters behind their names, suggest only using your bed for sleeping and sex. While sleeping and sex are very important, I usually lay in my bed for about fifteen or twenty minutes before falling asleep. I used a flashlight (you can buy a book light, but I was/am too cheap) to read while getting ready to fall asleep. Researchers have said that the best times to study are right before bed and when you get up in the morning, so this worked perfectly for me.

In the car?

Flashcards while driving? Of course not! I am talking about audio recordings. I purchased an NCLEX review on audio CD and listened to it over and over and over again while I drove (my commute was 1.5 hours to work and 1.5 to 2 hours home, depending on the night). Working five days per week let me get in at least 5 hours of “study” time while I was commuting. Before the NCLEX, I would actually mouth along with the speaker on the CD because I knew the material so well. I was glad when the NCLEX was over and I could listen to my favorite radio stations again.

No time like the present!

When it comes down to it, you have choices. You can make excuses as to why you don’t have time, or you can make the time. Good nursing students and good nurses always try to find a way to make things happen for their education or for their patients. So if your schedule stinks, take your lemons and make lemonade. Where there is a will, there is a way, time and place to study. Good luck!


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    • NicktheNurse profile image

      NicktheNurse 5 years ago from Huntington Beach, CA

      Thanks Jagged81! Most people think they fail when they take it, but actually pass it in the end. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • jagged81 profile image

      Levi 5 years ago from New Mexico

      80 questions for me too and it was nerve racking the night before, great advice.

    • NicktheNurse profile image

      NicktheNurse 5 years ago from Huntington Beach, CA

      Jake---of course. Anytime. :)

    • profile image

      Jake 5 years ago

      Very helpful. I passed the nclex the first try with only around 80 questions. Thanks nickthenurse :)