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Avoid These 6 NCLEX Question Traps [Podcast]

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Total Listening Time - 12 |

Sadly, much of your “success” in nursing school comes down to how well you can take the tests.  In this podcast episode I discuss 6 common NCLEX question traps.  These traps are enticing answer options that almost force you to select them!

In this episode I also discuss our Test Taking Webinar which goes over 11 different nursing school test taking strategies.  You can sign up for that free webinar here.

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Podcast Transcription

Good morning, I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving, I hope your relaxing and hopefully finding some peace as you prepare for the end of semester, the end if the year, and everything that is involved with that, with your finals, maybe moving back home, ending college. Whatever it is you’re preparing for, possibly preparing for the NCLEX, I hope everything’s going smoothly with that, or as smoothly as it can at least. My name is Jon Haws, RN, CCRN, and I’m the founder and lead teacher here at nrsng.com. Today we have a really exciting podcast, we’re going to be talking about test taking, more specifically we’re going to cover quickly six question traps that can trap you as you’re taking nursing exams and the NCLEX.

These question traps come from a larger webinar that we offer at nrsng.com/testtaking. It’s about an hour long webinar where we talk through 11 tips and tricks for performing better on nursing exams. Thousands and thousands of nursing students have taken that, and I invite you to go take it over at nrsng.com/testtaking. It’s a free webinar, you don’t have to pay anything to watch it, but it’s going to help you greatly, it’s nrsng.com/testtaking.

Before we get rolling into these tips, really quick I also wanted to mention, today is Monday November 27th, or cyber Monday as they say, today is also the last that we’re having two black Friday, cyber Monday sales, so both of these sales end today. We’re offering a sale on NRSNG Academy, and we’re also offering a sale on some of tools, like script sheets and things. If you go to nrsng.com/turkey17, you can get access to our sale on NRSNG Academy, that’s nrsng.com/turkey17. If you go to nrsng.com/blackfriday17,

nrsng.com/blackfriday17, we have five sales or so going on for different tools that we offer, so script sheets, clipboards, things like that. So, those two websites, nrsng.com/turkey17 for a deal on NRSNG Academy, and nrsng.com/blackfriday17 for deals on some of our tools and things.

Alright, now that we’ve gotten through that, let’s get into these six question traps that can get you and that can trick you and trap you into selecting the wrong answer on a nursing exam. So one of my favorite places to travel is the Pacific North West, I had always wanted to travel there and I wasn’t able to do so util a couple of years ago. Up along the Oregon coast, and the Washington coast, it’s just a beautiful, beautiful place. My family’s been up there a couple of times since and we just truly love being there. We love the ambience, and the nature, and the ocean, and the mountains, and the dramatic scenery that’s up there.
One thing that happens up there a lot is obviously crab fishing, and maybe you’ve seen some of these Discovery Channel or History Channel shows on crab fishing, but the way you catch a crab is you have something called a crab pot. Now, if you’ve never seen one of these it’s basically a metal circle with mesh covering it with a couple of large openings, and on those large openings there’s a little wire that can go up to let the crab crawl in, but then the crab can’t crawl back out, okay? So, what happens is they put some bait in there and they drop these crab pots down in the ocean. Now, the crab gets all excited, they walk up to the pot and they walk right into the pot, they actually walk right into it to get the bait because it looks so harmless, but then they’re unable to get out, they’re trapped. They have just basically walked into their own demise. This is how crab pots work, they’re these beautiful traps, they look great, they have bait inside, it’s easy to get in, it’ impossible to get out.

Now, this is how it works also with the NCLEX, and with nursing exams. There’s six question traps that you’re going to see as you take nursing exams. These are going to be answer options and questions that look so enticing and you want to select them, but they’re truly just a trap. They’re just like these crab pots, they look enticing, and you can walk right into it without even noticing it. So let’s talk about what these six traps are and how you can avoid them.

The first question trap you’re going to encounter is no assessment. If you’re reading a question, and then you go to select an answer option, if there is no assessment in the stem, you need to assess, but it has to make sense. So the first part of a question part of an NCLEX question of a nursing exam is called the stem. If there is no assessment that has been completed in that stem, don’t jump forward to another part of the nursing process. Assess, diagnose, plan, implement, evaluate. If now assessment has been completed, don’t jump forward to planning, don’t jump forward to implementing, don’t jump forward to evaluation. You need to do an assessment. So in your stem, if no assessment’s been completed, and then in your question options one of your options is, “You should check the blood sugar,” or “You should tell a doctor,” or whatever. If no assessment’s been completed, you need to go and complete that assessment.
Another one that goes along right with this is an incomplete assessment. So this basically means that validation is required. Let’s say that the question is that you walk into a room of a patient who’s diabetic and they’re shaky, what’s the first thing you should do? Should you give them 15 of glucose and try to raise their blood sugar? That’s going to be one option. Or, should you go and assess their blood sugar? The incomplete assessment is that you walked in there and you saw them shaking, you visibly saw them shaking, now what they’re trying to trick you to do is to jump forward to implementation, but you don’t even know what their blood sugar is yet, they could be shaky for anything. They might be crying, they might be sad, they might be cold, or it could be something more severe. So you have to initially complete the assessment. You don’t actually have a blood sugar to make an implementation or make a plan base don low blood sugar, but you know this patient.

So the question’s going to be worded, diabetic patient, you walk in the room, patient’s shaky. They’re wanting to trap you to jump forward in the nursing process and not complete the assessment. The NCLEX wants to see that you’re a safe nurse. If you go and start administering glucose to these patients, you could elevate their blood sugar, especially of a diabetic patient. So if you take their blood pressure and see that it’s already 220, you will need to do something else. If you check their blood sugar and see that it’s 45, you can start administering the glucose. So make sure the assessment is complete.

The third question trap you’re going to see is incorrect assessment. So, the wrong assessment is put as an option, don’t select these. You have to start assuming things to get here. So you’ll have a question, and then the wrong assessment is an option, something that doesn’t make sense for this patient physiologically, something that doesn’t make sense for this patient emotionally. So, you’ll see something about a patient and then the assessment option doesn’t even make sense. So, let’s go back to this diabetic patient. You know, diabetic patient, you walk into the room, patient’s shaky, check the blood pressure first thing. That’s not the correct assessment for a diabetic patient who’s shaky, so don’t select that. Make sure you’re selecting, but then you start forcing yourself to start saying things. “Well maybe the patient has a low blood sugar, they’re diabetic, so maybe they have a low blood sugar and maybe something’s going on so that’s making their blood pressure lower.” No, you have to make sure you’re selecting an assessment that makes sense for the patient physiologically.

The fourth one that you can fall into, the fourth question trap that you can fall into is that first doesn’t always mean assessment, okay? If you see the word first, what should the nurse do first, this doesn’t always mean assessment. Don’t simply pick it because it’s an assessment. So don’t pick an answer option just because it says assess. This doesn’t indicate critical thinking. You must first identify where you are in the nursing process, assess, diagnosis, plan, implement, evaluate, okay? Then you must decide, “Okay, what’s the first thing that I do from the information that I have?” Okay? You don’t simply have to assess because it says first. So if you read a question and it says there’s a nurse in this situation, what should a nurse so first? You must look at where the nurse is, where the patient is, what the safe thing for the patient is at that time, and move from there. You don’t have to pick the assessment option, it has to make sense.
The fifth one goes along with that as well, action does not always mean implementation. So what action should the nurse take? Action does not have to be implement, action can be assess. So, for example, in the example of our diabetic patient, nurse walks into a room of a diabetic patient, the patient is shaking. What action should the nurse take first? Well, the first action the nurse should take is get the glucometer and run a blood sugar. So that doesn’t have to be implement, you’re still assessing. Getting that blood sugar is an assessment, it’s not an implementation, it’s not giving the glucose, okay? So you still must realize that action does not mean that you have to do a nursing intervention. Action can be assessment, action can be calling a doctor, okay? It doesn’t have to be implementing an actual nursing action.

The sixth question trap that you can fall into is that you must determine the outcome of each answer. This is where we really start getting to critical thinking in nursing, because what happens a lot of times is we read a question, we look at the options, and we say, “Boom. Patient’s taken care of, patient’s solved, patient’s going home.” But what you must do when you answer a question is you have to think to yourself, “If I do this option, and go home right now, what will be the outcome for this patient? And is this outcome desired? Is this what I want to have happen with the patient?” Yes, no, or maybe. Weak test takers pick answers based on just reading the question without thinking about the outcome. If this, what happens? This is critical thinking. So, if I do this and just leave, what happens next? You can use this if all options are implementation, or all options are assessment, and then go back to your ABCs.
So, for example, if you see a patient who’s in critical condition and every single answer option is an implementation, you can start to determine which one is the right one by saying, “Okay, if I do A and then go home, what happens? Is that a good out come for the patient? If I do B and go home, what happens? If I do C, if I do D. Am I getting the safe option for my patient?” And then you can start applying your ABCs to get to the right option, okay? “If I do A, does that address an ABC issue for my patient? Is my patient safe on other ABCs?” Airway, breathing, circulation, safety. And then you start working through each of the answer options to arrive at the one that is the correct answer for this patient. Again, this one works best if all answer options are implementation or assessment options, okay? And then you begin to apply your ABCs to this.

You guys, this is just one piece of our 11 step webinar to taking nursing exams. We’re just talking about six question traps. No assessments completed, an incomplete assessment, an incorrect assessment, first does not always mean assessment, action does not always mean implementation, and you must determine the outcome of each answer. By applying these steps, by applying these six steps and thinking about these six question traps, I want you to go back and take some notes, and more than anything I want you to go to nrsng.com.testtaking and watch this full webinar, the complete webinar that’s going to help you greatly in your test taking, I promise.

So, nrsng.com/testtaking, I hope even just the short little eight minute explanation of these six question traps will also help you, but guys, we want you to be successful test takers. Nursing school, unfortunately, is a lot about how well you test, and think that these tips, these tricks are going to help you, but more importantly you need to learn the knowledge in depth and in detail, and that’s what we’re here for at NRSNG, is to give you the tools that you need to learn this material as best you can. So with that said guys, I want you to go out and be your best self today. Happy nursing.

Date Published - Nov 27, 2017
Date Modified - Nov 27, 2017

Jon Haws RN

Written by Jon Haws RN

Jon Haws RN began his nursing career at a Level I Trauma ICU in DFW working as a code team nurse, charge nurse, and preceptor. Frustrated with the nursing education process, Jon started NRSNG in 2014 with a desire to provide tools and confidence to nursing students around the globe. When he's not busting out content for NRSNG, Jon enjoys spending time with his two kids and wife.


  1. Linamaria

    I love the six steps you are suggesting. I find them very helpful. I would love to watch the whole webinar but I can’t seem to find the link. I got directed to a webinar site that is charging over $400.00 and you say in this podcast that is available free. Can you help me? Thank you so much

  2. linda.smiley

    Thank you for the 6 nursing test trap questions podcast.
    It was very informative. Now, I hope to apply to my next exam on Feb. 12, 2018.
    Oh my gosh! I think I have finally figured out how to use NRSNG Academy to help me with my studies.
    Let’s see.