Skip to content

3 Critical Thinking Questions For Nurses

The NCLEX-RN® exam is not a test about recognizing facts. You must be able to correctly identify what the question is asking. Do not focus on background information that is not needed to answer the question. The NCLEX-RN® exam focuses on thinking through a problem or situation.

Now that you are more knowledgeable about the components of a multiple-choice test question, let’s talk about specific strategies that you can use to problem-solve your way to correct answers on the NCLEX-RN® exam.

Are you feeling overwhelmed as you read these words? Don’t be! We are going teach you a step-by-step method to choose the appropriate path. The Kaplan Nursing team has developed a decision tree that shows you how to approach every NCLEX-RN® exam question.

There are some strategies that you must follow on every NCLEX-RN® exam test question. You must always figure out what the question is asking, and you must always eliminate answer choices. Choosing the right answer often involves choosing the best of several answers that have correct information. This may entail your correct analysis and interpretation of what the question is really asking. So let’s talk about how to figure out what the question is asking.


What Is Tested

Remember, the NCLEX-RN® exam is testing your ability to think critically. Critical thinking for the nurse involves the following:

Observation

Deciding what is important

Looking for patterns and relationships

Identifying the problem

Transferring knowledge from one situation to another

Applying knowledge

Discriminating between possible choices and/or courses of action

Evaluating according to criteria established

 

 

The first step to correctly answering NCLEX-RN® exam questions is to find out what each question is really asking.

  • Step 1

    Read each question carefully from the first word to the last word. Do not skim over the words or read them too quickly.

  • Step 2

    Look for hints in the wording of the question stem. The adjectives most, first, best, primary, and initial indicate that you must establish priorities. The phrase further teaching is necessary indicates that the answer will contain incorrect information. The phrase client understands the teaching indicates that the answer will be correct information.

  • Step 3

    Step 3. Reword the question stem in your own words so that it can be answered with a yes or a no, or with a specific bit of information. Begin your questions with whatwhen, or why. We will refer to this reworded version as the Reworded Question in the examples that follow.

  • Step 4

    If you can’t complete step 3, read the answer choices for clues.

Let’s practice rewording a question.

We omitted the answer choices to make you focus on the question stem this time. The answer choices will be provided and discussed later in this chapter.

Step 1. Read the question stem carefully.

Step 2. Pay attention to the adjectives. Most appropriately tells you that you need to select the best answer.

Step 3. Reword the question stem in your own words. In this case, it is, “What is the best charting for this situation?”

Step 4. Because you were able to reword the question, the fourth step is unnecessary. You didn’t need to read the answer choices for clues.

We have all missed questions on a test because we didn’t read accurately. The following question illustrates this point.

Again, just the question stem is given to encourage you to focus on rewording the question. We will discuss the answer choices for this question later in this chapter.

Step 1. Read the question stem carefully.

Step 2. Look for hints. Pay particular attention to the statement “further teaching is necessary.” You are looking for negative information.

Step 3. Reword the question stem in your own words. In this case, it is, “What is incorrect information about TB?”

Step 4. Because you were able to reword the question, the fourth step is unnecessary. You didn’t need to read the answer choices for clues to determine what the question is asking.

Try rewording this test question.

Again, just the question stem is given to encourage you to focus on rewording the question. We will discuss the answer choices for this question later in this chapter.

Step 1. Read the question stem carefully.

Step 2. Look for hints. Pay attention to the words client understands. You are looking fortrue information.

Step 3. Reword the question stem. This question is asking, “What is true about terbutaline (Brethine)?”

Step 4. Because you were able to reword this question, the fourth step is unnecessary. You didn’t need to obtain clues about what the question is asking from the answer choices.

 

Next: NCLEX Strategies: Eliminate Incorrect Answer Choices

1. Scriven M, Paul R. (n.d.). Defining critical thinking. Retrieved February 23 2013, from //www.critical-thinking.org/University/univclass/Defining.Html .

2. Scheffer BK, Rubenfeld MG. A consensus statement on critical thinking in nursing. Journal of Nursing Education. 2000;39:352–359.[PubMed]

3. Papathanasiou I, Kotrotsiou S, Bletsa V. Nursing documentation and recording systems of nursing care. Health Science Journal. 2007;1(4)

4. Facione P. Millbrae, CA: California Academic Press; 1990. Critical thinking:A statement of expert consensus for purpose of educational assessment and instruction.

5. Facione P. Milbrae CA: California Academic Press; 1998. Critical Thinking:What it is and why it counts.

6. Alfaro-Lefevre R. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; 1999. Critical Thinking in Nursing:A practical approach.

7. Bandman EL, Baundman G. East Norwalk. CT: Appleton &Lange; 1998. Critical Thinking in Nursing.

8. Paul R, Elder L. Santa Rosa, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking; 1999. The miniature guide to critical thinking:Concepts and tools.

9. Paul R, Elder L. Upper Saddle. River. NJ: Prentice Hall Health; 2000. Critical thinking:Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life.

10. Lunney M, editor. Philadelphia: North American Nursing Diagnosis Association; 2001. Critical Thinking and Nursing Diagnoses:case studies &analyses.

11. Schuster PM. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis; 2002. Concept mapping:A critical thinking approach to care planning.

12. Paul RW. Santa Rosa, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking; 1995. Critical thinking:How prepare students for a rapidly changing world.

13. Wilkinson JM. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River. NJ: Prentice Hall Health; 2001. Nursing process and critical thinking.

14. Kourkouta L, Papathanasiou IV. Communication in Nursing Practice. Mater Sociomed. 2014;26(1):65–67.[PMC free article][PubMed]

15. Benner PE, Hooper-Kyriakidis PL, Stannard D. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; 1999. Clinical wisdom and interventions in critical care:A thinking-in-action approach.

16. Locsin R.C. The dilemma of decision –making processing thinking critical to nursing. Holistic Nursing Practice. 2001;15(3):1–3.[PubMed]

17. Oermann M.H. Critical thinking, critical practice. Nursing Managemen. 1999;30(4):40. C-D, 40F, 40H-I. [PubMed]

18. Dillon Beach, CA: Author: 2001. Foundation for Critical Thinking. Critical thinking:Basic theory and instructional structure.

19. Botes A. Critical thinking by nurses on ethical issues like the terminations of pregnancies. Curationis: South African Journal of Nursing. 2000;23(3):26–31.[PubMed]

20. Green CJ. Upper Saddle River. NJ: Prentice Hall Health; 2000. Critical thinking in nursing :Case studies across the curriculum.

21. Pesut D.J, Herman J. Albany, NY: Delmar; 1999. Critical reasoning:The art and science of critical and creative thinking.

22. Raingruber B, Haffer A. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis; 2001. Using your head to land on your feet: A beginning nurse's guide to critical thinking.

23. Nicoteri J.A. Critical thinking skills. American Journal of Nursing. 1998;98(10):62–64.[PubMed]

24. Di vito T.P. Identifying critical thinking behaviors in clinical judments. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development. 2000;15:174–180.[PubMed]

25. Chan ZC. A systematic review of critical thinking in nursing education. Nurse Education Today. 2013;33(3):236–240.[PubMed]

26. Simpson E, Courtney M. Critical Thinking in Nursing Education:Literature review. International Journal of Nursing Practice. 2002;8:89–98.[PubMed]

27. Papathanasiou IV, Tsaras K, Sarafis P. Views and Perceptions of Nursing Students on their Clinical Learning Environment:Teaching and Learning. Nurse Education Today. 2014;34(1):57–60.[PubMed]