NCLEX & Mnemonics

Our journey as a nurse does not stop after earning a degree. As we move forward, we need to face another challenge which is passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). According to statistics from NCSBN, out of the 170, 890 total test takers only 139,292 (81.51%) passed the exam from the months January-September 2012. This includes both first time examinees and repeaters. We can therefore conclude that 8 out of 10 takers pass the exam. Although there is a substantial number who pass, how can we eliminate the possibility of failure?


Mnemonics is a strategy or tool which aids in memory enhancement. Word association is the basic principle of this. It is believed that random information cannot be easily retained but information associated with stocked knowledge has better recall. This tool can be useful to almost anything that we opt to learn by heart. Information we want to memorize is associated to acronyms, songs, words, images, places, etc. Easier recall, greater memory capacity.

Mnemonics is derived from an Ancient Greek term which means “of memory”. The use of this system can be dated all the way from the times of Plato and Aristotle. Our ancient forefathers found a way to make use of word association to keep track of important dates and places in history so that valuable information can be passed on to future generations. With this we can conclude that even in the beginning of times mnemonics has played an important role to modern civilization.


Do you have a hard time remembering the 8 cranial nerves and there corresponding roles in the body? With too many details we cannot recall terms easily. This is where Mnemonics plays its magic. Some may have been long accustomed to such strategy but for some who are not, this may be your winning ticket to the lottery. One example of a widely used mnemonic:

On Old Olympus Tiny Tops A Friendly Viking Grew Vines And Hops

Which Stands for:

Olfactory Optic Oculomotor Trochlear Trigeminal Abducens Facial Vestibulocochlear Glossopharyngeal Vagus Accesory

Compared to memorizing the actual 8 cranial nerves this statement which rhymes will have a tendency to stick to your brain more. There are still a lot of mnemonics available in the internet and published books. You can even personalize your own mnemonics to make it more appealing to you. Creative and vast imagination is the key. In this way lifelong acquirement of information is achievable. I can personally attest to this strategy since I myself have utilized this. I have never forgotten my cranial nerves since nursing school due to this helpful strategy. I would like to share a personal mnemonic:

Sam Outside Pam Inside

Which stands for:

Sodium Outside Potassium Inside

This pertains to fluid and electrolyte balance within the cell. I personally chose the following specific names because they are the names of our dogs which coincides with sodium and potassium. Try to discover personal mnemonics that you can apply to your review. Make learning fun.


NCLEX is an exam which test basic knowledge upon entering the realm of practicing nursing. Mnemonics can play a big role in aiding one to pass. Incorporating this tool to your study program may hasten learning and improve memory retention. You must take not that mnemonics alone cannot do the job. It is merely an aid which means that it can give improvement and may generate positive results if applied properly. Alongside with good study habits, proper diet, healthy lifestyle and motivation then you are closer to winning the trophy.

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About wordsofanurse

Having graduated as a nurse, I had my clinical experience for 5 years both local and abroad. This experiences has taught me that nursing is an ongoing process. Through this blog, I would like to share my own insights regarding topics that awaken my mind. [an error occurred while processing this directive]