How to Study and Pass the NCLEX


You’ve finally finished your nursing courses and graduated. Only one more hurdle — the NCLEX exam. When it comes to the NCLEX, preparation is key. Try these strategies to pass the NCLEX in only 75 questions (the minimum number of right answers).

Yes, You DO Need to Study

Even though you probably feel you’ve had enough of hitting the books, you really do need to study for the NCLEX. Maybe there are particular areas where your hands-on clinical experience was limited, or where you struggled with the concepts. Start by making a list of those areas and make sure your study time includes those topics. Now, develop a plan. Set a target for the amount of time you will study each day. One or two hours of study time with a short break in the middle is a good starting point.

Learn to Read the Questions

Passing the NCLEX is only partly about the knowledge you’ve gained in your nursing program. NCLEX questions are carefully structured and formatted, so you need to know how to decipher them. The National Student Nurses Association offers some suggestions. When an answer has the words “always” or “never” it’s probably not a good choice; the real world isn’t that black-and-white. If three of four answers are similar and one is obviously different, the odd man out is probably the correct answer. As you practice with test prep questions, you will soon learn to recognize the best answers.

Study Strategies

What’s your study style? Are you a morning person who will retain information best in the dawn’s early light or are you a night owl who learns best by burning midnight oil? Structure your study time around your characteristics. You might want to form a study group with your peers. You can give each other emotional support and discuss the perspectives of the questions. Studying with a group can also help you identify the kind of questions most likely to trip you up. Another advantage of a group is that each of you can purchase a different study guide, benefiting the group while cutting costs.

Study Guides

When you get ready to prepare for the NCLEX, you’ll find there are lots of resources. NCLEX prep options abound; in fact, there are so many, you might find it difficult to choose. Many come with CD-ROMS or online options, and prices vary, so you’ll need to evaluate them carefully. Some offer you the ability to design targeted study questions so you can concentrate on the areas you need most. These basically come in two styles: the comprehensive NCLEX review and the targeted topics. Good examples of the former are:

For the more focused topics, try:

Manage Your Stress

Studying is only part of your NCLEX prep. Knowledge is no good if you’re the sort who stresses about test-taking to the point that it affects your performance. Practice does make perfect in this case; the more experience you can gain by practicing in the same conditions you’ll face in the test (a computerized simulation), the better you’re likely to perform. Learning and regularly using relaxation techniques can also help you keep your stress at a manageable level. Find out where the test will be held and either make a practice run so you’ll be familiar with the route or make sure you’re well-supplied with directions and maps; allow plenty of travel time.