How to Prepare for The NCLEX

Tips and Strategies

Once you’ve graduated nursing school, there’s one last step you need to take before you can officially become a registered or licensed practical nurse, which is passing the National Council State Board of Nursing (NCLEX), for Registered Nurses (RN or License Practical Nurse (LPN). The NCLEX is a challenging exam, but you can prepare for it and pass it the first time around.

If you want to be a registered or licensed practical nurse the NCLEX should not intimidate you as you’ve already been preparing for this exam through your years in nursing school. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to prepare for the NCLEX so that when it comes time for test day, you’ll feel confident and ready to pass the NCLEX on the first try!

1. Understand The Format Of The NCLEX

The NCLEX exam is a computerized adaptive test (CAT), which means that every time you answer a question, the program redetermines your knowledge and selects an item that you would have a 50% chance of answering correctly. This ensures that you’re not receiving a question that is below or above your knowledge level. The exam ends once the tester has answered enough questions that they’ve passed with a 95% confidence.

Nursing graduates from a Bachelors or Associate in Science nursing or Practical Nurse Diploma program will have to take either the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN. Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, each candidate for both NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN exams will get 15 pretest items in their exam. Due to the addition of the 15 pretest items, the minimum length exam is 75 items and the maximum length exam is 145 items. In both exams, if you’re unable to stay above
that 95% confidence, you’ll fail. Understanding this format can help you know the standards you need to meet before taking the NCLEX.

2. Create A Study Plan

It’s essential to have a study plan when preparing for the NCLEX. You’ll need to dedicate time to review nursing topics and practice NCLEX questions. The most successful test-takers know that studying with a plan will increase the likelihood of passing the NCLEX.

You can create a study plan by setting up a schedule and sticking to it. Make sure to give yourself a goal before jumping into your study session, whether it’s to focus on a specific topic or study a certain number of NCLEX questions to ensure you’re using your time efficiently. Make sure to schedule a time to relax and unwind to give yourself a break! As much as you might want to study around the clock, you need to give yourself time to recharge mentally.

3. Practice NCLEX Questions

One of the best ways to prepare for NCLEX is by practicing NCLEX questions. Practicing enough NCLEX questions will help you get accustomed to the length of the NCLEX and the style of the questions.

You can practice NCLEX questions which provide a similar feel and look to what you’ll face on the day of your exam. Make sure to complete enough NCLEX questions before your exam date. When you practice NCLEX questions, you’ll be able to determine your weak areas, find out where you need to focus, and become more comfortable with the format of the NCLEX.

4. Focus On Evidence Based Practice

Using clinical experience alone to answer the NCLEX questions could lead to a wrong answer selection on your exam. The NCLEX uses evidence-based interventions so any selection that is only based on what you see in the clinical practice could lead to wrong selection. The specific outline and information on the NCLEX follows the content area percentages discussed in the NCSBN exam guides.

However, it’s important to remember that specific nurse specialties are not the focus of the exam. Therefore, your study plan should include time for reading and reviewing course material so that when the day for your NCLEX comes, you feel confident knowing what answers to choose on your exam.

5. Choose The Right Online NCLEX Course

With so many NCLEX study materials to choose from, it can feel overwhelming. While you can practice NCLEX questions as we’ve mentioned above, there are online NCLEX review courses that you can take to prepare for the NCLEX. These online NCLEX courses will not go into depth but will use interactive learning approaches to help increase your content, improve your critical thinking, and test-taking strategy skills all necessary to increase your confidence so you can take and pass the NCLEX on the first time.

6. Reach Out For Help

If you’re having difficulty preparing for NCLEX, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help! NCLEX study groups can provide a great community of learners who will motivate you as well as advise on what methods work best. NCLEX tutors are also helpful when it comes to preparing for the NCLEX because they’ll provide one on one opportunities to understand your area of weakness and present an individual approach for improvement.

7. Set Yourself Up For Success

The NCLEX is the last step you’ll need to take after nursing school to start your nursing career. The best way to prepare yourself is to set yourself up for success by creating a good routine around choosing the right NCLEX course, creating a plan, practicing NCLEX questions, while still taking care of your mental and physical health. This will ensure that you’re on top of your game on the day of NCLEX.

There are many ways to set yourself up for success when it relates to the NCLEX, including:

  • Staying healthy by eating well and exercising regularly
  • Practicing meditation or deep breathing exercises before studying or while practicing NCLEX questions
  • Setting aside a certain amount of time to study, usually between 1 to 3 hours per day, depending on what your schedule allows
  • Talking with friends or family members if you need support
  • Practicing NCLEX questions to determine your weaknesses and strengths
  • Using timers while studying to pace yourself
  • Giving yourself a day off each week to do other activities that you enjoy. A mental break can allow you to come back to the material with a new perspective and fresh focus


After you’ve finished nursing school, your last step is to take the NCLEX. The NCLEX is a big deal and understandably nerve-wracking, but it’s also an opportunity for you to pass and get one step closer to achieving your dream of becoming a registered or licensed nurse. By investing in the right online NCLEX course, including practicing NCLEX questions as well as creating a study plan, you’re sure to pass your NCLEX the first time around!

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