7 NCLEX Tips to Prepare for the Exam

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The NCLEX licensure exam is designed to assess candidates’ basic competency on nursing skills and knowledge and is the last step before becoming a licensed nurse. To help best set yourself up for success, try incorporating some NCLEX tips and tricks into your studying routine and preparation.

nurse sitting at desk looking at laptop

Throughout nursing school, students acquire the knowledge and skills needed for a nursing career. After graduation, one step remains before you can begin practicing as a registered nurse (RN): pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). While students may excel in the program, test-taking is often another beast.

Pacific Lutheran University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program prepares students to pass the NCLEX and become capable nurses. Students partake in online coursework, on-ground nursing simulation labs, and clinical rotations, where they learn to take the NCLEX confidently.

Below are 7 NCLEX tips to help prepare students for the exam and set them up for success.

What is the NCLEX Exam?

The NCLEX is an exam developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), an independent, not-for-profit organization. The NCSBN comprises regulatory bodies that oversee and counsel on subjects concerning public health, safety and welfare.

The NCLEX is designed to be an entry point for nurses, covering the essential knowledge and skills necessary to meet competence. It is administered utilizing computerized adaptive testing (CAT) technology to ensure reliable results.

1. Take Advantage of Practice Tests

A significant hurdle for many students when they first sit for the NCLEX is unfamiliarity with the question style. This is where practice tests come in handy. Practice tests provide a glimpse into what it will be like to sit for the exam and are instrumental to learning to pass the NCLEX.

Practice tests are typically not as long or comprehensive as the NCLEX exam, so do not use these results to predict how the exam will go. Utilizing practice tests helps take the mystery out of the exam. This way, when you sit for the NCLEX, you know what to expect and are adequately prepared.

2. Know Your Study Style

Understanding your learning style is essential to know how to study for the NCLEX. Many people have difficulty studying because they still need to identify the most productive techniques.

The VARK Questionnaire is a short assessment identifying your most effective learning methods. VARK stands for visual, aural, read/write and kinesthetic, representing four common modalities.

When you understand your learning style, you can approach studying constructively. For example, if you are a visual learner, creating flow charts can effectively organize and help you understand information.

nursing student sitting and reading

Need help creating more successful study habits? Learn more about helpful study tips you can rely on during nursing school.

3. Set a Study Schedule

One of the essential NCLEX tips is setting and sticking to a study schedule. A schedule holds you accountable and helps organize study sessions to make the sessions feel less overwhelming.

Create your study schedule well beforehand so you can calmly review the material and prepare without a time crunch. Consider your courses and personal responsibilities when creating a schedule.

Setting aside a block of time compatible with your attention span is important. If you struggle to maintain attention after an hour and a half, pushing yourself further can be counterproductive.

Set study goals at the beginning of each section, covering subjects and concepts in which you feel you need more confidence. However, pay attention to the other subjects. Consistently review subjects during the weeks leading up to the exam to keep things fresh.

4. Join an NCLEX Study Group

Study groups are an excellent opportunity to explore new ideas and better understand the material. Whether you join a formal study group or study with a friend who is also preparing for the NCLEX, study groups are a great way to study without it feeling like a chore.

Meet as often as the group members can and consider selecting topics to review beforehand to keep meetings organized and productive. While study groups are helpful, there should be other times you set aside to study. A comprehensive study approach is the best way to set yourself up for success.

5. Take a Break the Day Before

It may be tempting to stay up late the day before the exam to study; however, the best tactic is often taking a break the day before. Use this time to prioritize self-care.

You have spent the weeks prior preparing for the exam, so focus on getting a whole night’s rest, eating balanced meals and hydrating. This will help you feel centered and ready for the exam.

Taking a break the day before can also decrease feelings of burnout. By this point, you have done all you can, so trust your studying routine and the knowledge you gained from your nursing program.

6. Arrive Prepared

On exam day, you want to minimize as many distractions as possible, such as a cold exam room, an empty stomach or uncomfortable clothing. The morning of the exam, make sure you eat a balanced breakfast so that you won’t be distracted.

PLU ABSN students wearing masks and studying

Comfortable clothing and additional layers will minimize distractions as well. This way, if the room is too cold or hot, you can adjust and be ready to sit for an extended period.

Be sure to arrive early and avoid the frenzy of rushing to the location. A half hour early should give you enough time to acclimate to the site and enter a test-taking mindset. These NCLEX tips ensure you are comfortable and ready for the exam.

7. Take Your Time

As you take the NCLEX, it is only natural to feel insecure when others finish before you but do not let this deter you. One of the best NCLEX test-taking strategies is to take your time. The test will be administered on a computer, so be prepared to look at a screen for several hours.

You cannot edit an answer to a question once it is submitted, so read each question carefully and thoughtfully. The exam varies in length, depending on the number of correct answers, so take your time and be calm. It is designed to give you the best shot possible at passing.

What to Expect from the NCLEX

On exam day, prepare to arrive 30 minutes early, so you have time to acclimate to the testing location and sign in for the exam. The NCSBN notes that anyone over 30 minutes late forfeits their spot and must reschedule and pay an additional registration fee.

Expect to supply your biometrics to sign in for the test. This includes a signature, palm scan and a physical, government-issued photo ID. The ID cannot be expired and must include a signature and the first and last name of the candidate that matches the registered name.

How many questions are on the NCLEX?

The exam requires a minimum of 75 correct answers to pass, and the length will depend on how soon you reach the passing threshold. Each question is presented one at a time, so you will not know how many questions you must answer until you finish.

Candidates will have up to five hours to take the exam, including breaks. There will also be a short survey at the end of the test. Upon completion, candidates should raise their hand to be dismissed by the administrator.

nurse looking at monitor above patient's bed

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Get your BSN with Pacific Lutheran University

A strong nursing program can prepare you for NCLEX success. Suppose you have already earned your bachelor’s degree or have a minimum of 60 non-nursing college credits. In that case, you can earn your BSN through Pacific Lutheran University’s ABSN program in 16 months over four semesters, not including any necessary prerequisites.

Through a combination of online coursework and on-site nursing simulation labs and clinical rotations near Seattle, Washington, students develop the knowledge and skills needed for a career in health care, including NCLEX preparation throughout the program.

Contact an admissions representative at Pacific Lutheran University to learn more information and take the first steps toward becoming a registered nurse. By the end of the program, you will be prepared to sit for the NCLEX with confidence.