How to Prepare for NCLEX Exams

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Written by Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Two nursing students learn how to prepare for NCLEX exams together.

The NCLEX RN is a rite of passage for all new nurses. The purpose of nursing school is to get you ready for this test as you build a foundation for your career. There are many ways to go about learning how to prepare for NCLEX questions. Use this advice as a guide as you figure out a study plan that works best for you.

What Is the NCLEX Exam?

The NCLEX RN is a computerized test with a variety of question formats. You have five hours to complete the exam, which includes a maximum of 150 questions. The test does not progress until you’ve answered the current question, and the difficulty increases as you answer questions correctly. The test ends when it determines whether you passed or failed, which means that some test takers may have a longer testing experience than others.

What Format Is the NCLEX Exam?

The NCLEX exam format was updated during April 2023. Referred to as Next Gen NCLEX (NGN), it places more emphasis on clinical judgment by including a wider variety of question formats and case studies with questions that expand based on your answer to the previous one.

Test takers no longer have to memorize lab values because in reality, normal ranges are usually included in lab results. This has the potential to free up mental space for more critical thinking. It gets better — now, test takers can get partial credit for answers that are partially correct.

How to Prepare for NCLEX Exams: 7 Tips

  1. Stick to a study schedule.
  2. Learn the material little by little.
  3. Make use of test-prep resources.
  4. Questions, questions, and more questions.
  5. Study alone, then join a study group.
  6. Use memorization techniques.
  7. Find ways to stay focused.

1. Stick to a Study Schedule

We all have busy lives outside of nursing. It’s important to create a consistent schedule that works for your lifestyle. Each day doesn’t have to be identical, but what matters is that you regularly make time for studying. A key part of figuring out how to prepare for NCLEX exams is setting a goal for the pace at which you’ll need to tackle the material.

2. Learn the Material Little by Little

Have you been thinking about how long it takes to prepare for NCLEX exams? Frankly, it depends on your needs. Whether you have one year or one month until the test, one thing is certain: This isn’t an exam you can cram for. You’ll be tested on knowledge you’ve gained over years, not a few weeks. Give your mind enough time for information to settle into your long-term memory.

3. Make Use of Test-Prep Resources

While you may be tempted to stick to your own study materials, it can’t hurt to use supplemental resources. Like studying with other people, outside resources can expose you to new perspectives on a concept that might help you in ways you don’t expect. Ask your nursing peers about a reputable NCLEX prep course, or find your own option that complements your learning style.

4. Questions, Questions, and — Guess What? — More Questions!

One of the best ways to study is to review test plans and answer practice questions. Like any other standardized test, NCLEX test questions have a subtle pattern that you can only grasp through repeated exposure. Plus, answering practice test questions gives you the opportunity to take a closer look at a wider range of topics than if you only chose to study specific subjects at a time.

5. Study Alone, Then Join a Study Group

You may prefer to learn material by yourself or in groups, but we recommend trying both methods throughout your study plan. Studying alone allows you to deeply process the information on your own time, while studying with others can reveal new insights that might not have occurred to you.

Find the combination of studying alone and with others that suits your unique needs. You’ll find that the same strategies you used to remain successful in nursing school — making like-minded friends, organizing yourself before diving into your studies — will serve you well when prepping for the NCLEX.

6. Use Memorization Techniques

You’ll need to remember a lot of information, so you might as well make it easier on yourself when you can. Acronyms and other mnemonics are quick and clever methods to recall concepts and facts. Finding efficient ways to access what you need to know frees up mental space for the topics you can’t lighten with shortcuts.

7. Find Ways to Stay Focused

You can’t afford to let nerves interfere with your concentration. Use relaxation techniques to remain grounded. Your mental clarity and focus are necessary to retain and use the information you’ve absorbed. For example, you can quell anxiety through deep breathing, minimizing interactions with people who have a negative mindset, and prioritizing rest.

If don’t pass your first time, check out our guide to help you navigate the NCLEX retake process.

Learning How to Prepare for NCLEX Exams Just Got Easier

When you use these tips to find your own path to NCLEX success, it’s only a matter of time before you become an official registered nurse with your own unique experiences. For your next step, get updates on the jobs that could be the perfect match for your skills and abilities with IntelyCare.