How Nursing Students Can Prepare For the NCLEX-RN

Toward the end of nursing school, nursing students begin the process of preparing to take the RN licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN. After all, a nursing degree without a license to practice is almost useless. The exam is notoriously difficult and covers multiple years’ worth of information from school, as well as measures one’s ability to critically think and practice nursing safely. 

If you are a nursing student and feeling anxious you are probably looking for tips to pass the NCLEX-RN successfully. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the NCLEX-RN examination. 

Study 

This may seem obvious, right? After all, what have you been doing in nursing school if not studying like crazy? 

After graduation, it’s a good idea to take a brief break (5-7 days) to let your mind relax a bit and prepare for the next hurdle. Many students take a short vacation or treat yourself to a day out after graduation. Once you’ve had a short amount of time to clear your head, create a study routine to get back into. 

When you begin to study, make sure you are familiar with how the test is arranged and how the questions are written. There’s a very specific blueprint that the NCLEX-RN follows, so you’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable with the setup before you take it. We recommend taking several practice exams to get used to the NCLEX-RN setup because sometimes it’s not that you don’t know certain concepts, but that you aren’t familiar with the question structure. 

Sign Up for a Review Course 

Because the NCLEX-RN is notoriously difficult, there are a lot of companies that have created review courses to help potential nurses prepare. These courses vary in length from 3 days to 5 days. There are a few options to check out if you’re looking for the right review course: 

  • In-person classes. These classes work like a normal class. Participants sign up and then physically attend the course. There will be an instructor that will help guide you through the NCLEX-RN preparation. 
  • Online (virtual) classes. A growing trend in education is the use of online classes as an alternative to classes that require physical attendance. These classes offer more flexibility and will allow you to complete them on your own time. 
  • Review books. If you are self-motivated, you can simply buy a recent NCLEX-RN review book and work on your own. These books should contain a lot of practice questions as well as test-taking tips. It is important to buy the most recent version of a book because the NCLEX-RN test blueprint changes often. 

Check out the Test Plan 

Like a road map, the NCLEX-RN licensure exam Test Plans (blueprint) offer specific information about what will most likely be on the test and which concepts are covered. The Test Plan is provided by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), so you can be sure that it will contain all the necessary information that you might need to pass. The plans are kept up to date and are revised every three years according to surveys of newly licensed nurses that have begun practicing. These plans will be an excellent guide to help you know what is most important, what is most difficult, and what is most useful for your future career as a nurse. 

Relax 

This is definitely easier said than done, but we’ll say it anyway: try to relax! There’s no denying that the NCLEX-RN is a difficult exam; it was meant to be! But don’t let all that get to you. If you study consistently and take advantage of the many resources available to you, you will be able to remain calm and confident. If you’ve done everything you can to prepare, you have no need to fear. 

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Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D, RN, CNE

Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a registered nurse and a nurse educator. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and an MS in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Jenna earned a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University where she researched the moderation effects of emotional intelligence on the relationship of stress and GPA in military veteran nursing students.