How to Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam | Strategies and Study Guide

Understanding effective strategies and approaches to pass the NCLEX-RN exam makes completing the test more straightforward and painless.

The NCLEX-RN exam comprises 75 questions to ensure you know and comprehend the basics of nursing.

This test is formatted using the CAT (computerized adaptive testing) structure.

As a result, every exam uniquely tests a student’s knowledge based on their performance and previous answers.

Knowing how to approach the NCLEX, concentrate on the appropriate questions, and develop a study routine is essential.

The following guide walks you through the essential steps to complete the NCLEX-RN examination successfully.

1. Use an NCLEX-RN Study Guide

Various institutions and organizations provide NCLEX-RN study guides to prepare you for the national exam.

These study guides focus on the most common questions and provide acceptable responses for the licensure test.

As a result, they’re great for distilling complex subjects into specific material that’s most probable and beneficial.

These review books also help you spend less time on non-essential material.

Accordingly, you’ll effectively use your time by concentrating on crucial questions and avoiding unnecessary information.

A high-quality study guide is essential, especially if you have clinical experience.

Clinical experience may lead you to answer questions in a way that’s ineffective for the examination.

In many cases, textbook information and real-life clinical experience vary dramatically.

As a result, you’re likely to answer questions using clinical experience rather than providing textbook explanations.

An NCLEX-RN review book will help you avoid answering questions from clinical experience rather than in book format.

The NCLEX also uses a CAT (computerized adaptive testing) format to produce performance-based questions.

A good review book lets you develop strategies and approaches to answer these questions adequately and effectively.

Publicans like Saunders, Kaplan, Lippincott, and Pearson are relatively popular providers of NCLEX-RN review books.

You’ll have the most accurate and helpful study material from updated, concise, well-articulated study guides. 

Tips for Buying NCXLEX Review Books:

  • Select books from highly trusted publications
  • Use the most recently updated version
  • Pick books with resources (i.e., online practice exams)
  • Consult the NCSBN regarding NCLEX preparation

2. Utilize Online Resources

Online NCLEX review websites and tools offer a treasure trove of information, guides, and resources to pass the exam.

It includes study guides, practice tests, video lessons, eBooks, cheatsheets, medical illustrations, apps, and other resources.

You can find online videos from successful registered nurses who advise passing the NCLEX through Youtube.

You can also sign up for helpful study courses on websites like Kaplan, Petersons, Nursing.com, Study.com, and Hurst.

Chegg.com is another great website with over 200k nursing flashcards that review various topics.

Finally, social hubs like Allnurses.com enable nurses and students to connect, support, and share information.

3. Utilize Tutors and Campus Help

Most universities offer resources to help nursing students study for and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

It includes tutors/educators, study guides, online tools, mobile apps, live review courses, recorded lessons, and other aids.

You’ll benefit most by combining university resources with study materials from well-respected publications.

Some college resources may be free and easily accessible, helping you to save money and get the most from your education.

Finally, these institutions are excellent for providing practical advice on which review books and resources to use.

They’ll help you avoid spending money on ineffective study tools and guides.

Make sure you check out the universities website for resources and reference material.

4. Make a Study Plan

Developing a study schedule is a fantastic start to preparing for the NCLEX-RN exam.

However, having the appropriate educational material and practical strategies would be best to avoid wasting time.

You can accomplish this by purchasing well-written NCLEX-RN review books from a trusted publication.

These books help you understand what you must study and how to practice for the test effectively.

You can also use online NCLEX review resources to improve your test-taking capabilities.

Next, set aside adequate time daily to review essential material, practice NCLEX questions, and improve on weak areas.

It may include studying for two to four hours daily between 8 am and 12 pm or 2 pm and 6 pm in an undisturbed location.

The time you set aside to study must remain consistent day-to-day and adequately accommodate your schedule.

It prevents distractions and other responsibilities from affecting study periods.

You must also dedicate study sessions to periods when you are sufficiently rested and focused.

Studying while you’re stressed or tired significantly affects retention and makes it difficult to understand complex topics.

Next, understand your academic weaknesses to study effectively for the exam.

It enables you to save time by skipping subjects you know, so you spend more time on complex topics.

Use flashcards, audio recordings, mobile apps, and other aids to improve retention and simplify complicated subjects.

It’s also beneficial to join or develop a study group to test one another’s knowledge and areas of improvement.

Various websites and nursing students provide timeframes on how many hours you should study for the NCLEX daily.

Nursing students and online resources typically recommend two to four hours daily for a month.

However, the length of time you must study varies depending on your proficiency and availability to prep for the exam.

NCLEX Study Resources and Tools:

  • Tutors/educators
  • Flashcards
  • NCLEX review books
  • Online practice exams
  • Mobile apps

You must have a good study routine and system with the most relevant resources to complete the NCLEX successfully.

5. Take Practice Tests Regularly

Using NCLEX review books, online resources, and tutor assistance regularly is essential to pass the NCLEX exam.

Nevertheless, you’ll want to take NCLEX practice quizzes regularly to determine your progress.

These routine examinations enable you to discover the most challenging study subjects.

It’s a fantastic way to know which topics you understand sufficiently and which study material requires further analysis.

It also clarifies the distinction between clinical experience and academic explanations.

As previously mentioned, clinical experience doesn’t always align with how to answer NCLEX questions correctly.

You must provide appropriate answers in the format required by the NCLEX exam.

It’s easy to forget how you’re supposed to answer specific nursing questions without a good study guide.

It’s even more challenging if you don’t utilize practice exams to help you formulate proper answers to the NCLEX queries.

How the NCLEX Exam is Graded

Unlike most academic tests, NCLEX exam participants do not receive a traditional grading score, i.e., A, B, C, D, or F.

Instead, they receive a PASS/Fail grade depending on whether they accurately answer enough questions.

The NCLEX exam uses a dichotomous scoring system.

As a result, a participant’s answer is either correct or incorrect, and there is no partial score for partly correct responses.

With that said, the computer may consider an answer correct if it receives a 95% confidence score in the response.

Students must successfully answer at least 50% of the NCLEX questions to receive a passing grade.

NCLEX Passing Standards

NCLEX exam requirements change regularly to accommodate new nursing practices, technologies, and information. 

It determines the necessary level of knowledge to practice nursing competently at the entry-level level.

The NCSBN explains the NCLEX passing standards needed to complete the exam.

You can also read NCLEX.com’s article for additional information.

The current passing standard is 0.00 logits for the NCLEX-RN and -0.18 for the NCLEX-PN.

In short, aspiring registered nurses taking the NCLEX-RN must successfully answer 50% of the exam questions to pass.

Is the NCLEX Exam Hard?

Many nursing students agree the NCLEX-RN exam is stressful.

It determines whether students obtain their nursing license to practice as registered nurses.

As a result, it’s one of the most stressful moments in a student’s academic life.

Whether the NCLEX-RN exam is incredibly challenging depends on the knowledge and preparation of the student.

It is a challenging exam based on the consequences of passing or failing and the unpredictability of the questions.

However, there are numerous resources and study guides students can utilize to maximize their odds of success.

The NCLEX test doesn’t attempt to trick students into giving incorrect answers. 

It tests their knowledge to determine whether they have enough proficiency in managing their nursing duties competently.

According to NCSBN, the NCLEX-RN pass rate (2022) is approximately 82.31% for first-time test takers.

Comparatively, repeat candidates have a success rate of 67.70%.

Success rates do fluctuate on an annual basis.

However, most candidates complete the NCLEX-RN exam on the first shot based on these statistics!

How Many Times Can you Fail the NCLEX Exam?

As previously mentioned, most test takers pass the NCLEX exam on their first attempt.

Nonetheless, unsuccessful candidates may retake the test up to eight times yearly.

It enables them numerous opportunities to study for the examination and obtain their nursing license.

Besides that, most nursing school graduates must complete the NCLEX within three years.

Some states alter this rule allowing nursing students one to four years to pass the NCLEX.

Those who do not pass the NCLEX within the allotted time may need to complete board-approved remediation.

They may also be required to take nursing school courses before retaking the NCLEX examination.

Steps to Take the NCLEX Exam

  1. Pass an accredited nursing program
  2. Determine your eligibility
  3. Apply for a license through the state board
  4. Register for the NCLEX examination
  5. Pay for NCLEX exam fees
  6. Successfully pass the NCLEX exam
  7. Satisfy other state requirements (i.e., license fees, background check)