January 21, 2020  |  Purdue Global

Your education and hard work have landed you here: You’re preparing to take the NCLEX.* With thorough preparation, you could pass the NCLEX-RN® exam on your first try. Keep reading for NCLEX tips that can help you pass the exam the first time you take it.

  1. Block Off Time to Study
  2. Use NCLEX Exam Study Aids
  3. Remember Needs Prioritization
  4. Remember Your ABCs
  5. The Answer Is Never “Do Nothing”
  6. How to Handle “Select all That Apply”’ Questions
  7. The Night Before the Test
  8. The Day of the Test
  9. Trust Your Nurse’s Intuition
  10. Believe in Yourself

1. Block Off Time to Study

“I tell students that upon graduation, studying for the NCLEX should become a full-time job,” says Morgan Dutler, faculty member in Purdue Global’s School of Nursing. “I recommend spending 25-40 hours a week studying and staying engaged in NCLEX-style questions.”

Pamela Caldwell, faculty member in Purdue Global’s School of Nursing, agrees. “Students who are the most successful—meaning, they pass the boards the first time—are those who take the time to prepare specifically for the board. Block off time to study in an environment that’s optimal for you. Tell others that you are studying to avoid interruptions and distractions.”

Learn more about how to create the perfect study environment.

2. Use NCLEX Exam Study Aids

There are several study guides and classes that can help you prepare for the exam.

“I suggest students take a review class and follow an NCLEX study calendar,” says Caldwell.

Dutler recommends using Lippincott PassPoint to take a simulated NCLEX exam, which will give you an idea of how you would do on the boards. “Review the content you score low in to understand why you got the question wrong,” Dutler adds.

Additional recommended study aids include:

3. Remember Needs Prioritization

When taking the exam, remember needs prioritization from nursing school. You always want to assess the patient and perform the most appropriate nursing intervention first. Life-threatening physical needs take priority. Keeping this in mind will help you eliminate options on the test.

4. Remember Your ABCs

Similarly, remembering the ABCs of needs prioritization—airway, breathing, circulation—will help you identify the biggest priorities first. Choose your options in that A-B-C order.

5. The Answer Is Never “Do Nothing”

Beware of multiple choice answers that suggest you should leave the patient, do nothing, or delay treatment. You can always do something.

6. How to Handle “Select All That Apply” Questions

Carefully look at each choice and eliminate wrong answers. “I tell students to look at each option of ‘select all that apply’ questions as true/false,” says Dutler. “Is the option true to the question being asked, or is it false? Eliminate incorrect options this way.”

7. The Night Before the Test

Some good advice for the night before the test:

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Eat a good dinner
  • Get rest
  • Make sure your car has gas
  • Gather the documents needed for testing
  • Know how to get to the testing center (and an alternate route)
  • Don’t take any new medicine

Should you study the day before the exam? Both experts agree that you should give yourself a break for at least several hours leading up to the exam.

“The day before your exam is a day of rest,” Caldwell says. “I recommend no questions or studying. If you have done the work in the weeks prior to this day, you need and deserve the break. Go to the movies, take a walk, go to the gym, or read a book, or magazine. Enjoy the day.”

Dutler takes a slightly different tack. “I tell my students no more studying starting around 3:00 pm the day prior to their exam,” she says. “Then it’s time to step away and decompress.”

8. The Day of the Test

Dress in layers so you can take off and put on clothes as necessary. Make sure to give yourself some quiet time beforehand.

“Keep your routine as normal as possible,” Dutler says. “If you don't normally eat breakfast, don't do it that day, and vice versa. Stick to your routine as much as possible.”

“Get up with plenty of time to spare,” Caldwell says. “Leave early so you don’t stress about traffic, and bring snacks if you decide to take a break.”

9. Trust Your Nurse’s Intuition

Use your nursing knowledge and logic to make an educated decision.

“Trust your gut instinct,” Caldwell says. “Don’t second-guess yourself and don’t change your answers.”

Dutler agrees. “I tell students they should only consider changing an answer if they missed something in the question that brings new information to their answer.”

10. Believe in Yourself

Finally: think positively and talk to yourself in positive terms.

“You’ve got this!” Caldwell says. “Walk into the testing center confident. You’ve done the work, and while this may be stressful, you are going to rock this exam!”

“You've come too far to doubt yourself,” Dutler says. “Just do it and be proud!”

Best of Luck to You on the NCLEX

If you need help overcoming test anxiety, read our post, “How to Reduce Test Anxiety for College Students.”

When it comes time to further your nursing education, remember the online nursing programs at Purdue Global. We offer an online RN-to-BSN degree as well as several graduate nursing degrees and certificate programs. Request more information today.

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Purdue Global

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*Graduates must meet state licensing and certification requirements and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse or the NCLEX-PN to become a licensed practical nurse. The University cannot guarantee students will be eligible to sit for or pass exams. Refer to the University Catalog for additional information. NCLEX is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.