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Tips for Passing the NCLEX

Now that you’ve made it through nursing school and graduated with your nursing degree there’s one more step you’ll need to take before you can become a registered nurse. Although you passed your final exams, you still need to pass the NCLEX to become an RN.

It’s healthy to have a little anxiety on whether you will pass the exam but too much anxiety can wreck havoc on your chances for success.

So approach the NCLEX with a healthy dose of preparation, anxiety, and rest are you will be on your way getting your nursing license.

Here are some tips on how you can prepare for test day:


Passing the NCLEX
Image by Gypsy Saskia

You need to spend several weeks preparing for the exam. There are a variety of ways you can do this including signing up online, buying a NCLEX review book, or purchasing a NCLEX preparation computer program.

Whatever approach you decide just make sure you are practicing NCLEX style questions, memorizing important lab results and medications, and studying a little every day.

One popular website many student nurses rely on to help them prepare for the NCLEX is NCSBN Learning Extension. For a fee you can purchase an NCLEX review course that is highly recommended by other nursing graduates. If you prefer to save a little money and are self-motivated you can chose from a variety of NCLEX review books and computer programs that offer similar services.

Choosing a good day.

If you are relocating to another city, getting married, or getting ready for a major life transition, it’s not a good time to plan to take the NCLEX. To increase your chances at being successful, schedule your exam during a period in your life when you can make passing the NCLEX a major priority in your life.


You may feel like cramming as much material as you can right up to testing day but this can backfire and actually decrease your chances of successfully passing the exam. Work hard, study hard, and then take the night before the exam to relax, rest, and get plenty of sleep.

Dress comfortably.

The last thing you want to have to worry about while you are taking the exam is the uncomfortable skirt you are wearing or the sweater that suddenly feels too warm. Since you can’t anticipate what the temperature will be in the room where you will take the exam, wear layers of comfortable clothes.

Bring a healthy snack.

You are required to take a 10 minute break after the first two hours of the exam so bring a healthy snack such as an apple, banana, or peanut butter crackers to give you the dose of energy you will need to finish the exam.

Read each word carefully.

Although you don’t want to spend too much time over-analyzing each question, it’s important that you refrain from answering the question until you have carefully read through each answer choice—even when you are 100% of the answer.

This tip will help you to slow down so you don’t rush through the questions. Remember, success is not defined by whether you take 3 or 6 hours to complete the exam but by whether you pass the test.


When there are several answer choices that seem correct, prioritize the possible choices to determine the correct answer. For example, use the ABC acronym you learned in CPR to help you determine the priority answer. Airway, breathing, and circulation choices are more likely to be the correct answer when the question asks for the priority nursing intervention.

Find a study group.

Sometimes it helps to bounce ideas off other people and a study group is a great place for you to practice NCLEX questions. In a study group you can learn how other people are preparing for the big day, ask questions, and add variety to your regular study routine. You can find NCLEX study groups online or at area nursing schools.

Have a check off list.

It’s always nice to be able to see your progress and a check-off list or study plan will help you to visualize your preparation progress. Set goals for each day for how much time you want to devote to studying.

Then at the end of the day you can look back at your plan to see how much you have accomplished. This is a great tool to help you to stay motivated.

Make an audio study recording.

On your phone or computer you can create an audio file of the information you need to memorize for the exam. Take this file with you so you can listen to it while driving in the car or when you are working out at the gym. When you combine visual and audio approaches to studying for the NCLEX you are more likely to retain the information.

Just remember to keep a positive approach. You made it through nursing school, you can make it over the final hurdle in becoming an RN.  Like Bill Cosby said, “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”