After years of hard work, time-consuming classes, and difficult clinical practice, you’ve finally reached the last step to becoming a full-fledged, practicing nurse: the NCLEX. But, do you know how to pass the NCLEX?
The National Council Licensure Examination, also known as the NCLEX, is a rigorous and sometimes overwhelming certification process that every nursing student is required to take. The NCLEX is a computerized exam that tests your ability to provide basic medical care for entry-level nursing jobs. Once you pass the NCLEX, you receive a license that classifies you as a registered nurse (or practical nurse). Once you’ve passed your licensing exam, you can begin the journey of advancing your nursing career.
The idea of getting your career up and running is exciting, but it can’t be done without passing the NCLEX first. If you have the desire to know more about this critical exam and ensure you pass without any issues, read on for six tips and tricks on how to study for NCLEX.
#1 Understand What the NCLEX Looks Like
The NCLEX exam is like no other. One of the most significant factors setting it apart from other tests is the way it utilizes a form of modern test-taking through computerized adaptive technology (CAT). This means that each nursing student’s exam is going to look a little different, with its own question algorithm. As you take the test, this algorithm will continue adjusting itself and asking new questions based on your previous answers.
Passing the exam requires 95% correct answers within the allotted time.
Many of the specifics of your exam are going to depend on one important factor: which type of NCLEX you’re taking.
What is the NCLEX-RN vs. the NCLEX-PN?
Registered nurses and practical nurses must take their own form of the NCLEX to become certified in the nursing field. While there are many similarities between RNs and PNs, there are also some key factors that set these positions (and their NCLEX exams) apart:
- Registered nurse – In order to become a registered nurse, you will need to fulfill an educational requirement prior to taking your exam at a testing center. This is done by taking part in a nursing program, earning either an associate’s degree in nursing (typically a two-year program) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (a four-year program) will allow you to earn your RN certification upon completing the NCLEX-RN.
- Practical Nurse – A college degree is not a requirement for becoming a practical nurse, making it one of the most noticeable differences when comparing the two certifications. Instead, the education needed to earn a PN title consists of a high school diploma and a practical nursing course. A practical nursing course will typically take a year or so to complete, and upon graduation from the nursing program, you will need to pass the NCLEX-PN.
Now that you’re familiar with the unique qualifications required by these two job titles, it’s time to take a look at the differences between their respective exams:
- NCLEX-RN – The NCLEX-RN exam consists of anywhere between 75 and 265 questions. These NCLEX questions encompass a variety of information needed to perform the duties of a registered nurse. Test takers are allotted six hours to complete the exam.
- NCLEX-PN – Unlike its RN counterpart, the NCLEX-PN exam will have a smaller range of questions between 85 and 205. As a result of having fewer questions, test takers are allowed a maximum of five hours to complete the exam. The questions on the NCLEX-PN will have greater relevance to the work of a PN, though both exams will focus on basic medical knowledge and nursing tasks.
Whether you will be taking the registered nurse or the practical nurse exam, the following NCLEX test taking strategies will help you study in more efficient and effective ways.
#2 Take Practice Tests
It is suggested to create an NCLEX test plan in order to properly prepare for this exam, which is known for its challenges. Creating a study schedule for completing a practice exam is an easy and accessible way to familiarize yourself with the NCLEX format before your test day. Taking practice tests will also help you study the material and prepare for the pressure and time limit when your actual exam date arrives.
You can access a variety of NCLEX practice tests online, using websites such as:
- Nurse Plus
- NCLEX RN Mastery
When preparing for the exam, you may receive a practice test that is a shorter version of the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN, while others will more accurately reflect the length of the real test. It may be helpful to do a combination of both formats to get the most out of your studying time. It’s important for you to familiarize yourself with the wide variety of practice questions being asked, while also preparing for the time constraints and overall length of the real exam.
#3 Listen to Nurses Who Have Passed
Getting advice from real nurses who have passed the NCLEX is a great way to study and set your expectations for the test. Fortunately, recently developed modern technology has made it easier than ever to hear real-life experiences from other nurses and connect with communities that understand your questions and concerns.
Some ways you can learn about the NCLEX from other nurses include:
- Nursing podcasts
- YouTube videos
- Joining a nursing group on social media
- Blogs for nurses
- Message fellow nurses
- Find a study guide online
Just because you have to take the test on your own doesn’t mean you have to prepare for it alone. Finding information from registered nurses can be done easily online, and it’s a great way to mold your studying habits based on real-world experiences.
#4 Form a Study Group
Speaking of studying with others, another tip for how to study for the NCLEX is by forming a study group with your peers.
The NCLEX is an extensive exam that covers a vast array of information. In nursing school, you’re likely to meet many different people who have unique strengths and weaknesses in the medical field. Studying with your peers will bring together different types of nurses with their own specialties, thus strengthening the knowledge of everyone involved.
The ability to support and care for your peers is a vital skill needed in the nursing field. Being able to do this for your peers via a study group is not only going to increase everyone’s chances of passing, but it’s also great practice for your future in the medical field.
#5 Study Questions You Get Wrong
It’s important when studying and taking practice tests that you don’t ignore questions you’re getting wrong. While it may be tempting to continue studying questions you already got right as a means of boosting your confidence, it’s vital that you understand the reasons behind any incorrect answers.
When you’re taking a practice test, make sure to complete it entirely to get the answer key at the end. Take a look at any questions you answered incorrectly. You need to make a plan to study those topics more carefully. Committing these answers to memory will help you on your exam day and ensure the questions you stumbled on while studying don’t hurt your final score on the real test.
#6 Prep for Your Exam Date
Studying the material is important, but it shouldn’t be the only thing on your pre-exam checklist. Showing up prepared on your test date is vital to making sure you can take the test and perform successfully with high marks.
The night before your exam, make a checklist of everything you need to bring the following day. While this list may differ slightly for everyone, some important things to remember are:
- Your authorization to test (ATT)
- A form of signed identification
- Lunch or a snack for your break
Additionally, you’ll want to remember what not to bring to your testing site. These items include:
- An expired form of identification
- Identification that does not match your current appearance or name
- Anything you don’t feel comfortable leaving in a locker
Getting a good night’s sleep is an essential part of your test preparation. It is also recommended that you arrive 30 minutes before your exam time, so make sure you set an alarm, wake up early, and leave enough time for your commute.
What the Future Holds: Becoming a Travel Nurse with Host Healthcare
Now that you’ve learned about our NCLEX tips and tricks, it’s time to look to the future of your nursing career. With a registered or practical nursing certification, your job opportunities will greatly expand and allow you to choose a specialty. If you’re interested in allied travel careers, Host Healthcare can help.
The steps for how to become a travel nurse are simple. Start by applying to be a traveler with Host Healthcare, get matched with a recruiter, wait for a new assignment, and get ready to travel the country.
Host Healthcare brings skilled medical workers to new areas—allowing them to experience the thrill of traveling without worrying about finding work. Becoming a travel nurse with Host Healthcare is the perfect way to combine your wanderlust with your love of helping others.