Aug 25 2020

How To Ace The NCLEX Test

Joniel Suezo

Career advice

Graduating from nursing school isn’t child’s play, so congratulations on accomplishing that feat. But as you already know, graduating alone doesn’t give you access to a hospital, a surgical theatre, or even the scrubs. The NCLEX is that final gap between you and being a certified nurse. 

To become licensed as a practical/registered nurse in the US and Canada, you need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) PN or RN. Most nursing students or graduates consider the NCLEX to be difficult to pass. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t pass it with ease. Here are some tips to help you ace the NCLEX in no time.

  • Understand the NCLEX Format


Understanding the NCLEX is your key to passing it. Even if you know the questions all too well, you might find it challenging to pass without understanding the testing format and how to approach it. 


The NCLEX uses a computerized adaptive testing (CAT) system so the possibility of cheating is practically zero. The computer algorithm produces new test questions based on the candidate’s performance on the previous questions. 


The NCLEX test bank, from which the algorithm chooses questions, has questions of diverse topic content, styles, and answer formats. This CAT system means that no two NCLEX tests are identical. The test is a fail or pass test. If the questions you answered correctly were above the 95% confidence interval pass mark, then you passed the test. If it falls below that, you failed. Every correct or incorrect answer you give goes a long way towards your final grade. 


With each correct answer, the computer delves deeper into the question bank to choose progressively harder questions. This is to determine your peak knowledge. After your competency level has been determined according to the marginal level, the test can end at any time between the minimum 75 and a maximum of 265 questions. 


Try not to evaluate yourself while writing the test. Instead, focus on answering all questions correctly. Remember that every question is important. Know how to eliminate incorrect answers to get the right answer in time. Although your time is important, focus more on getting your answers correct instead of hurrying unto the next. 

  •  Invest in Pre-Test Resources


You’ve gotten this far as a student, so passing the NCLEX should be a fight to finish. The NCLEX determines whether you become a licensed nurse or not, so you should be prepared to spend as much time and energy as needed to pass the exam. 


Endeavor to invest in study materials, courses, apps, books, and more to help you pass the exam. Even though nursing school has groomed you for a nursing career, your nursing school knowledge is insufficient to pass the exam. 


Most top-notch NCLEX study materials have been specially designed and crafted to help you ace the exam. Of course, some of them are free online materials, but the ones that can guarantee you premium knowledge will require some dollars. Try to choose tested and trusted study materials that will give you in-depth knowledge of what you’re up against. It is crucial to practice past questions to familiarize yourself with the question styles. 


Practice, practice, and practice again. Also, take full online mock tests to experience the exam situation. Try not to memorize questions or answers. It won’t help because NCLEX doesn’t repeat questions, although question formats might be similar. Websites like  dailynclexchallenge.com help nursing students prepare for the NCLEX by answering challenging questions every day.


Also important is choosing study materials that fit your learning style so you can learn better and faster. Asides from investing in study materials, you should invest your time in your study prep. You should dedicate between 1 and 4 months to the study and exam preparations to ace the exam. 

  • Know Your Study Style and Create a Study Plan According to It


Different people have diverse learning styles, and understanding your learning style is key to studying effectively. Do you need to read the same thing over and over again for hours before you assimilate the information? Does your brain catch everything you learn at once? Understanding this will help you craft a dynamic study plan that will help you ace the NCLEX. 


Figure out if you can understand concepts without much fuss or if you need visual representations to learn. You might be more inclined towards auditory learning patterns. Without understanding all these, you’d have a hard time preparing for the NCLEX. Once you figure out your learning style, you’d know how to craft your study plan to fit your capacity. 


Some study resources you can try out include visual representation NCLEX books, regular NCLEX hardcopy, and e-books, YouTube lectures, podcasts, audio CDs on NCLEX exams, visual and physical study groups, mnemonic devices, etc. They go a long way in preparing nursing students for the NCLEX. After figuring out your study pattern and resources, you should craft a study plan. 


How many weeks or months do you want to use in studying? How many hours do you want to use to study each day? Which question concepts do you want to focus on each time? You need to be intentional about everything you do in order to achieve your goals. By managing your time and study resources well, you can ace the NCLEX.

  • Manage Stress Well

The NCLEX is an endurance test, so you have to be intentional about it to do well. Remember, what matters isn’t how long you spend on the test but the number of questions you get right in your competency demonstration. It’s normal to feel nervous and worried about the test and your possible outcome, but you should know that won’t help you. 


Say no to anxiety before and during the exam. Managing stress is one of the essential skills you need as a nurse and learning this before your exams will be helpful in the future. If you studied hard for the exam and you’re sure of your capability, that should alleviate your fears and worries a little. Some find out that even after studying hard, they still feel nervous. In this case, you might have to take your mind off what is at hand and just go with the flow. 


Prior to the exam, you should balance your life. Of course, you need to study well, but your life shouldn’t revolve around that alone. Try to relax, exercise, sleep, and also have fun. Remember, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ You don’t want to be a dull Jack during the exam. Engage in different activities instead of spending all your 24 hours studying. 


To reduce your stress level before the exam, don't try to cram what you studied; it can become counterproductive. Besides, you would feel out of sorts the moment you realize that not even one of everything you crammed would appear in your exam. The biggest stress reliever you need is your confidence. Assure yourself that you’ve worked hard, and so you will do just great.



If there’s one thing many animated movies reiterate, it’s that you need to believe in yourself. The NCLEX might be a hard exam, but with adequate preparation, intentional study, and a good dose of self-confidence, you can ace the exam and become a fully licensed nurse.