3 Keys to Passing the NCLEX Nursing Exam


by Justine Buick

Many students who are repeat test-takers have come to me totally lost and unsure of what they need to do to pass the NCLEX. There are many different reasons students don’t pass and sometimes it’s as simple as: “I never thought I would go past 75 questions, so I started panicking around question 86 and couldn’t think for the rest of test – it shut off at 265 and I failed”.

I’m here to tell you, don’t let your ego get in the way! Be humble and be prepared to go to 265 questions. Take breaks! Drink something! Go to the bathroom! But you can take all the breaks in the world, but if you don’t do the following 3 things, then you still won’t pass.

So let me tell you the 3 keys to PASSING (and it’s nothing mysterious):

1) Know how to analyze questions and use test-taking strategies to increase your chances of choosing the correct answer. My first priority with students is to make sure you are analyzing questions correctly and doing every possible thing to get to the right answer.  If you want to learn about test-taking strategies you have two options: buy the Kaplan book or buy the Saunders Strategies for Test Success book. Don’t buy both. These books don’t include everything that I teach, but so far, it’s the best out there. Learn the strategies and apply that knowledge to your test questions.  I’ll put the links below.

2) Know the nursing content: This is what takes students the longest to learn/re-learn. Technically you were supposed to learn this material in school, but if you are a repeat test-taker and it’s been a while, you’ve forgotten a lot of it. It’s common that students come to me wondering why they aren’t passing and frequently it’s because they are extremely weak in the nursing content or they just cannot learn the material because they are over-saturated with content already. You don’t have to know ALL of it, but you do need to know A LOT.

There are a lot of resources out there for learning content and I’ve bought most of them or have done the courses. I suggest getting the Saunder’s Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Exam book. I realize it is a lot of content, but it’s better than re-opening your nursing books. At least you know where to find what you need to know. Buy the actual physical book, so that you can quickly flip through the pages, highlight things, write notes, etc. Some people can’t learn well from a book, so the next best option is the Hurst Review and YouTube videos from nurse-instructors. Just remember that Hurst doesn’t cover a lot of what you may be tested on, so you will need to review content from a comprehensive review book.

Then the issue is: well exactly what should I be studying?? Good question. I have a blog post that covers that: it’s called “I failed the NCLEX and I Don’t Know What to Study”. Go read that, it will make the link between what is on the test and what you should be studying.


3) Practice lots of questions: I suggest that you review some content, then practice some questions. Use the test-taking strategies you have learned and apply that and the content you know to choose the correct answer. Use a reputable resource to practice questions. Lippincott (online or the book) and Uworld (online only) are both good sources for practicing questions. Be confident in the content from all 8 sections of the test plan; practice questions from all 8 sections of the test plan and try to be consistently above 70% correct for your questions.

Links for strategy books (don’t buy both of the strategy books, just one or the other):
Kaplan:  https://www.amazon.com/NCLEX-RN-Premier-2017-Practice-Tests/dp/1506208509/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501807866&sr=1-3&keywords=kaplan
Saunders:  https://www.amazon.com/Saunders-2016-2017-Strategies-Test-Success/dp/0323296610/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&a…

Link for Content Review book:
Saunders:  https://www.amazon.com/Saunders-Comprehensive-NCLEX-RN-Examination-Nclex-Rn/dp/0323358519/ref=sr_1_1…

Get to work!

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