NCLEX preparation – 9 great tips!



We all delay studying even though we have delayed too long. Don’t feel guilty – it happens to all of us.  The intention to take the NCLEX-RN, the course and test scheduling can take a few weeks or several months depending on your frame of mind, your study habits, the State you want to register in and approval to sit the exam.  You have enough time from when you apply to the Board to when you decide to take the test to schedule your study time.  Our recommendation is that you do a ‘joint’ study program – first study from the printed material followed by an online course.   SNI recommends the following link to order this program.  This type of preparation will stop the ‘panicking’ when the test day approaches and you are hoping, that you will pass.

Remember the Boy Scout Motto – BE PREPARED and you will pass.

Hopefully the following helpful hints will assist you with your studies.

  1. When should I begin studying?

Only you know your study habits and what works for you.  Some nurses only need a few weeks and others a few months.  Plan a study program around what you can do.

Worldwide college students taking the NCLEX often start learning 5-6 months previous to their examination.  Again, plan a program that works for you. However, depending where you graduated from and your nursing background, plus your mastery of English will determine the amount of time you think, as an individual, you will need.

  1. What’s the best methodology for studying?

This is up to you – what works for you may not work for your friend or classmate. Everybody prepares differently.  There are some key issues to remember when starting to study for NCLEX:

  • Don’t reread all of your nursing college notes. You don’t need that.
  • The NCLEX is common information.
  • Order a combination of good study books and an online course.
  • The books will really help and the online course puts it all into perspective for you.
  • They all have questions relating to what you are studying.
  • Deal with key topics that you are having a problem with.
  • If you know medical-surgical nursing and work on a medical or surgical ward, you will probably be ok in that area and should devote more time to the discipline you are not familiar with. For example: OB/L&D, Pediatrics etc..
  • Different format questions are shown at the end of each segment of your study guides. Watch out for “choose all that apply” questions. They are a little more difficult.
  1. Do I need to master every part of my studies to pass?

The NCLEX is a computer based exam and covers all disciplines in nursing.  Answer the questions in your study books and the online course (that’s why SNI recommends you use both and we suggest the ICAN Publishing Company resources).

The exam is tougher than most anticipate so don’t assume that passing is automatic (or ‘a given’ as we say n America).

The questions are structured in such a way that a minimum number of questions asked can be fifty (75) or maximum at around two hundred and fifty (265). After you complete the exam you will walk out of the testing site with ‘no clue’ as to whether you passed or failed.  Don’t worry, this is normal. Nurses from all over the world have the same feeling.

  1. What’s the test structure like? How much time do I have for the test and are there breaks?

The NCLEX is a Computerized Adaptive Test – the same as in the UK

The questions are often random. See some helpful hints at the end.

  1. When and how do I register for boards? Can I reschedule?

Click on this link to view the candidate bulletin, it will give you all the knowledge you want:

REMEMBER – each Board has different requirements for registration, especially for the international nurse.  Once approved by the State Board you will receive the ATT (Authorization to Test).  At that time register with Pearson Vue to schedule your exam.  And yes, you can always reschedule if you must miss the original date and if you do fail the exam you can retake.  If you test better mornings, then schedule your exam for the morning session – same thing with the afternoon session.

  1. What are the test requirement and what am I allowed/not allowed to convey for the NCLEX?

The testing sites are strict and do not allow any private objects resembling cell telephones, luggage, purses, coats, hats, gum, drink, watches, and many others. See the candidate bulletin hyperlink above for extra info.

7. How early should I arrive on the day of the exam?

Get there 30-40 minutes early.  Don’t forget to take a ‘bathroom break’ before you go in! There will be others taking the exam at the same time.  Some testing sites only have a four-testing facility, depending on the country.

  1. How can I help myself prepare?

We suggest you prepare for your examination the day before by following these steps:

  • Get a good night’s sleep!
  • Eat a nutritious meal on the day of the exam.
  • Drink limited coffee or tea – a small amount of caffeine helps you stay awake and improves your concentration but stay away from large amounts
  • Keep away from too much sugar – Refined sugars are related to a spike in vitality, followed by a decline in cognitive capability.  If you are taking the test in the afternoon – try a Diet Coke or Pepsi to give you that ‘lift’. 
  • Once you have studied and feel you are ready – give yourself a break the evening or morning before you sit the exam.
  • Clear your mind on the day of the test.  If you feel you need some extra study – concentrate on the questions in your study material that you feel are your weakest areas.


SNI’s ‘tried and true’ advice.

  1. Most questions are based on the concept “Is this nurse safe to work in a hospital on a ward and take care of patients”?
  2. Look at the questions and ask yourself – What is safest for the patient and do you know what this is as it relates to each question.
  3. Really Study the question before you try and answer. For example: Is it a physiological question or psychosocial question.  Rule out the one it is not – then go on to the other answers in the same question.  Remember always Patient Safety.
  4. After you have completed your study and online course you will have a good idea of what the American NCLEX is looking for.
  5. This is the key – Focus on that thought as you read the questions.
  6. When you understand this concept, you will pass the exam.

How will I get my results and what happen if I fail?

You can get your “unofficial” result after 48 – 72 hours. Check on the Pearson Vue website at

SNI hopes the above information helps you with your studies and gives you confidence to take the exam.  If you decide you want to take the CGFNS exam first, it is like the NCLEX.  Even though you pass CGFNS you still  must pass NCLEX.