How to Prepare for the NCLEX: 5 Steps

To prepare for the NCLEX, you’ll need to understand your learning preferences, research the exam, plan your study sessions, and set yourself up for success on test day. There are also resources that can help you, including practice exams and NCLEX podcasts.

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Any test can be a little nerve-wracking, especially one that holds the ticket to your future in nursing. If you’re like most nursing students, you may be wondering how to prepare for the NCLEX. Luckily, we’ve got five steps you can take to ensure you’re ready to take the exam.

At Xavier University, our 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program prepares you to succeed on the NCLEX and to be an excellent nurse. The ABSN program offers a hybrid approach to learning that prepares you to sit confidently for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

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The Xavier ABSN program prepares you to sit for the NCLEX, but that support isn’t the only thing that makes our program stand out. Find out why Xavier University is known for nursing.

The test consists of a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265 questions, designed to ensure you have all the skills you need to be a great nurse and to give quality patient care. Students commit significant time to studying for the exam because it takes practice to learn how to choose the best answer, even when more than one option may be correct.

To help ease your concerns and build your confidence as you take this step toward your nursing career, we discuss five methods for how to prepare for the NCLEX.

1. Ease Your Test Anxiety

We understand there is a certain amount of pressure involved when taking the NCLEX, and being nervous is totally normal. If you get test anxiety, one of the most helpful steps you can take is creating a plan to manage your stress.

Here are a few tips and tricks to ease your anxiety leading up to exam day:

  • Study a little bit every day. Starting one to two months before the test, dedicate a regular period of time to studying for the NCLEX. This way, you’ll have that knowledge to fall back on and the peace of mind of knowing that you’ve been consistently prioritizing the test.
  • Don’t forget self-care. Make sure you are exercising, going outside, drinking water, and doing activities you enjoy. This will keep you in a good headspace and help manage your stress. Balance is important for any nursing student, and especially for students preparing for the NCLEX.
  • Before the day of the test, do some research about where to park, what time to be there, and what supplies you may need to bring — including any documentation or ID. This way, you won’t have to think about these details right before the test. Don’t try to cram; instead, take some time to breathe and relax before heading over for the exam.

2. Understand Your Learning Preferences

You might already have a solid understanding of the best way you learn but if not, you can take a learning preferences test online. You can get more out of studying using tactics that appeal to your unique learning preference.

For example, if you’re a visual learner, flashcards or charts can be helpful tools. Aural learners may get more out of podcasts and listening to YouTube videos. If you learn better in a group setting, create an NCLEX study group with your peers — after all, you’re all in the same boat and probably have similar questions or insights.

Xavier ABSN - Student studying on laptop

Additionally, it can be a great idea to have a specific spot to study. Rather than studying on your couch, create a designated study area where you can go when you’re ready to focus.

3. Set Goals

Entering your planned study sessions with intention can be instrumental in helping you to prepare for the NCLEX. If you’re working through an NCLEX guidebook, plan out the pages or chapters you want to get through. You can also set a certain number of practice test questions to answer, topics to master, or situations to understand.

However you choose to go about it, as long as you have an idea of what you want to get out of your study sessions and how to reach those goals, you’ll be well on your way to being prepared.

What Percentage of Candidates Pass the NCLEX?
Results from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing show that first-time NCLEX test takers in the United States passed at a rate of 86.57% in 2020.

4. Find NCLEX Resources

Speaking of guidebooks, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the body that develops the NCLEX exam, offers resources on its website. From test plans and practice exams to NCLEX guides and candidate rules, you’ll definitely want to check out what the NCSBN has to offer to prepare for the NCLEX.

Additionally, there are many test guides and practice worksheets available for purchase at bookstores and through online test prep sites.

5. Set Yourself up for Success on Test Day

Make sure to get a full night’s sleep before the test. You’ll want to arrive rested and ready for the exam, which you won’t get from a late night of last-minute studying. Make sure you eat a balanced breakfast, pack a lunch or snack, and bring some water. While you may not be able to eat in the testing room, the exam can take a long time and you may be granted a break to eat.

Remember that you can schedule your exam, so if you want to take it first thing in the morning to get it off your mind, you can! If you’d rather sleep in and take your time, that option is available as well.

Nursing student studying with textbook and computer

Make sure to arrive early and bring all the materials you need. Finally, have confidence in your abilities and in the effort you’ve put into studying over the last few months.

Get Started on Your Nursing Journey

If you’re thinking about applying to Xavier’s ABSN program in Ohio, be sure to contact our admission counselors to see if the accelerated path to nursing is right for you.

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