5 Things To Do To Prepare For The NCLEX

5 Things To Do To Prepare For The NCLEX

Looking for ways to prepare for the NCLEX exam but don’t know where to start? 

Preparing for the NCLEX exam or the National Council Licensure Examination can be difficult. The exam is a standardized test that determines if the exam taker is ready to become a licensed nurse. Although stressful, there are many things you can do to prepare to take and succeed in passing the exam. Here are 5 things to do to prepare for the NCLEX. 

Before we start, let’s talk about the two NCLEXs. 

What’s the difference between NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN?

There are two types of NCLEX exams, and depending on what level of nursing you want to practice, you either take the registered nurse or practical nurse exam. The NCLEX -PN is for practical nurses; this exam is taken by individuals who want to become a licensed practical or vocational nurse (LPN/LVN). The NCLEX-LN is for individuals interested in becoming a registered nurse. 

The NCLEX exams are divided into four categories:

  • The safe and effective care environment
  • Health promotions and maintenance
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Physiological integrity

The NCLEX-RN has a maxim of 265 questions and a minimum of 75, while the PN has  25 questions and a minimum of 85, including 15-25 experimental questions not counted towards your last score.

Here are the 5 ways to prepare for the NCLEX

Register for the NCLEX

Registering for the NCLEX is part of the preparation stage. Before you sit for the exam, you must apply to the board of nursing or regulatory body where you wish to be licensed or registered. You’ll receive an application for licensure six weeks before graduating from nursing school. The exam cost is $200 and includes an additional $50 fee *other fees determined by individual State Boards of Nursing. Once you receive your ATT, you can officially register with Pearson VUE

Note: For first-time NCLEX takers are offered a 30-day leeway after their first attempt to schedule an appointment.

Gather Your Resources and Information

Whether you’re buying practice exams and books or request your mentors’ notes and those before you, gathering your resources is essential.  There are various reviews and guidebooks for the NCLEX  or  NCLEX-RN prep plus and Drug Guide by  Kaplan Test Prep, including prep exams. Gathering resources throughout your nursing school experience can help you once you take the exam.  Check with your program to see if they have a deal with some classroom review courses i.e.Kaplan or Nursing.com. Also, connecting with former nursing students and advisors for notes and references is another way to gather more information.

Note: The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the organization behind the NCLEX, has practice exam packets for  $150 for both RN and PN exam takers. The practice packets contain two computerized exams with 125 questions in each.

Make a Study Plan

Developing a study plan ensures that you set aside enough time to study. You can create a schedule or chart that includes the days you plan to study, time spent studying, and practice exam days. For example, you could take a biweekly practice question exam that focuses on one of the four categories. You can also include study goals and create score goals for each category, including timing yourself while studying and testing. By developing a study plan, you can manage the time spent studying, reviewing, and retaining information before the exam.

Note: The exam takes five hours for LPNs and six for RNs.

Familiarize Yourself with the NCLEX Format

Knowing how the exam is structured can improve your test-taking abilities when developing your study plans.  You can familiarize yourself with the format by taking practice exams, limiting confusion or nervousness during exam day.  

The NCLEX is comprehensive and uses a computerized adaptive testing(CAT) format, with individualized questions.  The exam comprises of multiple-choice questions, multiple responses, fill in the blank, and drag-and-drop questions.  The exam generates questions based on your previous question and answers. 

Note: To pass, you must correctly answer enough questions to stay above the 95% confidence interval.  

Take our 5 questions NCLEX Prep Test 

  1. What is another term for low potassium?
    • Hypokalemia
    • Hyperkalemia
    • Hyperlipidemia

Explanation: The correct term is Hypokalemia, which refers to a lower than average potassium level in your bloodstream. Bonus: Normal potassium range is between a 3.5-5.0  mEq/L, lower would be a 3.2 mEq/L

  1. What does a total colectomy involve?
    • Removal of the large intestine
    • Removal of the small intestine
    • Removal of the lower part of the liver

Explanation: A total colectomy means the removal of the large intestine i.e, due to ulcerative colitis.

  1. What behaviors can be expected from a patient who has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s?
    1. No prominent symptoms or emotional expression
    2. Suspiciousness of others
    3. Social withdrawal and anxiety around the unfamiliar

Explanation: Behavior changes such as social withdrawal, angry outbursts, and anxiety may be the first signs of Alzheimer’s.

  1. While assessing a 3-year-old. What motor skills would the nurse expect to find?
    1. Waving
    2. Holding a rattle
    3. Building tower blocks

Explanation: 3 year-year olds can build tower blocks, work with puzzles, and can screw and unscrew jars.

  1. What equipment is needed to inspect the retina and other parts of the eye during an exam?
    1. A penlight
    2. An ophthalmoscope
    3. A flashlight

Explanation: The ophthalmoscope is used for inspecting the retina and other parts of the eye. Bonus: a fundoscopy checks the fundus(back of the inside of the eye) including the retina and optic nerve.

Note:  You receive your official results from your state’s board roughly six weeks after the exam.

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About the author

Joycelyn Ghansah

Joycelyn Ghansah is a former Healthcare Organizer with a background public health, include reproductive and sexual health. When she's not freelance writing, she's transcribing interviews and researching ways to strengthen healthcare labor laws.

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