After graduating from nursing school in June (see my recap here), I finally took the NCLEX this month and found out I passed! I passed in 75 questions and it was a goal of mine not to have to buy any program like nursing.com, Kaplan, or UWORLD. I think that there are many ways to successfully study to pass the NCLEX the first time around, but in this post, I am going to be walking you through how I studied to pass the NCLEX in 75 questions, as well as other popular methods to study.
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How I Studied to Pass the NCLEX in 75 Questions
Overview of the NCLEX
After graduating from nursing school, before becoming a licensed nurse, you need to take the national board exam which is the NCLEX. The questions can either be multiple choice or select all that apply. In the select all that apply questions, one answer could be right, several, or all of them. The computerized test gives you a harder question when you get one right and the goal is to “get to the hard questions.” If the test determines that with 95% certainty you can safely practice, you pass. You can answer as little as 75 questions to pass, or as many as 145 (previously 265 before COVID). NCLEX next-gen is launching in April 2023, so that might change the “best” ways to study since I’m not sure what that will look like.
Overview of Popular Study Methods
UWORLD is one of the most recommended ways to study for the NCLEX. It is essentially a giant question bank of over 2,000 questions and rationales. Going through the questions can help you get used to answering NCLEX-style questions and reviewing the rationales of what you missed can help you review some of your problem spots. They are also rolling out next-gen questions if you are graduating before the new NCLEX test. With UWORLD you can track your performance and organize self-assessments. However, it is pricy with the minimum cost of 30-days of access being $139.
Nursing.com is another popular choice for nursing students. They have a lot of videos for every topic and have practice tests you can take called the SIMCLEX. The SIMCLEX is a simulation of the NCLEX and will tell you if you are likely to pass the NCLEX or not. Like the NCLEX you can have as few as 75 questions or as many as 145. Other than the videos and SIMCLEX, there are practice questions that you can take on any topic. Nursing.com has a 100% money-back guarantee if you don’t pass the NCLEX when it told you that you would and reports that users have a 99.86% pass rate. This is also pretty pricy with the cheapest option being $149 for 60-days of access, a year access for $246, or two years for $492. With the 2 month or year access you get 3 SIMCLEX attempts and with the 2 year you get 5. There is also a free 3 day trial that you can cancel at any time.
This option is the most expensive, but also has a 100% money-back guarentee if you don’t pass the first time. The self-paced NCLEX prep course is $425 and the live option is $525. This option is the most like a course with videos. For practice questions there are over 2,000. In this course they recommend you do 75/day for 3 months. There is also a simulation NCLEX like nursing.com called the CAT.
How I Studied to Pass the NCLEX
Now getting into how I studied to pass the NCLEX! I did not want to invest in a course, but if I did it probably would have been UWORLD. In nursing school I got good grades and understood most of the content so I knew I wouldn’t need to relearn much. I just wanted to do practice questions and review. The NCLEX itself has an 86.5% pass rate for first-time test takers, and my program specifically had a 93- 96% pass rate. This gave me a lot of confidence going into studying. I also had a higher score on the HESI which predicted I was more likely to pass. If I wasn’t sure of myself going into the test, had a lower HESI, or was at a school with a lower pass rate I would have studied more intensely and bought a program.
If you’re confident that you have retained a lot of the info and are going to a school with a high NCLEX pass rate, I don’t think buying a program is necessary.
Mark Klimek Lectures
These were recorded in 2008 and aren’t up to date but they were helpful to think about how to answer the questions. I listened to all of them twice. They have been removed from Youtube and Spotify now, but they are still floating around out there. If you join a nursing student Facebook group you will probably be able to find them. I would say they are helpful, but take them with a grain of salt and use them to supplement, not as your focus.
I wanted to do some practice questions (without having to pay) so I did all 12 of the NurseLabs NCLEX practice question test bank (here). I just did a few whenever I had the chance or before going to sleep while I was in Mexico after graduating. If I got any wrong I read the rationale. I used NurseLab questions to study before some of my tests in nursing school and overall think they are pretty helpful.
Saunders NCLEX Prep Book
This book helped me the most! I had to buy this book along with my other textbooks in the beginning of nursing school. I used it briefly during school but really not much. During the week leading up to my NCLEX I skimmed/read the whole book and did all the practice questions. There are 1087 pages and almost 1000 practice questions so this was very time consuming and if I had more time I would’ve spread it out. I did skip some of the sections I knew I wasn’t going to get like a few meds or diseases we didn’t really cover in school. I wasn’t reteaching myself, I was just reviewing and this helped me remember a lot of the things I forgot. If you want to do even more practice questions or watch videos, there is also an access code for an online resource. There is a new edition out now which you can find here.
Simple Nursing Videos
Simple Nursing on Youtube helped with some of the more challenging topics I needed a refresher on. I used the Registered Nurse RN Youtube videos more while in school for tests, but found the Simple Nursing Videos had really good pneumonics and reviews for the NCLEX.
I didn’t buy nursing.com, but I did get the free 3-day trial and used all 5 SIMCLEXs to see if I was expected to pass. They all said I was and it gave me more confidence going into the exam. I feel like 5 was excessive and 3 would have been fine. After 3 of the tests, some of the questions started to repeat.
I do recommend taking a simulation NCLEX before the exam so you know what to expect for questions beforehand.
- Following an NCLEX study guide could be helpful. Nursing.com has some for free, and so does Pinterest.
- Don’t study the day before your exam! Give yourself a brain break.
- Try not to stress going into the exam, if you don’t pass it isn’t the end of the world. Just study some more and retake it.
- Focus on your weak areas. Mine was OB and during my first SIMCLEX it saw I was answering them wrong and focused on it a ton. The NCLEX does the same thing, it notices your weak areas. Find your weak areas and spend more time on them instead of on what you already know.
- Give yourself a break! It takes a bit of time before you get your authorization to test. Once you graduate, take a break, trip, vacation… just relax! You earned a break.
- You are never going to feel ready! Just do your best to prepare and then take it!
- You probably won’t feel confident after leaving the test, but try not to assume you failed.
Pop Up Trick
There is a trick if you take the NCLEX and want to have some reassurance that you’ve passed. It is not 100% accurate! Once you take the test and receive the email saying you’ve completed it, you can do this trick. I waited at leat 2 hours to be sure.
To do the trick, go to the Pearson website and log in. Complete the steps to sign up for another test, but change your CVC number so that your card will not be charged (no refunds are given if it is, even if you passed). If a pop up at the top says that you recently scheduled another exam then you likely passed! When it says your results are on hold, it means you neither passed or failed and someone needs to review your test. If it says that your credit card is wrong, it could mean you didn’t pass. Again, it’s not 100% accurate and you can always pay $8 for the unofficial results after 48 hours.
That’s how I studied to pass the NCLEX! Don’t stress too much, take a break, and just do the best that you can. If you’re about the take the NCLEX, good luck!!
If you enjoyed this post, you can find more of my nursing-related posts below:
- What I Bring to Nursing School Clinicals
- How to Manage Anxiety in Nursing School
- How to Get into Nursing School