how to pass the nclex

EP 84: How to Pass the NCLEX

Taking an exam as important as NCLEX can be exciting. But how to pass the NCLEX like a pro? What are the exact steps you have to take to your success in passing this examination?

With the right preparation, passing the exam is absolutely attainable for every nursing school graduate out there. In our podcast episode, we explain some of our best strategies for studying, planning, and taking the NCLEX.

COVID-19 Impact on NCLEX

Ensure social distancing measures are in effect, as well as increase the number of candidates that can test daily. The NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN examinations will be administered until Sept. 30, 2020, as follows:

Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) will still be used:

  • The minimum number of test items will be 75 (15 of those will be the pretest). Previously It was a minimum of 75 questions with a max of 265
  • The maximum number of test items will be 145
  • The maximum testing time will be 5 hours
  • The difficulty level and passing standard have not changed

In 2018, the pass rate for 1st-time test takers with a Bachelor’s degree was about 92%, compared to an 85% pass rate with an Associate’s degree. This is all from our NCLEX study guide on page 4. 

What is the NCLEX?

So, you graduated from nursing school? As you know, you’re far from celebrating just yet. It felt like the hard part is just beginning. You need to study and pass your NCLEX. 

The NCLEX, also known as the National Council Licensure Examination, is a standardized test every state’s regulatory board determines if a candidate is ready to become a licensed nurse. The NCLEX is used to determine if it’s safe for you to begin practicing as an entry-level nurse.

Start preparing as soon as you finish school

Starting your studying too early/while you are still in school (and studying for exams) may cause burnout and lead to a more stressful NCLEX studying experience. On the other hand, if you take off a large amount of time in between school and NCLEX studying, you’ll start to forget key information you learned in nursing school that’s needed for the NCLEX.

We suggest waiting 2 months max to take the test. All that knowledge is still fresh in your mind and it’s a perfect time frame to plan out an effective study plan. Order your study material during the last couple of weeks of school to ensure you have all your resources ready for the upcoming weeks of studying

Read over the National Council of State Boards of Nursing detailed test plan (there is an overview of what you’ll be tested on and what percentage of the test is made up of what topics. For now, the NCLEX has 4 major categories, and the percentage is broken down on our NCLEX study guide.

Study Schedule 

Create a schedule that reinforces studying. For the next 1-2 months, your time revolves around studying. Aim for 3-4 hrs a day, if you can do more, that’s even better. Studying for 4 hrs a day gives you 120 hrs of studying a month, average human life is a little over 700,000 hrs and a typical work week is 40+ hours, just to give you a perspective for anyone that thinks that is a lot of studying.

Study Material

Study materials will depend on your learning style.

Flashcards: You can take them anywhere. Separate the ones you know and the ones you get wrong, and focus more on the ones you get wrong. These are really good for labs and meds.

Sticky notes: use these as another way to go over the things you struggle with. Write down what you keep getting wrong and post them on your bedroom mirror or a place you commonly stay in.

Notebook: Write down key topics and rationales. Separate them into categories so you are not looking all over the place. Being organized is key. A notebook is great because you can quickly look back on rationales, key points, and information as a quick reference. Another benefit is you are writing what you are learning which is another study style that will increase memorization.

Study groups 

Creating a study schedule, have you used one? Find a place to study, a place that won’t have many distractions. The place we have found to be most beneficial is the Library. This way you separate your personal life from your study life. You go to the library for 1 specific thing only, that is to study. Once you leave, you’re done studying, look at it as if it is your office and your 9-5 job.

Why do study groups work effectively? 

Forming study groups is a very effective strategy for enhancing learning. This is because groups share unique insights and learn from each other. Group members can also teach confusing concepts they understand to other group members. 

Study groups are particularly effective for completing projects, developing presentations, and preparing for exams. Study groups can help improve your notes by comparing class lecture notes. You can then fill in any information or important concept you missed during the lecture.

Study groups also allow you to have stronger support systems and can help how to pass the NCLEX. We all know how stressful nursing school can be. Joining or forming a study group is a great way to give and receive motivation and support from fellow students and group members. And if you become sick or are unable to attend class, you can get notes from members of your study group.

Cramming for an exam? No problem, study groups can help you cover more material. Working in groups makes it possible to focus on more concepts since multiple people can review more material than just one. Lastly, it makes studying easier and more fun! It’s a great way to liven up your studying sessions. 

Developing an effective study group

These are our recommendations to develop an effective study group!

How many people? 

It’s recommended to keep study groups between 4 to 6 people. People often socialize too much and cannot cover as much material in smaller groups. In bigger groups, some group members do not contribute as much and organization can be a problem.


The most effective study is completed in study groups composed of members with the common goal of earning good grades. Like-minded people, you need to be around those that take extensive notes, clear up confusion, and can ask questions to contribute. 


The location for studying can play a part in how to pass the NCLEX. It is best to study in environments without distractions and areas where group members can communicate freely. I always loved to reserve time in the library or parts of the college with a few couches and a quiet environment. 


Usually, you want to plan around exams. I used to always have study groups the day before or the day of the exam session. Our study groups were effective at reviewing all the material before the exam and finishing up last-minute confusion. 

Maximize the value of the group session by setting clear expectations and goals. Prior to each session, group members should discuss what they hope to achieve, so that the session is productive and stays on track.

Focus – Keep your eye on the prize 

How do you promote focus, what’s the secret? Focusing on one given task at a time. Our current society makes everything so dam distracting. Everything is calling out to grab your attention. It’s time to cancel out all that noise. You need to put quality time and energy into passing the NCLEX. That’s how it’s done. 

Here’s how to pass your NCLEX, click on the full video 👇👇


00:00 – Intro
00:41 – Overview
05:01– What is NCLEX
07:35 – How to Prepare
11:50 – Navy Seal Mindset
13:44 – Choosing study material
16:01 – Flashcards
17:23 – Study methods
19:49 – Study groups
21:19 – Effective Study Groups
22:50 – Pick your poison
23:59 – Study with Friends
26:42 – Keep Focus
28:43 – Secret Plan
34:24 – Final Thoughts


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