Mastering the NCLEX: A Comprehensive Guide to Preparation

Nursing School

Passing the NCLEX-RN exam is the final step students must take to become a registered nurse (RN). This guide will provide tips, study strategies, and insights into the NCLEX format. Plus, we’ll explore how pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Arizona College of Nursing can set you on the path to success.

Introduction to NCLEX Preparation

The NCLEX is a standardized test that assesses your readiness to enter nursing. It ensures you have the knowledge and skills to provide safe and effective nursing care at the entry-level. Proper preparation is essential to pass this exam, but you can feel confident and well-prepared with the right approach.

Understanding the NCLEX Test Format

The NCLEX is unique because it adapts to your performance. As you answer questions, the difficulty level adjusts based on your answers. This computer-adaptive format ensures that the exam accurately assesses your abilities.

Nursing College student on computer studying for NCLEX ExamThere are two main versions of the exam: NCLEX-RN for RNs and NCLEX-PN for PNs. Each of these tests assesses different scopes of practice, so they’re scored on separate scales and have unique passing standards. Both tests have anywhere from 85 to 150 questions that you must complete in five hours. As of April 1st, 2023, every test taker must now take an updated version of the NCLEX called the Next Generation NCLEX (Next Gen NCLEX or NGN) exam. The NGN includes new item types and is now the only licensing exam for RNs and PNs. As you prepare for the NGN exam, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the question formats and types you’ll encounter to study more effectively.

Types of Questions on the NGN Exam

The NGN exam includes a variety of question types. Some questions you’ll see are the same as on the old NCLEX, and others are new.

These question types from the old NCLEX will remain on the NGN:

  1. Multiple Choice – The most common type of question is multiple choice, where you select the best answer from several choices.
  2. Select All That Apply – These questions ask you to choose all correct answers from a list of options.
  3. Fill-in-the-Blank – These questions require you to provide missing information, including questions requiring the correct answer of a calculation.
  4. Other Questions – Other question types may include charts, graphics, video, audio, drag and drop, and hot spot questions, which involve clicking on a particular part of a graphic to answer the question.

Next Gen NCLEX Format and Question Types

The Next Gen NCLEX features additional question types that may appear as case studies or standalone items. Case studies are real-world nursing scenarios that unfold over six questions, while standalone items are individual questions that are not part of a case study. Whether it’s a case study or a standalone item, there are some new types of questions that you may see on the NGN. These include:

  • Extended Drag and Drop: These are like the usual drag and drop, but there are too many options to fit in the spaces. You’ll need to choose the best ones to put in those spaces.
  • Drop-Down: These questions provide a list of choices in a drop-down menu, and you’ll have to pick the right one to complete a sentence.
  • Extended Multiple Choice: This is like regular multiple choice but with more options.
  • Matrix/Grid: These questions are like select-all-that-apply questions, but you’ll have to sort through more choices and organize your answers into groups.
  • Highlighting: In this type of question, you must pinpoint critical information within a text or table by highlighting it.
  • Trend Item: You’ll look at information that changes in a patient’s medical records over time. It could involve any question type.
  • Bowtie: Drag and drop answer blocks into parts of a bowtie-shaped chart to create the correct relationship following an action > condition > parameter model.

Practice Makes Perfect

Arizona College of Nursing Student in Class Preparing For NCLEX ExamRegular practice is crucial for success on the NCLEX. Familiarize yourself with different question formats to build confidence and develop effective test-taking strategies. Each question format assesses different skills and knowledge areas, so understanding how to approach each type of question is crucial for demonstrating your nursing expertise and critical thinking abilities on exam day.

Tips and Strategies to Ace the NCLEX

As you begin to prepare for the NCLEX, you’ll find that preparation goes beyond reading textbooks. To ensure success, you’ll need to use strategies and resources that cater to your learning style and needs. Here are some tips to help you with this process:

Use Official Practice Materials

Using practice materials from trusted sources like the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) is invaluable for preparing for the NCLEX. These materials mirror the format and content of the actual exam, allowing you to become comfortable with the types of questions you’ll encounter. By practicing with official materials, you’ll gain confidence and better understand what to expect on exam day.

Harness the Power of Resources

NCLEX preparation resources come in various forms, including free and paid options. Online practice tests, daily review question apps, review courses, and study guides are readily available to help you refine your skills and knowledge. Explore a combination of resources that fit your preferences and budget. Remember, quality matters more than quantity. Choose resources that offer accurate and up-to-date information to enhance your preparation.

Personalize Your Study Approach

Every individual has a unique learning style and strengths. For example, some people thrive with visual aids, while others benefit from hands-on activities. As you prepare for the NCLEX, identify your learning preferences and tailor your study approach to align with your strengths. This will help you better understand complex concepts and retain information more effectively.

Pace Yourself

Create a study schedule that sets aside specific time blocks for studying, practice tests, and breaks. Regularly evaluate your progress and adjust your schedule if needed. Consistency is key, so aim to maintain a steady study routine. Since students tend to have more success in the NCLEX taking it soon after finishing school, you should pace your studies to help you be ready to take the test as soon as possible after you graduate. Being in a nursing school that starts your NCLEX prep on day 1 helps you make sure you’re ready by graduation.

Creating a Study Plan for the NCLEX

Crafting a well-structured study plan is key to setting yourself up for success on the NCLEX. With a clear roadmap and mindful planning, you can make the most of your preparation time. Here’s how to create a study plan that works for you:

Set Clear Goals and Timelines

Start by defining your goals for NCLEX preparation. What score would you like to achieve? How much time do you have before the exam? Establishing clear goals and timelines will provide you with a sense of direction and purpose. Be sure to break down your goals into smaller steps so you’ll have a sense of accomplishment along the way.

Find Balance

Balancing your study materials is crucial. Set aside time for reviewing content, practicing questions, and taking full-length practice tests. This balance allows you to strengthen your knowledge while becoming accustomed to the exam’s format and pacing. Remember, it’s not just about memorization but applying what you’ve learned.

Prioritize Rest and Self-Care

During intense preparation, self-care often takes a backseat. However, taking time to rest and recharge is essential for maintaining focus and retaining information. Include regular breaks in your study schedule and activities that bring you joy, such as a short walk, listening to music, or spending time with loved ones.

By following these steps, you’ll develop a study plan that sets you up for success on the NCLEX. Remember that preparation is a journey, and your effort will pay off when you sit for the exam.

How a BSN from Arizona College of Nursing Prepares You for the NCLEX

Nursing School Student Preparing For NCLEX ExamPlanning your approach to the NCLEX can be tough, but you don’t have to do this on your own! Arizona College of Nursing’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing is designed from the ground up to not only give you the skills and training you need for your nursing career, but to make sure you’re well prepared for the NCLEX. The curriculum is carefully designed to include practice and preparation that is crucial for success on the exam. Our exams and preparation use NGN-style questions to ensure students feel comfortable answering the question types they will see on the NCLEX.

Our nursing faculty also provides ongoing support during your program, ensuring you have the guidance you need throughout your studies. Real-world training and simulations further enhance your skills, giving you hands-on experience that is essential for your nursing career.

Ready to Conquer the NCLEX?

Although the NCLEX is a major undertaking, you can conquer this challenge with the right strategies and resources. By understanding the test format, practicing different question types, and creating a well-structured study plan, you’ll be well on your way to success. Our BSN program can equip you with the knowledge and skills to pass the exam and excel in your nursing career.

Take the first step toward a rewarding nursing career and confidently prepare for the NCLEX by visiting our NCLEX exam prep page.

Author Bio

Emeline Mugisha, APRN, MSN, MPH

Emeline Mugisha is an advanced practice registered nurse with research and practice experience in public health, HIV/AIDS, infectious disease, global health, epidemiology, and women’s health. Using a social justice and trauma-informed lens, her work aims to advance health empowerment, health equity, health literacy, whole-person health, and health in marginalized populations. She holds a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.

Information in this blog post is accurate as of October 9, 2023.