How I passed the NCLEX-RN

June 4, 2008 at 10:48 pm 39 comments

The two most popular posts on my blog have been one about Hillary Clinton and another about my experience taking the NCLEX.  Well, since the one thing the world doesn’t need more of is one more person blogging about politics, especially someone who hates politics.  I thought I would make another post about the NCLEX.  Sorry to those of you who could care less.

My first tip is for people trying to pick a nursing school.  Get on-line and look up their passing average for the NCLEX.  I think how well your school prepares you for the ultimate test has a lot to do with you passing.  I believe my school did an excellent job preparing me for the NCLEX.  In 2006 my school’s average rate was 93%.  I would love to know what it is now because they now require all students to take a practice HESI exam every 9 weeks.  I work with several girls who all went to the same school and none of them have passed boards after several tries.  They are all REALLY smart, but the school just did not prepare them for the NCLEX.

For those who are not required to take the HESI, let me clue you in.  It’s basicly a longer harder version of the NCLEX.  If you can pass the HESI you are supposed to be able to pass the NCLEX.  It is also on a computer and the questions are just as hard, if not harder.  I believe a full length HESI is around 300 questions.  We took a short version every 9 weeks at the end of each term.  We also had a full length HESI before graduation that we were required to pass before graduation.

My second tip is to practice, Practice, PRACTICE!!  We were required to buy this book for school.  It comes with a computer disk with practice questions on it.  We were required to do a certain number of practice questions while we were in school, and we had to get over 80% correct or we had to keep doing them over and over again.  The book is not broken down by subject, the point is to get your brain used to jumping from subject to subject.

This is the only book I studied from for the NCLEX.  After graduation I took this book everywhere.  To the dog park, training classes for work, on my lunch break from work.  Every spare minute I had I was doing practice questions.  At home I would put the CD in my laptop and do practice questions on commercial breaks while watching TV.  I would mute the TV and do questions until my show came back on.

The disk has several options.  You can break the questions down into subjects, or have them mixed together.  You can do one question at a time, meaning it tells you the correct answer as soon as you pick your answer.  You can take 10 question quizes and then get the answers at the end.  Or you can take 100 question tests.

I did a little bit of each.  I liked getting the answer as soon as I answered the questions because I would still be thinking about why I answered the question the way I did when the correct answer came up.  However, the 100 question test builds up your endurance.  After doing several of these 100 questions will fly by in no time.

For the most part I did tests with the subjects all mixed together.  But I also  did tests with questions from each section individually.  You can also choose to do every single practice question from each subject.  The most important one for this option is the prioritizing section.  There aren’t that many questions in that section on the disk, but it will teach you to think like the NCLEX people think.  Do them ALL!!  I promise it will help on test day.

That is what you need to pass the boards.  You don’t need to know everything word for word out of the text book.  You need to be able to pick out the most important part of the question and figure out what answer it is pointing too.

Almost EVERY SINGLE  QUESTION on the NCLEX exam was about something I had never even HEARD of before, let alone knew anything about.  It was all about knowing what they were looking for,, and what the question was trying to get me to think about.

Some big things that I and others have been tested on very strongly:

1. Stages of isolation.  I had a question wanting to know what kind of isolation I would put a patient with some plague I had never heard of before in.  Well, obviously if it has the word PLAGUE in it, it is bad.  They are in the strongest isolation possible.

2.  I had a TON of those mark all answers that are correct questions.  ICKKK!!  MAJOR ICCCKKK!!  I SUCK at these because I can always talk myself into marking them all.  You can pick all of the questions like these from the disk and do just them.  DO THEM ALL!!!  Out of the 75 quesitons I got on the NCLEX I had at least 7 of those dumb things.  My other advice on these, don’t spend too much time on them.  Just pick the answers that pop out at you as correct and move on.  That way you don’t talk yourself into marking them all.

3.  And of course, the lovely priority questions.  Yes, it’s true, there are tons of these.  Remember  your ABC’s, but also remember that sometimes ABC’s aren’t always what they are looking for.  If all of your patients are stable who do you see first??

4.  Oh, something else I had a lot of.  Study the Black, Red, Yellow, Green triage system.  I couldn’t find a great website about this, so hopefully you can find something better in your nursing books.

Three or Four days before boards cut back on studying and try to relax and take some time to let your brain rest.  Spend some time with your family, go see a funny movie, get out of the house.  I still did a few questions a day, but not hundreds a day like the weeks before.   Drive by the testing center the day before so you aren’t stressed about finding it the next morning.  Get a good nights sleep.  Wake up early so you don’t have to rush to get there.  The Sunday before my NCLEX I went to church and had an amazing experience.  I had been so stressed before then that I would almost retch every time I thought about the test.  At church this amazing peace swept over me and I just KNEW I was going to pass.  I hope you can have this feeling going into boards.

In the front of the book are tips on studying for boards and tips on what to look for in the questions.  I read through the tips on what to look for chapter the day before, just as a refresher.

Oh, and our school told us to take snacks and water to the test.  Don’t, you will have to lock everything up and can’t get back in your locker until the test is over.  Take the ear plugs they offer even if you think you won’t need them.  There were others in the room taking court recording tests, so people were typing a mile a minute all around me and it was distracting.

Let me know if you have any questions.  And GOOD LUCK!!!  I hope you will have the letters RN (or LPN) after your name soon!


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39 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Scott  |  June 12, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    thanks for your advice,,, I am taking my boards on Jul 1, and am very nervous.. How much time a day did u study? Any other advic,e I appreciate your feedback…

  • 2. Melissa  |  June 15, 2008 at 12:15 am

    How much I studied depending on what I did that day. Before i started working I was working five 8 hour shifts a week, or in classes at work. So, I would usually come home and just do questions on commercial breaks for a couple hours at night. On my days off I would study for like 4 hours? But, I also gave myself a break after graduation before I started studying.

    In Kentucky we were (they are changing this) requiring us to complete 120 hours of on the floor work after graduation before we could take our boards. I didn’t start studying until I started those hours. So, I studied 2-4 hours a day for a little less than two months.

    Just try to get familiar with what they are looking for, there is no way to memorize everything. However, you can learn to figure out what they are looking for and figure out the answer based on what you do know. Remember, a lot of the questions were on subjects I had never even heard of and I still managed to pass. Good luck!

  • 3. Brian  |  June 27, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I have taken the test 4 times and I have failed every time. I studied hours and hours. I did books, flash cards, CDs and nothing has helped. I did excellent in school and my professors are stumped on why this is happening to me.

    What can I do???

  • 4. marsha  |  July 1, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    its true we have to take finger prints to take the NCLEX test?

  • 5. destin3g99  |  July 1, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Yes, they take your finger print when you get there, before you go in the room, and when you leave. Also any time you leave and come back for breaks.

    Brian, have you taken any of the NCLEX review coarses? I know Kohen is supposed to be really good. Also, what is the pass rate like at your school? Have other class mates had problems? Are you having text anxiety issues? If so you might look for some counseling, maybe through your school. Good luck, just keep practicing and studying.

  • 6. Beth  |  July 24, 2008 at 7:50 am

    This scares me. Here I am struggling to memorize biology and there seems like there is so much more that is so much harder! I work full time and have 4 kids and go to school at night and on the weekends. I have very little time to study. Do you have any suggestions that will help me maximize my knowledge consumption? Because it it summer this biology class is shortened so there is a lot more info in a short amount of time. The last midterm was 114 multiple point q’s. My head was spinning by the end of it. I ended up getting 66%. The class average is 75%. Is there hope for me or am I doomed for failure? PLEASE HELP!

  • 7. Carole  |  August 27, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    I recently took my boards couple of weeks ago and failed even after taling a review course with Kaplan and had been studying for two months diligenly. Yet I came across your website the same week after I failed trying to find other resources to pass NCLEX. To be honest pror to taking my boards I was told to review with saunders but was skeptical because I didn’t want any confusion by using different resources. Yet now as look back I wish I did because I see how saunders goes into to details on its rationales as well as its strategies in anwering questions. It has taken me awhile to accept that everything happens for a reason therefore my failing NCLEX is not the end of the world (even though it feels like it) lol. Anyway I bought the book you have suggested Saunders Q & A and so far I like it I did read great reviews on it yet I cant tell you if its works until I retake NCLEX. Thanks for your support through your website it has been a real help for me on not giving up!

  • 8. destin3g99  |  August 31, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Carole, just keep it up! Another tip that I don’t think I posted. When you get to a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t just guess. I know when I took it almost all of the questions were on things I never heard of. Try to break down the question, is there anything in it that gives you hints? Such as what system or body part they are talking about. Or are they talking about vital signs, other symptoms, pain? Sometimes I could mark out at least two of the questions by doing that. I would still maybe have to guess, but at least I had a 50/50 shot. I think a lot of the nurses I worked with that didn’t pass got flustered and just started rushing through if they didn’t know the answer right away. Like I said before, keep up the hard work and good luck! Let me know how it goes!

  • 9. katie  |  September 3, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    I took the nclex exam this august 14t, 2008 and I pass. I answered 75 questions and it was really hard but thanks to kaplan review it really helped me lot but I reviewd saunders too coz its thorough and it will help a lot

  • 10. nagaraya  |  September 11, 2008 at 2:57 am

    Hi, i took the nclex yesterday. it ended on the 75th question. im so anxious now because i really think i failed. i had around 6-7 SATA and couple of priority questions and more on infection control. It was a really hard exam. i can’t believe nothing from what i have reviewed really helped me. oh boy, my anxiety level is up on the roof.

  • 11. nursebetty  |  October 22, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    hi i took the test twice and failed im scared to retake the test again! i graduated from school aug 11,2007. i dont no what to do i need some adviced everybody i gradauted with passed but me please help me. the stress is getting deep. it gots to get better, and im tired ppl keep telling me things happen for a reason.

  • 12. Cristopher Lubina  |  December 6, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Hi I’m Cris

    I ‘m a Filipino nurse, took the NCLEX recently (Nov. 8, 2008). I also reviewed saunders, actually mine was not the latest edtion, it was a second edition Saunders. I reviewed all the Concepts, Rationales, even made Mnemonics for me to remember them. Luckily I passed for the first time, stopped at 75. before the day of the exam I also crammed some notes and questions from kaplan.

    For those takers, work hard on your review… 1 month would be enough in your preparation process… Focus and Pray

    good Luck

  • 13. Courtney  |  January 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks for the advice. I’m studying only from a Saunders book and was getting really stressed out because the questions dont seem that hard (so I was afraid I wasn’t being adequately prepared for the NCLEX). But since you used Saunders and passed….I feel better=)

  • 14. Alexander the "madness"  |  April 5, 2009 at 3:35 am

    KAPLAN NCLEX RN sucks!!!! I want my money back. I can’t believe they didn’t extend my online service for another 2 weeks. They’re supposed to do everything they could to help you prepare before the test, but now they’re pissing me off more. I supposed to have some peace before the test, but now I’m ready to complain about them. The stupid critical thinking tree crap doesn’t work. They’re just using fearful tactics to get money out of students in their vulnerable positions. They’re another vicious animal in this world. They should be ashamed of themselves. If I were to pass NCLEX RN, I still gonna talk sh— about those animals there.

  • 15. BABY  |  July 10, 2009 at 5:34 am

    wow alexander, your post was so mean. i used Kaplan to study exclusively and i passed at 76. There is also a good Nclex book by Mary Hogan that comes with a CD with almost 6000 questions. This is an awesome disk that helped me with my Nclex which i took July 7,2009.
    study priorization of pts, standard, airborne, etc precautions
    study cushings/addisons
    study classifications of meds
    study math
    prioization is the most important, most of my questions were these types

  • 16. junior  |  August 18, 2009 at 1:26 am

    wow, thanks for the pointers i kept on readin, i realized that i did some of them..i’m going to take my test on wednesday and i feel like i’m going crazy..that’s why tomorrow, the day before the test, i’ll just some funny movies, bike around the shore, and go to church..i’ve been like doing series of 100s or 200s or 300-500 questions a day in Saunders cd for 2 months now and so far i had 100% twice and some 90% and mostly think i’ll make it?..i feel really’s like all the pressure’s on me..i’d be glad to hear opinions..

  • 17. Laura Sorenson  |  October 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I just happened to open this on website and decided to post. I have failed the NCLEX 4 times and now am wondering what to do. I am a Christain and wonder what God has for me and why he has allowed this in my life. I took the Kaplan online and also the Drexul University live course and still failed. Today I am so distraught but am clinging to God and what he has for me. I have practiced as an LPN for 3 yrs. What do you suggest?

  • […] rest is here: How I passed the NCLEX-RN « From the Bedside Categories : […]

  • 19. Cherie  |  November 30, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Hello, I’m searching for NCLEX related blogs like mine and I stumbled your site, nice blog!. I hope you could also include me in your blogroll.

    By the way, you have a very good writing skills here. Keep up the good work.

  • 20. Victoria  |  February 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Hello.I have taken the test 7 times and every time i failed.Study for many hours every day.I tried CD,book and nothing help me.Help me please

  • 21. Kaley  |  February 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I have taken the NCLEX four times and have failed. I have tried everything and have spent tons of money. Can you please give me some advise! Thanks

  • 22. Diondria  |  April 9, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    My advice is for anyone who has took the NCLEX once or even multiple times and failed and you feel like giving up. DO NOT GIVE UP. Give Hurst Review a try. Not only will they give you the core content you need to pass NCLEX in a more digestible pallitable and even funny package, but they will also tell you tips on how the NCLEX people think and what they are looking for so you know what to look for when answering test questions.

  • 23. claw  |  April 12, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    hi, your blog really helps, nice post. have you tried kaplan review? was it good? ive been looking for tips for a week now. .
    unfortunately i only found two yet taht help a lot, the other site was

  • 24. Patrick  |  September 10, 2010 at 7:28 am

    People have only suggestions you have to work hard your self. I’ll prefer you to go for some e-papers. hesi exam

  • 25. George  |  April 8, 2011 at 5:14 am


  • 26. George  |  April 8, 2011 at 5:17 am

    hey soory for my first comment that was mistakenly posted. I want to say that this is very nice post. For starting carrier in NCLEX one should read this. Very well explained how to prepare for this exam and what methods to follow. Thanks for sharing .

  • 27. tenz..  |  July 6, 2011 at 3:54 am

    this is how i have cleared my nclex rn on the first attempt..just follow this and i m sure u will definitely pass and reach ur goal..

    1.just go through all the theory parts from saunders latest edition,practice cd’s of saunder.
    2.once u r done with saunder..go with latest edition of kaplan cd which has got 7 set of questions.
    3.practice cd(3500 nclex rn )..tremendous helpful….
    4. if u still get time.,practice some from lippincot, mosby and do some from nclex website,,i practiced hesi from the internet..
    5.go through the rationals in detail and yes!revision is the most important..
    6.practice , practice and practice..and never give up…have faith in god and believe in yourself..

    here i wish u all the best …

  • 28. theju  |  July 10, 2011 at 11:09 am

    hey thanks for all your views over here am really getting inspired am planning to take up my boards on december , not yet started my studying & am working nw in a company from 2pm to 10 pm some one guide in making a schedule please

  • 29. jhon  |  July 14, 2011 at 4:32 am

    thanks for good information

  • 30. LW  |  October 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Amazing…..Thanks a million…..:)

  • 31. keke  |  December 30, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Hurst Review is the best thing around. The questions are similar to the Nclex RN. Trust me on what I am saying…………. Hurst is the best!!

  • 32. MARIA  |  February 17, 2012 at 10:31 am

    hi, i took the nclex yesterday, i got 265Q, i don’t feel i pass, this is my 4 time, last time i was close to pass, this time i got again 265,what you ……. somebody beleve i pass or not, anything…….?????

  • 33. Daniel  |  April 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Hello, I took the NCLEX-RN like 4 times and stuff, each time it is closer to passing, but still fail. Last time I took it was in 2009, and I had 140 questions. Can somebody help me? Thanks!

  • 34. Jorge Prociuk  |  June 5, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Some truly superb information, Sword lily I found this. “Anonymity is the truest expression of altruism.” by Eric Gibson.

  • 35. Lisa  |  September 5, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Oh, how I wish you could come and talk to my students! First day of class was yesterday, and they HATE the Kaplan test prep program we have them do throughout their three years in Nursing. I try to tell them, but it will almost guarantee you’ll pass NCLEX the first time if you use it correctly, but they think we just assign it to make their lives miserable. Like your tips, and also like your blog!

  • 36. stacy  |  September 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    I took my boards on august 29th, took all 265 questions, did the Pearson trick and the pretty credit card page popped up. I was embarrassed, disappointed and humiliated! I did well in nursing school and scored a 89% on the ati predictor which gave me a 99% pass rate on the NCLEX, which I failed. I went to work (I work at a surgery center as tech) the next day for my boss to tell me she has a job waiting and I informed her it will have to wait at least 45 more days. 😦 Everyone else I have graduated with has been successful with the NCLEX….so I feel awesome! (much sarcasm was intended)

    With that being said, we can do this!!! We didn’t pass nursing school because we got lucky, we passed because we knew our stuff!! We will be Nurses.

    When I informed my father of the news that I was unsuccessful, he stated that some of the smartest people took a few steps back before moving forward.

    We aren’t failures, we just have prolonged our success. We can do it…believe in yourself and lets kick ass next time around!

    Stacy ❤

  • 37. Saba Kassa  |  December 30, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Hi i’m from Ethiopia and i take nclex rn test i’m so scared !

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