How To Pass Your NCLEX-RN Exam

Written by Peter Jones

Nursing school is hard. And the stress of passing your “boards,” or the NCLEX exam, is intense. Not to mention that the test itself is expensive, at $300 or more per shot. This comprehensive test for professional licensure is difficult—and is required to enter a career as an RN or LPN.

Instead of stressing, which will be counterproductive, here are some strategies to help you pass.

1. Relax—you’ve got this.

You just finished nursing school, which was was hard enough. The material you covered on your school exams will be harder than about 70% of what you’ll encounter on the NCLEX—really. If you put in the time throughout your studies, you should be well on your way to a passing score.

2. Understand that you can’t cram.

Don’t even bother taking the test if you can’t budget yourself some time before to study. Get yourself an NCLEX Review Study Guide book, join a study group, take review quizzes and practice tests. Pay special attention to areas you had trouble with in nursing school. There are a ton of great products available online (, the Medmaster course, the Lab Values course, the Cardiac Essentials course, Picmonic, Brilliant Nurse, Board Vitals,, and Kaplan’s nursing materials are a few to check out).

3. Use your phone/tablet to its advantage.

There are a ton of apps that you can use to study and prepare while on the go. Try NCLEX Mastery, NCLEX PREP, ATI RN Mentor—NCLEX Exam Preparation, UWORLD Qbank, RN Crush!, and the NCLEX® Prep App. There are also lots of practice question resources out there, from NRSNG, GraduateX, Lippincott, and BoardVitals.

4. Don’t overstudy.

Once you’ve got something down, move on. Do general review from time to time to keep older material fresh. But put the books down the night before the test. Get a good night’s sleep, and don’t crack the books open again on test day. Just trust your gut and your preparation will get you through.

5. Don’t second guess yourself.

The computer adaptive testing module (CAT) is predictive, giving you questions at different levels based on your correct or incorrect answer to the previous question. Don’t freak out about the level of your next question. Just focus on getting the right answer. Don’t try to overthink what the system is giving you.

6. Know that you’re ready and able to ace this thing.

Don’t go into the test thinking it’s an obstacle. Instead, use it as an opportunity to show the world what you’ve learned. Ace it!

7. Practice active studying.

Rather than just copying notes or reading through texts, rewrite those notes and texts in your own words. Take practice tests. Really stretch yourself to make sure the information sticks.

8. Memorize where you have to.

On the NCLEX-RON, you’ll mostly you’ll need to engage your best critical thinking skills. But there are a few things you’ll have to have memorized cold. Get started on these early: disease symptoms, normal lab values, and drug side effects.

9. Come prepared and relaxed.

Show up early, in comfortable clothing, with all the things you’ll need to take the test: your ID, a snack, a water bottle. Make sure you aren’t chewing gum, and plan to leave your bag and electronics outside the testing room. Make sure you’ve eaten and rested and are mentally prepared.

10. Stay cool.

Try first to visualize the situation. Let your muscle memory help you get the answer. Next, eliminate all the answers you know to be false. Then take a deep breath, and go with your gut.

Remember to prepare and believe in yourself. You’ve got this!

About the author

Peter Jones