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Ahh . . . the NCLEX®, that’s what it’s all about right? Without passing this beast of a test the debt, the extra 20 pounds, the stories, the sacrifices, and the grey hairs of nursing school are all for naught!
I get so many emails a day from struggling nursing students. I love it! But I hate to hear that so many students are going through the exact same frustrations that I went through in nursing school . . .
My mission is to CHANGE nursing education forever . . . it doesn’t have to be so DAMN hard!
So NURSING.com was born and I began making resources for nursing students. This is a list of 11 study materials that will help you DEMOLISH the NCLEX® including some of our own and some that I actually used during my own studies.
This is a HUGE list . . . Here we go!
NURSING.com NCLEX® Study Tools
Cost: FREE to Try
NURSING.com is the best place to learn nursing. You can view lessons, take NCLEX® style practice questions, and create personalized study plans. We even have a computer adaptive NCLEX simulator (SIMCLEX) that is patented!
And the BEST part – – –
We offer a 200% NCLEX Pass Guarantee
NURSING.com Podcast with Med of the Day
We cover a different medication every day (mostly) in a brief 5 minutes.
Aside from this we also do anatomical and nursing-related shows. This is a great way to study for free when you are driving in the car, jogging, bored in class, or whatever. Podcasts work really well for me as I can listen on walks with my kids and still feel productive.
Check it out below:
NCLEX® Cheat Sheets
We offer free cheat sheets each and every Friday to our group here at NURSING.com. With a group of nursing students thousands strong we are the largest group of focused nurses in the world. These NCLEX cheat sheets are a great study tool.
If you want easy, free, target cheat sheets directly to your inbox simply click on the box below and input your email.Grab the Cheatsheets
NURSING.com YouTube Channel
Many students are visual learners . . . myself included. BUT, there are a lot of poor quality, shady, and just lousy YouTube nursing instructors out there so we started our own.
If you are a visual learner and want concise nursing related videos head over to our YouTube Channel here or click below.Subscribe for Free
SIMCLEX.com is the first and only fully adaptive NCLEX® preparation software program that mimics the actual algorithms used by the NCLEX-RN®. No longer do you have to walk in on test day terrified about what to expect. This is it!
Not only that but SIMLCEX also includes courses in every subject required for the test.Learn More
Other Highly Recommended NCLEX Study Tool Resources
Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment
Cost: $0.01 to $39.00
I LOVE this book. I am not sure how I found out about it, but it made a big difference in my studies. I started using it during my last semester of school. My goal with this book was to complete every test and I think I came close. It contains tests ordered by body system that cover ONLY prioritization and delegation questions. As you know, this is a BIG part of the NCLEX® and real world nursing so I think that this is a much needed book for nursing students. Check it out on Amazon HERE.
Lippincott’s Q&A Review for NCLEX®
A HUGE book with about 6,000 questions. The reason I loved this book so much is that the level of question difficulty was a bit higher than other books I read. This book does not really contain much content review at all but is simply a book full of questions. I was pretty diligent during my last semester of doing a couple tests in this book each night. I think it was a big helper in feeling prepared with questions of a high difficulty. You can see customer reviews of purchase it on Amazon HERE.
Saunders Comprehensive Review for NCLEX®
Cost: $0.39 – $35.99
If you are more a visual learner, like me, than this is another good book to check out. The link above is to a 2nd Edition, 2022 NCLEX review book. This NCLEX review book is updated for the 2023 NCLEX test plan and include NEXT Generation instructions. You can buy it here on Amazon.
This is an essential book for nursing students and should be required during the first semester of nursing school. We all know that nursing exams can be different than test in other fields. This book will help you in identifying strategies for taking exams in nursing school. I was lucky to find this during my first semester and I believe it played a major role in my success in nursing school. Highly Recommended. Check it out there on Amazon.
So there you have it . . . don’t waste any more time looking for the best resources. Have you used any of these before? Share your thoughts below.
If you are still concerned about the NCLEX – start by taking this free lesson:
View a suggested lesson
00.01 Test Taking Course Introduction
Ultimate NCLEX FAQ (everything you ever wanted to know, and a few you DIDN’T, about the NCLEX)
What do you want to know about the NCLEX exam? After a 4 years of school, sleepless nights writing care plans, debt, no family time, and clinicals . . . you’ve finally graduated nursing school (good job!). Now you have to take the NCLEX (sorry!).
You fate sits in the hands of single test! Don’t freak out. We’ve answered ALL your questions below (just click on any question).
Many companies provide NCLEX review materials, all of which you can purchase online. There are quite a few options, from just utilizing one book, to a self-guided online review, to test-taking strategies, to an in-person review. What to buy really depends on your specific educational needs.
- How do I learn best? Audio, video, printed, in-person
- Do I want something I can utilize on mobile?
- What can I afford?
- Do I need test taking strategies in addition to content review?
- Do I want access to practice questions? (Spoiler alert: YES)
- Do I want to take a simulation NCLEX?
There are many companies out there who provide review material. Hurts, ATI, Kaplan, NRSNG Academy, the NCLEX Mastery App, and the NCSBN all provide different NCLEX review options with varying levels of support and guidance. Check out their specific websites or go to NURSING.com/Academy for a comparison chart.
Buckle up. This can be a little confusing. First of all, the majority of this paperwork is done online.
First, you must register with the state board of nursing located in the state you woud like to practice in. This specific state board of nursing will determine if you are eligible to take the exam in the first place. They typically do the background check and require you to submit fingerprints. Being a nurse is not just passing the NCLEX, you must also be deemed appropriate for licensure. (There are people who can pass the NCLEX, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to grant them a license… say they were convicted of some major offense which would deem them ineligible. Typically those kinds of things would prevent someone from entering nursing school in the first place, but it’s important to have these application safeguards in place.)
Let’s go through an example. If I want to work as a registered nurse in Texas, I would go to the Texas Board of Nursing website and look for an option to apply for the NCLEX. I then complete and this application form, pay the fees, and submit the required paperwork and documentation.
Next, once I have applied in Texas, I would then register with Pearson Vue (no matter which state I want to work in). Pearson Vue is essentially the company who administers the NCLEX. Here is where I would go to create an account with Pearson Vue. I would register with them, and again pay fees. (Blerg.)
Once I have completed both of these steps (applying with your State Board of Nursing and registering with Pearson Vue), I must wait. I must wait until I receive an email with my Authorization to Test (also known as an ATT).
This document essentially communicates that you are eligible to test for the NCLEX from the perspective of your state board of nursing. You MUST have the ATT to schedule a test date. There are no exceptions. An ATT is typically only good for 90 days. If you don’t want to test for 6 months (which we do not recommend, test as soon as you’re ready), don’t go through this process now. Wait until you’re closer to when you would like to test.
Finally, after receiving your ATT you may schedule your NCLEX test day. You can do this online or via phone (we recommend scheduling online). You basically sign into your previously created Pearson Vue account, and schedule a date. They will provide a list of dates and locations. It is essential you schedule your test date as soon as possible after you receive your ATT. Remember, the ATT’s expire, so if you wait to schedule until near your expiration date, they cannot guarantee that you can test before it expires.
- Apply with your state board of nursing
- Register with Pearson Vue
- Wait for your ATT
- Receive ATT
- Schedule your test date with Pearson Vue
While this exam is taken on a computer, they do not instantly provide results. This is very intentional, as they want to be extremely cautious and ensure everyone who the computer says “passed” actually did pass. They do not want to give someone a nursing license who didn’t actually pass, but a computer error said they did. Therefore, every single exam is scored twice.
In some states, can find out if you passed in as little as 48 hours. This is called the “Quick Results Service”. Click here for a list of participating states. You go to the Pearson Vue website, log into your account, select “Quick Results,” pay a fee (ugh) and they will give you unofficial results. However, this does not authorize you to practice as a nurse.
Only your state board of nursing can release official results, and the processes for notifying people may different. However, most states mail official results within six weeks.
There are different kinds of NCLEX questions. You have both the standard 4-option multiple choice questions with one answer, and alternate format questions.
A standard multiple choice question looks like this:
So, what are you doing right now?
- Reading the NCLEX FAQ’s
- Pretending I’m Carla from Scrubs
- Making cookies
- Working out
Alternate format questions are any of the following:
- Select all that apply: at least two answers are correct
- Ordered response: you put the answers in the correct order
- Charts: you are given a chart, or exhibit, and have to analyze that to provide the appropriate answer
- Audio: you must listen to an audio file and select the correct answer based off of what you heard
- Fill in the blank: a word will be missing and you have to type in the answer
- Hot-spot: you’ve given a picture and have to click on the area that is the correct answer (where you would apply pressure to assess McBurney’s point, for example)
- Graphics: your given pictures (like of ECG strips) as answer options and need to select the correct one.
You may get any number of multiple choice and alternate format questions. You may get more select all that apply, only 1-2 charts, 3 audio, and 2 hot spots. There isn’t a set order of questions or question types.
The NCLEX is a pass/fail exam – but it’s not quite that simple or easy to explain. A passing standard is decided upon by the NCSBN, which is explained in detail here. Basically, there’s isn’t a passing score like your other exams. You can’t just get a “80%” to pass because it is much more complicated than that.
The NCLEX is a computer adaptive test, or CAT for short. (Meow…) Essentially, everyone’s test is different because it is constantly adapting questions based off of the answer you provided in the previous question, all in an effort to ensure you are answering at least 50% correct at the level of their passing standard.
You are given a question to start with that is essentially medium difficulty. If you get it wrong, it gives you an easier question. If you get it right, it gives you a harder one. It keeps adapting to your answers (giving you easier or harder questions), until you’ve answered enough correctly to show them you’re above their passing standard. That’s why some people get the minimum questions of 75 (60 scored, 15 that are being pre-tested and not actually scored), and some get the maximum of 265.
An acceptable form of identification must include your name exactly as it appears on your authorization to test (ATT). It also must be current, government-issued, and have your photograph and signature on it. Some examples of acceptable forms of ID include your driver’s license, state ID, or passport. The only acceptable name change documents are marriage licenses and divorce decrees.
This is serious. You will be turned away if you don’t have appropriate identification. And you’ll have to pay again.
They will take your picture, signature, and palm vein scan. There are no exception, these must be obtained.
You do not need your authorization to test (ATT).
You can bring your keys, phone, and so forth, but if you do, you will be required to store it in a locked container provided by the testing center, who will hold onto it until you’re done. They will make you take off any hats, coats, scarves, gloves, etc. (Religious head coverings are permitted.)
While you can take breaks, you cannot access those of your personal items during. Also, you can bring family, friends, but cannot talk to them until you are done and they must wait outside the testing area.
Basically, bring your acceptable ID (and the name on it must match your ATT exactly) and be ready to provide a signature, have a picture taken, and provide a palm vein scan.
However, the NCSBN may cancel or withhold results if they think something not cool has happened. A few reasons they give here include misconduct, violation of the rules, a testing irregularity, falsifying identification, or irregular activities.
Ok so answering this question will take some explaining, so bear with me. You can take your NCLEX where ever you want. What matters is where you want to practice.
I personally studied in Iowa, tested in Indiana, and practiced in Illinois.
So, the NCLEX is the NCLEX. It’s written by the NCSBN and administered by Pearson Vue. That setup doesn’t change, no matter what state you’re in. You take the test at a Pearson Vue testing center, and they send your results to whichever board of nursing you tell them to. What does differ between individuals is which board of nursing you apply for your licensure. If you want to work in a state, you must apply to their board of nursing to work there.
If you have not taken the NCLEX yet, you would apply for “licensure by examination”.
If you have taken and passed the NCLEX already and been licensed by a state board of nursing but want to practice in a different state, you would apply for “licensure by endorsement”.
To go back to my personal example, I graduated in Iowa. I applied for my NCLEX like everyone does, no matter which state. I applied to the Illinois State Board of Nursing under “licensure by examination” and Pearson Vue simultaneously. Once I received my authorization to test (my ATT), I then selected my testing location on the Pearson Vue website. I lived near the Indiana border so the most convenient location was there. I tested there, but was licensed by Illinois and practiced in Illinois.
There are quite a few labs to know to be successful with the NCLEX. Please note that just because something is listed below doesn’t mean you will definitely see it on the exam.
Electrolytes: potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus
Most common labs: RBC, HGB, HCT, PLT, WBC, PT, INR/PTT, Albumin, Creatinine, BUN, Glucose, HBGA1C, BNP, UA, Troponin I, Cholesterol, Ammonia, Total Bilirubin, Lactic Acid, ABG’s.
Here is the list of the most commonly tested meds, in alphabetical order by generic name*:
Acetaminophen, albuterol, alteplase, amitriptyline, amoxicillin, atenolol, atropine, bismuth subsalicylate, captopril, carbamazepine, carbidopa-levodopa, cefaclor, cefdinir, celecoxib, cephalexin, chlorpromazine, cimetidine, ciprofloxacin, clindamycin, codeine, cortisone, cyclosporine, clopidogrel, dexamethasone, diazepam, digoxin, diphenhydramine, diphenoxylate-atropine, divalproex, dobutamine, dopamine, enalapril, enoxaparin, epinephrine, epoetin, erythromycin, escitalopram, ferrous sulfate, fluoxetine, fluticasone, furosemide, gabapentin, gentamicin, glipizide, glucagon, guaifenesin, haloperidol, heparin, hydralazine, hydrochlorothiazide, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, ibuprofen, indomethacin, insulin (novolog, novolin, humulin, lantus… basically all of the different kinds of insulin), iodine, isoniazid, ketorolac, lactulose, lamotrigine, levetiracetam, levofloxacin, levothyroxine, lisinopril, lithium, loperamide, lorazepam, losartan, magnesium sulfate, mannitol, meperidine, metformin, methadone, methylergonovine, methylphenidate, metoclopramide, methylprednisolone, metoprolol, metronidazole, midazolam, montelukast, morphine, nalbuphine, naproxen, nifedipine, nitroprusside, norepinephrine, olanzapine, omeprazole, ondansetron, oxycodone, oxytocin, pancrelipase, pantoprazole, paroxetine, phenazopyridine, phenytoin, procainamide, promethazine, propofol, propranolol, propylthiouracil, quetiapine, ranitidine, rifampin, rosuvastatin, salmeterol, sertraline, spironolactone, streptokinase, sublimaze, sucralfate, terbutaline, tetracycline, theophylline, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, vancomycin, vasopressin, verapamil, warfarin
*The NCLEX will most likely provide the generic name rather than the trade name
Advancement and consistencies
- Advancing a diet: ice chips/sips of water, clear liquids, full liquids, soft/bland, regular (or whatever diet is appropriate for the patient)
- Liquid consistencies: honey-thick, nectar-thick, thin (regular consistency)
- Food consistencies: pureed, mechanical-soft, soft, regular
When you are concerned that a patient is not consuming enough to maintain appropriate nutrition
- Consult dietitian (many nurses are able to do this under a screening protocol, while some many need a physician order… this depends on your particular facility’s policies and procedures)
- Calorie counts
- Consider nutritional supplements
- Enteral or parenteral feedings may be necessary
Parenteral versus Enteral feedings
- Parenteral: intravenously, called Total Parenteral Nutrition or TPN
- Enteral: given down a feeding tube (nasogastric, Dobhoff, PEG), also called tube feedings (TF)
- Oral food and hydration is always preferred, the next step would be enteral nutrition, and finally parenteral nutrition. It is always best for food to be administered and absorbed in the GI tract rather than intravenously, which is why they look to discontinue/wean TPN as soon as it is medically appropriate
Diets to know
- Renal diets: quite restrictive…(protein, fluid, sodium potassium, phosphorus), but may be high in calorie
- Alzheimer’s, bipolar (typically manic-state), or other mental-health diagnosis in which patients may go longer periods of time without remembering to eat: promote finger foods
- Celiac disease / gluten-free: cannot have barley, rye, oats, wheat. May not even be able to consume foods cooked on the same surfaces as these
- Cardiac diets: fluid, salt, certain fat restrictions
- Grapefruit juice is also contraindicated in many cardiac medications
- Patients on Coumadin: restrict vitamin K
- Gastric irritation (diarrhea, colitis, gastritis): low fiber, increase fluids, ensure appropriate electrolytes are consumed
- Gallbladder issues: restrict fat
- Pernicious anemia: increase foods with vitamin B12 (fish, shellfish, liver, beef)
- Diabetic: conscientious of carbs and also may need to actually count the carbohydrates consumed to administer the appropriate amount of insulin
Consider pathologically what’s going on with the patient and then what would be best to ensure they are consuming what they need to maintain homeostasis. For example, if you have someone who is nauseated and vomiting a lot, they most likely are going to have some electrolyte imbalances and dehydration… if someone has COPD and tires easily, we probably should provide higher-calorie foods in smaller but more frequent portion sizes so they don’t get too tired… if someone is constipated, we should look at foods with more fiber and increasing fluids.
The NCLEX Authorization to Test or ATT is distributed by the state board of nursing to which you applied. To be able to take the NCLEX, you have to apply to your state’s board of nursing to see if you’re eligible. They do a background check, review your records, and decide if they will let you sit to take the NCLEX in the first place. (Concurrently, you’ll also register with Pearson Vue, the people who administer the test.)
Once your respective state board of nursing says, “Yea! It’s cool with us if you want to take your nursing boards!” they send you a form that basically communicates that information to the company who administers the test (Pearson Vue). With your ATT, you’re able to schedule your test date with Pearson Vue. You must have this to schedule a test date, or else Pearson Vue will not allow you to schedule.
ATT’s expire. So don’t get your ATT until you know you’ll want to schedule a test date, otherwise you may have to go through the entire process again.
Also, if you have anything on your records (a DUI, misdemeanor, felony, or anything), know that it may take you longer to receive yours than your classmates. It doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get one. It just means they need more time to thoroughly review your records before authorizing you to take your NCLEX
According to the NCSBN, 84.57% of US educated individuals passed the NCLEX on the first try in 2016 (Source). However, this is the big-picture number. If you’re curious about your specific school’s pass rates, which is very important to know as you’re deciding which school to go to in the first place, there is a very easy way to find out!
Go to your state board of nursing website and look for NCLEX pass rates. They should provide list of all nursing schools in that state and their pass rates.
Let’s go through an example….
Let’s say I was thinking about going to a few different nursing schools in Iowa (University of Iowa, Mount Mercy, and Iowa Wesleyan) and I wanted to see their pass rates before I made my decision. I would go to the Iowa Board of Nursing website and then click on Nursing Education Programs, and then Nursing Education Program Statistics, and then selected NCLEX Results By Program. Then I was given a PDF of first-time pass rates for the NCLEX in the state of Iowa from 2012-2015.
Here is what I found about the three programs I mentioned above for 2015:
- University of Iowa – 96% (out of 79 graduates)
- Iowa Wesleyan – 100% (out of 16 graduates) – spoiler alert: I was one of them!
- St. Ambrose – 76% (out of 51 graduates)
Ideally, you want to go to a school that will appropriately prepare you not only to pass this exam, but also to be a successful bedside nurse. You want to look at trends as well, because while Iowa Wesleyan had a 100% pass rate, their graduating class was a fraction of the size of the other two institutions. If 1-3 people had not passed, that would have significantly altered the percentage.
If you’re ever curious about the nation-wide NCLEX pass rates, just check out the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website (NCSBN), click on NCLEX, then Exam Statistics for the most up to date information.
The NCLEX categories are as follows:
- Physiological adaptation – 10%
- Coordinated care – 21%
- Safety and infection control – 13%
- Health promotion and maintenance – 9%
- Psychosocial integrity – 12%
- Basic care and comfort – 10%
- Pharmacological therapies – 13%
- Reduction of risk potentials – 12