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Herzing Staff

5 Tips to Prepare for the NCLEX

Concern about passing the NCLEX can cause anxiety with many nursing students and graduates. Here are five tips that can help you prepare.

After graduating from nursing school, students have one more step before they can officially become a nurse – the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This standardized test determines whether you’re qualified to move on from a nursing school graduate to a licensed nurse.

Concern about passing the NCLEX can cause anxiety with many nursing students and graduates. Here are five tips that can help you prepare:

1. Understand the test format

It’s vital to understand the NCLEX exam format, specifically the types of questions that will be asked, how much time you have to complete the test and the subjects that will be covered.

Some NCLEX format highlights:

  • There are two different exam types, NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN. The version of the exam is determined by your nursing degree. NCLEX-PN is specific to LPNs while NCLEX-RN is for registered nurses or those who hold an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing.
  • The exam ranges from 75 to 265 questions based on the answers you provide for each question. You will have up to six hours to complete the RN exam and up to five hours to complete the LPN exam. You are also given two optional break periods.
  • The test covers four subject areas: safe and effective care management, health promotion and maintenance, psychological integrity, and physiological integrity.
  • The NCLEX has three types of questions including general knowledge questions, number analysis and application questions, and open-ended questions.

2. Remember the ABCs

When preparing for the NCLEX exam it’s important to review materials from outside resources like study guides and practice tests, and it’s critical to study the curriculum basics from your nursing school courses.

The ABC framework from nursing school – airway, breathing, circulation – is one of the most important touchpoints. For example, answers should focus on stabilizing the patient and prioritizing their needs based on the scenario given in the question. The ABCs is a great way to run through test questions and determine what steps should be taken first.

3. Know your learning and study style

Understanding what method helps you learn best is another important aspect of preparing for the NCLEX. While some might like using flashcards or studying alone, others might do better with more interactive practices or in a group setting. Try out different studying methods and see what works best for you.

Some study tips:

  • Ask professors or other students for feedback on answers to questions – you might get new insight on something you didn’t realize.
  • Talk to other students about their preferred studying methods or study with them!
  • Choose a study space with minimal distractions to remain focused.

4. Don’t cram

Studying too much at once can be just as bad as not studying enough. During a heavy studying period, give yourself a break when you’re tired or hungry – if you don’t it can limit the amount of information you retain for the exam. Don’t forget to take a breather every so often to recharge your mind.

A great way to prevent cramming is to create a study schedule weeks or even months prior. This will help keep you on track in your effort to prepare for the exam without overdoing it.

5. Don’t let anxiety overwhelm you

The final tip for those preparing for the NCLEX is to not stress yourself out. Test-taking can cause anxiety, but it’s crucial to maintain a positive attitude.

 Some great ways to battle the anxiety of studying or test-taking are:

  • Exercising
  • Finding a support system
  • Practicing time management
  • Staying hydrated
  • Remaining positive

If you’re interested in learning more about Herzing University’s nursing programs, visit the nursing programs page.

Learn More About Our Nursing Programs


Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography and degree field, affect career outcomes. Herzing does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salary.

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