How to pass the NCLEX like a BOSS

Studying for the NCLEX was unlike any other studying I did throughout my entire Nursing education. When talking to my peers while they studied, they felt the exact same way. We would have question after question pop up on our computer screens with content we had never been exposed to (or that we remembered).

In school professors would say “study this, its just like the NCLEX” we would hit the books and do all of the practice problems we were told to, because lets face it… you have NO idea what you are doing.


Truth is, the questions that are asked on the NCLEX are not asked to determine how well you know content.


The questions that are asked are testing your understanding, application and evaluation of safety in situations that may become extremely unsafe for a patient, family member or the nurse. While you must already have a background and understanding of all content, there are very few “content” related questions.

So then how in the world did myself and most of my nursing friends (well the 4 that I studied with) pass in 75 questions? We understood a few things and used some AWESOME resources to make sure we knew how to approach “NCLEX style” questions.

If you understand how bloom’s taxonomy works, it is easier to understand the level of question you will be responsible to answer! This is a framework that is used to create NCLEX questions.

There are 5 levels of Bloom’s taxonomy; in order to master each level you must have mastered the previous. For example you cannot understand how the symptoms of the patient are affecting body systems if you cannot recall the organs in that body system. And without mastering those 2 lower levels of blooms it will become nearly impossible for you to correctly answer application and analysis questions. Knowing how to answer the application and analysis questions WILL be your ticket to passing the NCLEX. 

In the first few semesters, or years of school you focus on learning the background and understanding A&P. Knowing these things start the foundation to the true learning and critical thinking in nursing.


Never forget what you learn, content will only build on itself leading to the NCLEX and clinical practice.


Fortunately in our program we were told VERY early on to not JUST understand the body systems, but to dig deeper. Unfortunately so many students that were unsuccessful in passing their NCLEX in the first go around focused on recall of content and too little on complexity of situations.

Nursing is a beautiful profession. We are responsible not just for managing illness but for the whole patient; their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, familial health and so much more. It would be a disservice to the nursing profession to only test those entering into this line of work on recall of information.

Ok, ok I get it… so how do I pass?

 BEFORE you start studying for the NCLEX

1.     Now that you have worked through your first few semesters of school start doing practice questions for the courses you are currently in. If you are in pediatrics, use whatever content you are currently learning and find practice problems on that content. Recognize when a question is lower or higher level. The more you are able to recognize what the question wants you to answer the more comfortable you will start to feel.

a. We used our text book questions and HESI questions, as well as questions from that other students had created

2.     Once you have graduated – give yourself a solid week to just RELAX. No studying, no questions to practice, no job searching. RELAX. Trust me, your sanity needs it.

3.     In your last semester of school before you graduate plan for what course you are going to use to study so that you are not stressing out about it AFTER graduation.

a.     Kaplan, Uworld, HESI, ATI (My personal preference is Kaplan & Uworld I used both and felt very comfortable and prepared to take the exam, the others work the same!)


While studying for the NCLEX (real tips from Nurses that took the NCLEX in the past year)

1.     Know that every other person is feeling the exact same way as you right now. Overwhelmed. Just follow these steps, prepare yourself to the best of your ability – you WILL be a nurse!

2.     Plan out a schedule, know when you want to take your NCLEX (if you have your ATT # great! IF Not still plan). About 4 to 6 weeks is what you will need to successfully prepare for the exam, no more and no less. If you wait too long chances are you will burn out and if you take it to early you may risk not doing enough practice questions before walking through the door.

3.     Determine how many questions you are going to aim to have achieved by test date. I heard 3000 is the magic number of questions to have done before sitting down for the NCLEX. I was able to get about 2300 done and was confident!

4.     Plan for how many hours a day you are going to devote to studying and how many questions you aim to get done. DO NOT over do it, doing over 250 questions a day may be too much. Doing too much will ensure you burn out quickly

5.     Review the rationales to every single question (this is where you will refresh on content you may be unfamiliar with). Both Kaplan and Uworld offered amazing rationales to every single question.

6.     Say/write out daily affirmations. Repeating positive thoughts gets in a positive mindset to absorb and understand information. BELIEVE you can do it!

a. A few affirmations I used – You ARE a nurse, You KNOW this information, I am Nurse Lacey

7.     The day before the test DO NOT STUDY!!!!!!!! Relax, do your favorite things, get your hair done, watch Grey’s Anatomy, hang out with your friends. Avoid alcohol or drugs AND STUDYING!

While this is not a conclusive list of study tips for the NCLEX, it is a great start and exactly what my peers and I did to see success on our boards! 

Comment below with your biggest questions about the NCLEX OR with you FAVORITE study resource!

Here area few other resources that successful nurses have used to prepare for the NCLEX. Happy Studying, and welcome to an amazing profession!


1.     This youtube channel is great for going over content you may need a refresher on (and her southern accent is cute)



2. The NCLEX Premier 2017 does pair well with the Kaplan course. Many use either THIS BOOK or the Kaplan course. I would suggest both! It offers 2 additional tests if you feel you need more practice beyond what you have. 

Click on the link or photo to find this resource on amazon. 


3. This Drug guide gives an overview of 300 of the most popular medications questioned on the NCLEX. Concise details about each med is relayed in this book.

Click on the link or photo to find on amazon


5. Uworld is a resource that I do mention in the article above. I did use uworld questions and rationals to supplement the Kaplan course and questions. Some of my classmates did just fine without this resources.

I did find that I could understand the rationals give by uworld better than kaplan. I also loved the analytics of how you were doing in comparison to others also using these questions! 

Click on the link or photo for more info

4. The NCLEX-RN Content Review guide goes over ALL of the most important content to focus on. While I do not suggest reading from cover to cover, this is a great resource for specific content refreshers!

Click the link or photo to find on amazon