April 12, 2021
Top 5 NCLEX Tips
1. Know what you know, and know what you don’t know
You cannot write NCLEX-RN without first doing an honest assessment of your own knowledge. For example, if you think your knowledge may be weaker in labour and delivery content you learned in Term 4, plan accordingly for the time it will take for you to review this content.
Start with your UCalgary curriculum, then add other sources to fill in any gaps in knowledge that may be missing. Organize the material in a manner that aligns with your learning needs. This organization will be helpful as you prepare to review, re-learn (if needed), and finally create study notes from content.
2. Pick a date to write the exam
After an initial assessment of your starting knowledge, I recommend you choose an NCLEX-RN exam date and book your exam. Be realistic with what content areas you must review or re-learn, so you have enough dedicated study time prior to writing the exam. If you need more time to prepare, then take the necessary time.
Life happens and exam dates can be rescheduled if necessary. It is an important exam and you do not want to rush your preparation. The time you need to prepare may be different than your colleague. When you commit to an exam date, you prepare in a more realistic manner as opposed to waiting when you feel prepared then commit to a date.
3. Use the NCSBN NCLEX-RN Test Plan as a guide for your learning then create an individual study plan
The NCSBN NCLEX-RN Test Plan is a road map for possible content areas on the exam. Place this document beside curricular material you organized in Tip #1 and create an individual study plan. Create a plan based on the time you have available prior to your booked exam date, adjusting for work or external commitments (i.e., weddings, trips, etc.), make a realistic schedule to study, and stick to it.
Account for enough time to review material, re-learn material that you have forgotten you previously learned or missed in class, as well as sufficient time to study closer to the booked exam date.
4. Review, re-learn, and study like it is your job
You have dedicated the last two to four years of your life as an undergraduate nursing student. Now is the time to adequately prepare to write the NCLEX-RN exam. As you review your organized curricular material, document topics to review, re-learn, and create study notes. With your individual study plan, indicate how much time you should set aside to study specific content areas. This is dependent on your ease and comfort in specific areas. Use the Test Plan as well as material to prepare. There are several review guides available for purchase. If you require, choose a review guide that aligns with your learning needs but always start with the UCalgary Nursing curriculum first.
5. Study first, then measure your knowledge with practice tests
You cannot perform well on an exam if you do not know the material to be tested. Prepare accordingly with your content review, re-learning of topics, making study notes, then challenge yourself with practice tests. There are many practice tests available for purchase. Remember, the three questions you should ask yourself for every NCLEX-style traditional multiple-choice exam question are:
- What is the topic of the question?
- What part of the nursing process is the question referring to (assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, evaluation)
- Which available answers listed relate to the topic of the question and the stem of the question?
Use this strategy to eliminate distractors that are incorrect and help you get to the 50/50. Use your knowledge and time you gave yourself to prepare for the exam to answer the question to the best of your ability. You have gained a vast amount of knowledge and experience throughout your undergraduate program.
Bonus Tip: Find a way to relax as you study as well as a few days before you write NCLEX-RN
Studying for this exam can be exhausting. You will not retain information if you are exhausted or stressed. This approach leads to unhealthy outcomes. Give yourself permission to have fun, to enjoy family, friends, loved ones, and life. You can find balance between studying and living your life.
Dr. Kara Sealock is a tenured, senior instructor who joined the Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary in 2010 and recently completed her EdD in 2019 with a focus in adult education. She has extensive experience teaching students from years 1 to 4 in both clinical and theory. Dr. Sealock is passionate about pathophysiology, assessment, and pharmacology content addressing populations across the lifespan, supporting students as they transition from student to practitioner, and student success on NCLEX-RN.
The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN® exam) is the last step before becoming a Registered Nurse (RN).
After completion of the Bachelor of Nursing Undergraduate degree, students must successfully pass the NCLEX-RN exam prior to obtaining their RN license.
The purpose of the NCLEX-RN exam is to ensure that it is safe for a candidate to begin practice as an entry-level nurse. The NCLEX has been used as the RN licensure exam in Canada since 2015.