Just over 90 percent of nursing students passed the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, on their first try in 2012, according to the National Council of State Board of Nursing, or NCSBN. Although this number seems high, that leaves roughly 10 percent of students who didn't pass. Proper preparation increases your comfort level with the exam and makes it more likely that you'll pass on the first try.
Every year the NCSBN develops a NCLEX test plan that outlines the types and distribution of exam questions. The NCSBN reviews what activities newly licensed RNs do on a regular basis and adjusts the exam to reflect what soon-to-be nurses will need to know in their entry-level jobs. Before you take the NCLEX, read the current year's test plan to get an accurate picture of what to expect on the test. Although this type of test preparation won't give you the exact questions that the test will ask you, it will guide and inform your studies. For example, the 2013 NCLEX-RN test plan notes that roughly 20 percent of the questions focus on management of care, 15 percent on pharmacological and parenteral therapies, 14 percent on physiological adaptations, 12 percent on safety and infection control, 12 percent on reducing risks, 9 percent on health promotion, 9 percent on psychosocial integrity and 9 percent on basic care.
The NCSBN, the nursing body who oversees the NCLEX, offers their own online exam prep. After you read the test plan -- learning what types of questions are on the current version of the exam -- you are ready to start studying. The online self-paced study course that the NCSBN offers provides students with up-to-date information on the latest version of the exam. As the exam changes each year, the NCSBN's review is an easy way to ensure that you are practicing the correct types of questions for your exam, rather than using outdated preparation materials from an old test. This web-based preparation includes over 1,300 practice questions through courses that are three, five, eight or 15 weeks in length.
If you feel more comfortable reviewing for the NCLEX with an actual teacher, instead of reading a book by yourself or trying a solitary on-line course, in-class options are the way to go. Many schools offer an NCLEX prep course near the close of a nursing program. These types of classes are typically not for credit and aren't mandatory to graduate. You can also take an in-class NCLEX preparation course from a private tutor or tutoring center. For example, Kaplan offers NCLEX classroom-based reviews in select areas.
You will probably prepare for the NCLEX during your nursing school classes throughout the duration of your schooling. Many nursing schools use NCLEX exam format in their courses, slowly getting students ready for the test. For example, the York College of Pennsylvania notes that, starting in the second semester of the sophomore year, nursing professors start implementing NCLEX-style questions in regular classroom tests. This type of practice means that students grow accustomed to the style of the NCLEX questions as they progress through school, making it easier to understand the test when the time comes.
- National Council of State Board of Nursing: 2012 Numbers of Candidates Taking NCLEX Examination and Percent Passing, by Type of Candidate
- National Council of State Board of Nursing: NCLEX-RN Test Plan 2013
- National Council of State Board of Nursing: NCSBN's Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination v6.1
- Kaplan: NCLEX-RN Classroom Review
- York College of Pennsylvania: Preparation for NCLEX
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.