shutterstock 1505943446Congratulations! If you’ve landed here, you’ve likely completed nursing school and are now preparing for the NCLEX exam. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back – nursing school is not for the faint of heart. You have accomplished something tough and you deserve to bask in that glow for a minute.

Now, onto that intimidating NCLEX. You’ve likely heard a lot of horror stories about the NCLEX. But here are a couple of truths it is important to remember. In 2019, 89% of US educated students passed the test the first time. That’s a BIG percentage. The NCLEX is a computer adaptive test (CAT) that utilizes multiple-choice questions. It is not meant to trick you. However, it will get harder or easier depending on the level of competency you are displaying. There is no number of questions that indicate whether you are passing or failing.

Regardless of all of the truths and myths floating around, any student who desires to practice as an RN must pass the NCLEX. Knowing that (and having a healthy understanding that it is a tough exam), there are some tips and tricks that can help a student best prepare for the NCLEX exam.

Preparing for the NCLEX

While it is true that nursing school should adequately prepare you for taking the NCLEX exam, most students should also take advantage of the large variety of NCLEX exam preparatory courses and books. While every resource may not be helpful or beneficial to you, it is a good idea to check some of them out and utilize those that match your learning style and will help solidify your knowledge in your known areas of weakness.

Are you wondering what the best NCLEX books or best NCLEX courses are? Are you overwhelmed by the variety of resources available? Do you not want to use any of them because there is just too much to muddle through? Hopefully, the following lists will cut through some of the mess and provide you with a good starting point for your exam preparation.

NCLEX Preparatory Courses & Exams

There are a variety of courses and practice exams that can prepare you for the CAT test style. Many past exam takers feel that knowing how to take the test is just as important as knowing the material that is on the test. Because no student will ever be able to know everything, preparatory courses and exams do an excellent job teaching students how to determine what is being asked, how to exclude distractor answers, and how to determine the right answer (even when students have no idea what the answer is initially).

  • National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN): In 2018, the NCSBN, which is the organization that develops the NCLEX test, released an NCLEX practice exam. Depending on subscription paid for, candidates may have access to up to 250 practice questions, question type tutorials, and a score report. Click here to see the various costs.
  • UWorld: UWorld courses and exams are designed to mimic the style of questions that you will see on the NCLEX. They have a 2000+ question bank. Their mobile app is easy to interface with and many students have lauded their lengthy explanations. Because they are one of the best prep materials, they are also costly.
  • Kaplan: Kaplan does a great job of teaching students how to break down questions. They also have a mobile app. Students who use the Kaplan course and do not pass the course (within 6 months of graduation) may be eligible for a 100% refund or three extra months of enrollment.
  • Hurst: Hurst specializes in NCLEX preparation, so many students look to this company for their exam prep needs. They have live classes, online classes, and streaming webinar learning options, as well as four available review exams. Costs are available on their website.
  • NRSNG: Though lesser-known, this course was designed by an RN. It offers teaching materials that others do not, including videos, audio lessons, online study groups, printable resources and 50 laminated clinical reference cards. If you complete the NRSNG course and do not pass the NCLEX, they offer a 200% money back guarantee. Poor customer service is one of the company’s biggest customer complaints.

NCLEX Preparatory Books

Though NCLEX prep courses and exams can be an excellent learning tool, their cost can be prohibitive for many students. Some students also study best on their own with paper, pen, and books. If you are one of those students, there are a variety of texts that may prove useful to you.

  • Kaplan’s NCLEX RN Prep Plus 2019: Reviewers of NCLEX prep books feel that Kaplan’s Prep Plus has excellent question quality, level of difficulty, and rationales. It also closely mimics NCSBM’s test plan. Costs (on Amazon) range from $21-$30 depending on edition purchased and book format.
  • Saunder’s Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX Examination: The newest edition of Saunder’s book includes 5,200 NCLEX style questions both in the book and online. A companion website is also available with book purchase. Saunder’s boosts their inclusion of a variety of question formats, a practice test, and their focus on nursing judgment questions (as opposed to knowledge based questions). Costs (on Amazon) range from $45-$55 depending on edition purchased and book format.
  • Lippincott Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN: If you are interested in more questions and less details and rationales, this is the text for you. This review has 6,000+ practice questions, nearly ensuring that no question should surprise you on exam day. Some students dislike that certain topics (like pharmacology and leadership) are embedded inside of other topics instead of being focused on alone. Costs (on Amazon) range from $30-$38 depending on edition purchased and book format.

Deciding Which NCLEX Resource to Use

As you decide where to put your money and your study hours, pay attention to your learning style, your nursing knowledge strengths and weaknesses, and your desires. Do you need lots of questions or good rationales? Do you like to study alone or utilize audio and video? While it would be nice if one resource did it all, that may be hard to find (especially affordably). Do your best to determine which resource is within your budget and will best meet the most of your needs.

Laura Mansfield

Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) | Sacred Heart University

Associate’s Degree of Nursing (ADN) | North Seattle Community College

Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.), Marketing, Sales | University of Washington (Seattle)

November  2019

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