How to Study for the NCLEX


Studying for the NCLEX Tests

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) test for practical nurses takes up to 5 hours to complete, while the NCLEX test for registered nurses can take as many as 6 hours. Individuals taking the NCLEX may also need to answer upwards of 200 questions.

This means that both tests can cover a lot of material that needs to be thoroughly reviewed in order to effectively prepare for the NCLEX exams. There are some basic steps individuals can take to help ensure they are ready to successfully take their NCLEX exams.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with Test Content

To be sure that you review the right material for your test, it helps to know what it covers. Questions on the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN exams address 8 content areas. Understanding what key subtopics are covered in each one can help you know what to expect from the questions on those areas.

  • Health Promotion and Maintenance: How to prevent diseases and identify behaviors that put people at risk of medical issues
  • Basic Care and Comfort: Personal hygiene, nutrition and the use of assistive devices
  • Reduction of Risk Potential: Therapeutic procedures and treatments for complications from surgery
  • Physiological Adaptation: Managing illnesses and dealing with medical emergencies
  • Psychosocial Integrity: A variety of issues related to medical care, including substance abuse, coping with loss, mental health and stress management
  • Pharmacological Therapies: Medication administration and how to determine a safe dosage for a patient. The RN exam also covers parenteral and intravenous therapies.
  • Coordinated Care: (NCLEX-PN only) Advocating for patients, understanding patient confidentiality rules and laws that apply to medical professionals
  • Management of Care: (NCLEX-RN only) Supervision and case management concepts, legal responsibilities and confidentiality rules

Step 2: Review Nursing Skills Assessed in All Sections

Within each section, test-takers are evaluated for their ability to solve problems, care for patients, learn skills, respect patient beliefs and interact effectively with patients and medical professionals.

Step 3: Access NCLEX Test Plans and Study Guides

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website has test plans available for both the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN ( These test plans provide a detailed overview of what the tests cover. The site also provides other test resources, such as online courses that can be used to review for the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN tests.

When you're studying for your nursing exam, it's a good idea to also take advantage of online study materials that are designed to help you prepare for those tests. Resources such as this NCLEX-PN Practice & Study Guide and NCLEX-RN Practice & Study Guide can be assets when studying. These self-guided courses contain multiple short lessons that can be accessed on computers, smart phones or tablets.

Step 4: Schedule Plenty of Study Time

Do not underestimate how much time you need to spend reviewing material for the NCLEX exams. These exams will determine whether or not you receive your nursing license, so it is important to thoroughly prepare before your test date. Scheduling study time on your calendar is one way of making sure that you know you have enough time to review all of the material that you need to cover.

Step 5: Find a Study Partner or Study Group

Other individuals you've been attending college with may also be preparing for their NCLEX exams. Some people benefit from being accountable to others and will study more consistently if they have a study partner or study group they have to answer to. Find a partner or group to ensure that you regularly review material for your exam.

Step 6: Acquaint Yourself with the Test Format

The NCLEX tests are administered via computer. You might consider using practice questions, available through the NCSBN or test-prep books, to familiarize yourself with the different types of multiple-choice, calculation, hot spot and ordered response formats found on the test. Practice questions can also help you get used to the types of patient scenarios you'll be faced with.

The NCLEX is an exam for aspiring nurses looking to prove their skills and knowledge. Students must pass this standardized exam in order to receive their nursing license.

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