The university of tulsa Online Blog

Trending topics in the tu online community

How to Prepare for the NCLEX

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 22, 2024
A group of nursing students study using a laptop computer.

How to Prepare for the NCLEX

Considering the crucial role that nurses play in the health care system, it is important not only that they receive the right training and education, but also that their nursing knowledge and skills are tested before they begin to practice.

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is the premier licensure exam for nurses, and passing the exam is an essential step for those seeking to become nurses. Although nursing qualifications vary by state, all nurses nationwide are required to pass the NCLEX to qualify for a nursing license.

Aspiring nurses may want to know how to prepare for the NCLEX and what the test covers. Here we’ll provide some background information about the NCLEX, what subjects are included, and reliable tips and strategies to use when studying. Laying the foundation for passing the NCLEX starts with pursuing the right education, such as earning an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) degree. 

What Is the NCLEX?

The NCLEX is used to determine whether individuals who have graduated from nursing school have the necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies to practice as nurses in a health care environment. There are two versions of the NCLEX. The first is the NCLEX-RN, which is for registered nurses. The second is the NCLEX-PN, for licensed practical nurses.

To qualify to take the NCLEX, nurses must have the required education from an accredited institution. Those who wish to take the NCLEX-RN must have graduated from an accredited Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or BSN program. The accrediting bodies are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). To take the NCLEX-PN, candidates must have completed at least a practical diploma in nursing. 

In 2023, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) launched the Next Generation NCLEX (NGN). This update is more comprehensive in how it tests and assesses nurses, including their critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills. 

What Does the NCLEX Cover?

The NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN both cover an array of clinical skills and subjects that nurses need to have mastered to practice in their respective capacities.

NCLEX-RN Test Plan

The NCLEX-RN is administered using computerized adaptive testing (CAT), which means the test adapts to the test-taker in real time. Candidates answer a minimum of 85 items and a maximum of 150 items in the five hours they are allotted to take the exam. Using the 95% confidence interval rule, the test will cease to administer questions when it is 95% sure that the candidate is clearly below or above the passing standard.

Following are the client needs areas that the NCLEX-RN covers, along with their corresponding exam item percentages:

  • Safe and Effective Care Environment
    • Management of Care: 15% to 21%
    • Safety and Infection Control: 10% to 16%
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance: 6% to 12% 
  • Psychosocial Integrity: 6% to 12%
  • Physiological Integrity
    • Basic Care and Comfort: 6% to 12%
    • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies: 13% to 19%
    • Reduction of Risk Potential: 9% to 15%
    • Physiological Adaptation: 11% to 17%

NCLEX-PN Test Plan

The NCLEX-PN also uses the CAT method of exam delivery and adheres to the 95% confidence interval rule. NCLEX-PN candidates also answer a minimum of 85 items and a maximum of 150 in the allotted five-hour period.

What differentiates the NCLEX-PN from the NCLEX-RN is the distribution of the exam content. Following are the client needs areas the NCLEX-PN covers, along with their corresponding exam item percentages:

  • Safe and Effective Care Environment
    • Coordinated Care: 18% to 24%
    • Safety and Infection Control: 10% to 16%
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance: 6% to 12% 
  • Psychosocial Integrity: 9% to 15%
  • Physiological Integrity
    • Basic Care and Comfort: 7% to 13%
    • Pharmacological Therapies: 10% to 16%
    • Reduction of Risk Potential: 9% to 15%
    • Physiological Adaptation: 7% to 13%

How to Prepare for the NCLEX: Tips and Strategies

Both versions of the NCLEX are challenging and require extensive preparation. Many professional nursing organizations recommend studying for several weeks or more to ensure maximum retention. Those wondering how to prepare for the NCLEX have a few options to consider.

First, candidates should take advantage of the many resources available through the NCSBN, including sample packs for candidates to use to experience the type of items that appear on the exam. Additionally, the NCSBN provides exam previews, candidate tutorials, and further resources about the test, its format, and how to register.  

NCLEX prep courses and boot camps are another option. Typically, these courses require candidates to pay a fee to join and move at an accelerated pace. The advantage of these boot camps is that reputable ones accurately simulate the NCLEX test-taking environment and content, which makes for effective preparation.

Another learning method is forming an NCLEX study group by reaching out to nursing school classmates or by organizing a group online. As a group, candidates can review the NCLEX prep book and study aids together and participate in testing exercises that help with knowledge retention.

In addition, a wealth of YouTube lectures, podcasts, and interactive content is available for visual and audible learners. The only caveat is that candidates must be careful about the age of these sources. The NCLEX is reevaluated and updated every few years to keep up with the advancements in nursing technology and other changes, so it’s important to only reference recent materials.  

Begin Your Journey to Becoming a Nurse

Learning how to prepare for the NCLEX is a significant step in the journey to becoming a nurse. Considering the challenging nature of the test and how it’s administered, test-takers need to decide which preparation method will work best with their learning style.   

Before taking the test, however, aspiring nurses must first pursue the right education and training. Individuals who are keen to learn about performing health assessments, administering treatment plans, and putting the Theory of Human Caring into practice should explore nursing programs that adequately prepare them for the challenges of a nursing career.

The University of Tulsa’s online Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is designed for working professionals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Rather than starting from scratch, the ABSN program allows students to quickly prepare to pivot to a nursing career in as little as 18 months. It’s also worth noting that 95% of NCLEX test-takers from TU passed their exam on the first attempt.

Learn more about the ABSN program today to find out how it can support your professional goals of a career in health care.

Recommended Readings

A Nurse Educator’s Role in the Future of Nursing

Nurse Retention Strategies: Ways to Retain Nurse Talent

Guide to Obtaining an Oklahoma Nursing License

Sources

American Nurses Association, Tips on How to Pass the NCLEX Exam

Johnson & Johnson Nursing, Prepare for the NCLEX

Kaplan, How to Study for the NCLEX in One Month

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, About the NCLEX: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Exam

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCLEX: The Pathway to Practice

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Frequently Asked Questions

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, “NCLEX-RN Test Plan: Effective April 2023”

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCSBN Examinations

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Next Generation NCLEX

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Prepare for Success: What You Need to Know to Prepare for the NCLEX

Recent Articles

Learn more about the benefits of receiving
your degree from The University of Tulsa
GET MORE INFORMATION