Becoming a Registered Nurse

Nursing school can be one of the most stressful things you will ever do in your life. Just graduating from college with a nursing degree is a tremendous accomplishment. There is one more hurdle before you can declare that you are a Registered Nurse. You must pass the NCLEX.

If you are anxious about taking the test, you are not alone. Most students are stressing about taking the NCLEX. The good news is, if you’re willing to put the time and effort into studying and preparing for it, you shouldn’t have to stress too much over it.

Finding a good NCLEX prep book or NCLEX Prep course and using it is the best thing you can do to help yourself prepare for the test. And it will help decrease your stress level as you know you will do well on the test.


What is the NCLEX?

The NCLEX is a standardized test to make sure that the fundamentals of the nursing procedure are understood. According to the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN exam, the test is used to assess the competencies of nurses before they begin working professionally. The NCLEX-RN exam tests a potential nurse’s knowledge and job skills to ensure that they can provide safe and effective client care.

The test is like no other. The minimum amount of questions to pass is 75, the maximum is 265. Within these questions, there are 15 experimental questions that are assessed for later versions of the test. The questions are primarily multiple-choice, however, there are other types of questions, such as multiple-response, fill-in-the-blank, hot spots, chart/exhibit, and drag-and-drop.

All the questions involve integrated nursing content. That means that none of the questions are specific to one part of nursing, the question will assess your ability to use critical thinking skills. Your first question will be easy, below minimal competency and the question after that will be harder. The questions fluctuate throughout the entire test. They base the format on a CAT model, (Computer Adaptive Test), which tests on an examinee’s ability level. You may have heard it called tailored testing since it is tailored to the test taker’s level of competency.

They divided the exam into the following parts:

  • Safe and effective Care Environment
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Physiological Integrity


How is the Exam set up?

The exam is a Computer Adaptive Test, which means that it adapts to how well you answer questions. The first question tests the baseline knowledge, then the next question will be harder. The questions will go through all the sections of the knowledge required to assure that you are safe to practice as a new nurse.

The NCSBN assists you with signing up to take the exam, gives you test-taking tips and strategies, and has information on the test itself. On the website is information about the test plan itself.

The minimum number of questions to answer is 75, the maximum is 250. You cannot go by how many questions you answered, that is not how the exam is scored. This exam is a pass/fail format, there is not a percentage required to pass. Also included in the questions are experimental questions used to assess whether the question will be used in future versions.

You have six hours to complete the exam with breaks scheduled at different points. Taking a break can assist you to refocus on the exam and allow you to recharge.

When you have finished the test, your results will be “unofficially” available two days later on the site for a nominal fee.

Other Considerations

Make sure that you have a good night’s rest the day before your exam. Don’t eat a heavy meal immediately prior to the exam and get well hydrated. Complex carbohydrates are important, but not sugar, or sugary drinks. Be cautious with caffeine; too much can affect your test-taking ability.


How can NCLEX test prep books help me prepare?

Any study guide can help you prepare if you use it. A good test prep book can help by reviewing the material needed to utilize critical thinking skills, which helps with answering questions. Nursing schools generally teach subjects separately, such as med-surg, OBGYN, pediatrics, etc. The NCLEX tests you on your ability to integrate the information and answer questions utilizing all your knowledge.

Study guides give you the information in a different fashion than that of nursing school, along with practice questions in the same format as the exam. This will allow you to learn how the questions are set up. Besides, most guides give you rationales behind the answers to help with understanding the content.

A study guide is useful in helping you to understand how the questions are prepared and how to answer them. The exam is not like nursing school tests. This exam tests you on how well you are able to critically think, using the information that you have learned during school. To pass the test, you need to be able to integrate the information. That is where the guides come in; by assisting you to understand how questions are formatted.

Some students find that taking practice exams is helpful. They allow you to see the questions and the rationale behind the answers, whether you answered them correctly or not. Although not included in this post, there are a number of NCLEX exam prep guides that are only practice questions. These can be helpful in studying for the exam as well.

Whichever method you choose, the only way they will help you is if you use them. Set up a time every day to study, don’t try to cram it all in one session. Smaller study periods are better and will help you to remember the material longer. Make your plan and work it. It is the best way to succeed.


Best NCLEX Prep Books & Guides

Amazon has a number of study guides for the NCLEX. These are some of the best-rated. Remember, just purchasing the book will not help you to pass the test. You need to use it for it to be helpful.

If this is your first time taking the NCLEX, you may not know how to study for it. These guides will come in handy with hints on how to take the test, as well as familiarize you with the question format. Important features include practice questions with explanations for the answer, whether right or wrong.

We have taken the liberty to list & review some of the best NCLEX prep books. Do you know how you like to study, or what the best study experience is for you?

The guides will help you by breaking the information into manageable sections. They also integrate information to give you a better understanding of how to develop critical thinking.

  1. Kaplan’s NCLEX-RN Prep Plus

Kaplan's NCLEX Prep Book

The NCLEX exam tests how critically you think. Using expert critical thinking strategies and targeted sample questions helps you put your knowledge and experience into practice and gives you the confidence to take the exam. Kaplan has consistently produced great quality prep books that can help you achieve your goals of passing the NCLEX exam.

In this NCLEX prep book, there are proven practice strategies giving you a realistic way to study:

  • Critical thinking pathways to break down the exam questions
  • End of chapter practice questions to help apply what you have learned
  • Two full-length practice tests, one online, one in the book
  • Answer rationales, for both correct and incorrect answers
  • Tips to master the computer adaptive test format

Also included are:

  • Content Review based on the “Client Needs” framework
  • Video tutorials to help with the ins and outs of the NCLEX exam
  • Assessment of the practice questions and study materials by Kaplan’s own learning engineers and expert psychometricians
  • Expert guidance from Kaplan. They have been helping students prep for tests for over 80 years and helped numerous students achieve their dreams through passing exams.


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2. Test Prep’s NCLEX-RN 2020-2021

Test Prep's NCLEX Prep Book

Test Prep has a reputation for producing prep books that are a great, comprehensive test guide at relatively reasonable prices.

Included in this comprehensive guide are easy-to-navigate sections.  The beginning of the guide contains, a quick overview, test-taking strategies, an introduction to the test, and what’s on it. The main content is comprised of sections and these are broken into smaller subcategories.

A good, comprehensive guide covers anything that will be on the test. This one does exactly that, covering in the bulk of the content topics such as Management of Care, Safety and Infection Control, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Psychosocial Integrity, Basic Care and Comfort, Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies, Reduction of Risk Potential and Physiological Adaptation.

Included in this guide are practice questions and detailed explanations of the answers in case you answer one incorrectly. They created this guide with other great features and more benefits. They also included practice questions mimicking the questions that will appear on the test itself. An explanation of the answer follows every problem allowing you to learn from your mistakes.

Another great feature is the inclusion of test-taking strategies. Not just getting the correct answers, but how to be efficient within the time provided. This helps to decrease test day anxiety.

Don’t forget that Customer Service is available with access to a real human regarding your comments or concerns. Another resource provided by Test Prep Books is a study guide to go along with this guide, in addition to giving access to NCLEX review materials, practice questions, and test-taking strategies.

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3. Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN® Examination

Saunders' NCLEX Prep Book

Saunders has a fantastic reputation as one of the best NCLEX test books ever. This is an updated version reflecting the newest test plan. Included in this guide are over 5,200 questions within the book and the online edition. All questions have rationales to allow you to learn the reason for the answer. In the guide, is a 75-question comprehensive exam covering the content in the same percentage that is used for the NCLEX test plan- testing the clinical judgment skills needed to pass the exam.

The first chapters are on preparation guidance, including the CAT format, test-taking strategies, priorities, and critical thinking skills all from a new graduate’s perspective. Alternate item format questions include multiple response questions, prioritizing, fill in the blank, figure/illustration, chart/exhibit, and even audio and video questions.

Utilize the Evolve companion site to access audio review summaries on pharmacology, fluid and electrolytes as well as acid-base balance.

Saunders also includes expanded coverage of delegation, prioritization, and triage/disaster management that may have increased emphasis on the exam. Each question has a detailed strategy and rationale, offering clues to analyze and answer the question successfully.

In the chapters, you will find priority concepts related to nursing practice, updated using the  Giddens’ Concepts for Nursing Practice text. They have also included more Priority Nursing Action Boxes to communicate new content.

The questions are categorized to allow for customizable exams or study sessions using the Evolve site. Boxes spotlight important nursing concepts and procedures as well as tips to help remember them. Mnemonics are included for some of the information accordingly.

Other additions that are only available with this guide are Clinical Judgment Situations, Bioterrorism content and questions to help with prioritizing skills, Pharmacology classifications, Special Populations, Complex Care, and even Systematic case scenarios to assist with focusing on the application of nursing care.

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4. Mometrix Test Preparation’s NCLEX RN 2021 and 2022 Secrets Study Guide

Mometrix's NCLEX Prep Book

This is another well-rated guide for preparing for the NCLEX. Remember, the exam is challenging; probably the hardest test you will ever take- And a test that means the difference between working as an RN or not.

Included in the study guide are practice test questions with detailed explanations of the correct answers. Video tutorials, tips, and strategies to help you perform your best on the test and a complete review of the NCLEX test sections.

This guide is filled with critical information to assist you with doing well on your exam. Concepts, procedures, principles, and vocabulary are included- Every bit of information that you are expected to master before sitting for the exam.

Test sections included are Management of Care, Safety and Infection Control, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Psychosocial Integrity, Physiological Integrity, Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies, Reduction of Risk Potential, and Physiological Adaptation.

Filled with specific and detailed information and concepts and principles that are explained in detail, this NCLEX preparatory guide can be the key you need to pass your exam. It is laid out in a logical and organized fashion so the sections flow together in a cohesive manner. It’s not written in dense academic language; instead, it is written with technical accuracy and accessibility in mind.

Filled with practice questions and thorough answer explanations, this guide clearly stands out. There are also links to online review videos that allow you to watch instructors break down the topics to enable you to quickly understand the material. Examples are worked to make the principles and reasoning completely clear.

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5. NCLEX-RN For Dummies with Online Practice Tests

Patrick R. Coonan's NCLEX Prep Book

As one of the famous “Dummies” books, this NCLEX Prep Book can help you ace the exam. You are probably nervous about taking the exam and that’s normal, many students don’t pass on their first attempt.

To help you beat the odds and dramatically improve your chances, this NCLEX prep guide is updated and revised to prepare you for the latest edition of the exam. Complete with content review, tips on how to study, and test-taking strategies, this guide also gives you access to online flashcards and two practice exams. Round out your study plan with answer explanations for all the questions.

Inside you will find full coverage of the subjects such as medical, surgical, pediatric, psychiatric, and obstetric requirements for the test. 38 years of nursing practice give this guide’s author/instructor the hands-on experience to deliver the results you want- To pass the NCLEX exam on your first attempt!

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Best NCLEX Prep Courses, According to Nurses

When looking for the best NCLEX test prep course, you want to know what you need to get in a course to improve your chances of acing the exam. Remember that most NCLEX test courses have free trials before requiring a subscription.

Before you sign up, decide how much time you are prepared to study before taking the exam. Try out the course you are most interested in and, if possible, utilize one of the practice exams to assess your needs.

  1. Kaplan Test Prep

As a long-established test prep provider, Kaplan offers comprehensive prep options. At Kaplan, each of their NCLEX test prep online options includes the following:

  • On-demand or live access to the full NCLEX prep course
  • Nurse educator lectures
  • QBank questions with rationales
  • The complete NCLEX Exam review
  • Three full length Computer Adaptive Tests
  • On the go study options with the mobile app
  • Content videos covering more than 300 nursing topics
  • An eBook covering the NCLEX Prep Guide

Kaplan also offers an online access option led by certified instructors with a free trial.


  1. Hurst Review Services

Hurst Review Services offers an NCLEX Prep Course in an online format. They report a first attempt pass rate of 98%. This NCLEX prep course offers online access to Hurst QBank and Hurst Now. These offer more than 1,500 questions, flashcards, and quizzes. This includes content-rich rationales and alternate format questions.

Hurst Now includes the Hurst QBank questions, four exams, a workbook, and must-know content. There is also a free trial offered to allow you to see if the study options are right for you.


  1. ATI Nursing Education

ATI Nursing Education has a comprehensive NCLEX exam guide online. Included in ATI’s products are:


  • 3,000+ review questions including detailed explanations and adaptive quizzes.
  • A personal virtual coach who is a professional nurse educator experienced in test preparation.
  • An interactive course with alternate format questions and rationales, interactive and live courses with testing strategies and critical thinking clues.

If you receive a green light and take the NCLEX and do not pass on your first try, there is further access granted with no fee required.


  1. UWorld Nursing

UWorld Nursing boasts a stunning performance by helping over 70,000 graduate nurses study for the NCLEX exam. They offer online NCLEX prep that will help you to refine your critical thinking skills.

Key features include:

  • 200+ practice questions developed by nurse educators
  • Rationales and explanations for both correct and incorrect answers
  • Illustrations to assist with comprehension
  • Performance monitoring to assist you to find areas that need work
  • The NCLEX test mimicked by software

You have varying options of access to choose from allowing you to personalize your study options.


  1. CrushNCLEX

Are you looking for a user-friendly NCLEX prep course? This might be the one for you. With a variety of testing resources, not only for the NCLEX-RN but also the NCLEX-PN exam, they offer four of the best online products for NCLEX exam prep.

Features include:

  • 2,000 NCLEX practice questions, color images, a prep guide, performance analysis, and even email support.
  • 100 hours of NCLEX video reviews.
  • Other options include six months of access or even lifetime access

With the completion of an online form, you can receive a free trial and a free study guide.



  1. NCLEX Mastery

NCLEX Mastery offers you some of the most affordable NCLEX prep products. With more than 1800 practice questions and detailed explanations for each answer, including correct and incorrect and digital photographs, they promise that the student will pass the NCLEX exam or receive twice their money back.

Each of the study options allows the student to determine areas they need extra attention and find their strengths and weaknesses. The different subscription levels offer options for every student so you can choose what’s right for you.


  1. Pearson

Pearson, for many years, has offered innovative learning and educational options. Traditional NCLEX prep books and courses are offered online as well as several comprehensive NCLEX  review guides.

Digital options for the NCLEX study guides are also available. These include Digital Career success programs, learning and engagement tools, Smarthinking on-demand tutoring, Revel offering an immersive experience, and Data, Analytics, and Adaptive Learning Modules.

With the options available, there is something to fit every learner’s method.


  1. boasts an impressive pass rate of 99.86%. This is based on the students passing the NCLEX computer adaptive test simulator. Not to mention they offer a moneyback guarantee of twice their money if the student does not pass the NCLEX.

Other study materials offered online for this NCLEX Prep Course include:

  • NCLEX content offered in more than 300 video lessons.
  • Practice Questions, more than 6,000.
  • Predetermined study plans for 2 separate 12-week plans
  • An ebook of more than 400 pages for review.
  • The ability to build quizzes from 21 categories.
  • A study anywhere option with a mobile application for NCLEX students.


  1. NCSBN

The NCSBN is the professional organization that administers the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN exams. One of the leading providers of regulatory material, they offer students online NCLEX prep, study materials, including practice questions, important nursing content, and test plans that are predesigned.

Their best online prep products offered by NCSBN include learning extension courses, practice exams, test plans, recorded webinars, and tons of websites and applications to support students. Also available are educational videos regarding important nursing topics and nursing issues.


  1. Nurse Plus Academy

Nurse Plus Academy, a site for NCLEX study support, offers a variety of online study materials to assist the test takers to get the best exam results possible. One of the best NCLEX prep products on the market is the mobile app, the NCLEX Test Genie.

Features include:

  • 1,300 questions, more than 55 practice tests, and unlimited simulated NCLEX exams
  • A pass guarantee
  • Flashcards
  • NCLEX cheat sheets.


Not all of these options are included with every access option; you will need to choose the one that suits you.


To Sum it all up

These are all wonderful NCLEX prep books and NCLEX Prep courses, and all will assist you to reach your goal of passing the NCLEX If you use them. Buying a guide or attending a course won’t help you to pass the exam if you don’t utilize all the information included.

Good Luck!


Further Reading:

How to Write the Nursing School Personal Statement: Steps, Tips, And Samples

13 Best Books for Nursing Students to Read- Reviewed