One of the most important exams you will take in your nursing career is the NCLEX-RN.
Passing it will allow you to apply for your license and finally put all that hard work from nursing school into action. But with a hurdle this important, preparation is often necessary.
Yes, you were probably well prepared in school, but a refresher never hurt anyone — whether you just graduated or your coursework was a few years back. There are a number of well-regarded options to prepare for the NCLEX-RN, from review courses to mobile apps. Before beginning any type of review, though, be sure to familiarize yourself with its format; it’s a computerized adaptive test (CAT).
_For more information, check out my in-depth overview of the NCLEX-RN._
Here are the top test-prep options you should consider as you begin to plan for the NCLEX-RN:
One popular test-prep option is Kaplan Nursing’s NCLEX-RN Review Course. The company has a good reputation among nursing graduates, and it even provides a money-back guarantee if your score doesn’t improve.
Kaplan offers many preparation options. If a traditional classroom setting works for you, there is an in-person program that includes 21 hours of class time, course materials, thousands of practice questions, and pre- and post- diagnostic tests to follow your progress from the beginning to the end of the classes.
If there are no course locations near you, Kaplan also offers Classroom Anywhere, which allows you to take scheduled classes online from a convenient location. Its other distance learning option is Review on Demand; this program gives you the flexibility to access Kaplan’s NCLEX-RN learning materials according to your own schedule. It too offers practice questions, prep materials, pre- and post-diagnostic tests, and access to thousands of practice questions.
All three review options include access to Kaplan’s Q-Bank, an online collection of NCLEX-RN-style questions. This resource gives students practice questions and detailed response explanations, as well as the ability to customize quizzes by content category, question type, timing, and so on.
Hurst Review Services has been helping nursing students prepare for the NCLEX-RN since 1988. They offer a live review program, which includes a handbook and three days of in-person lectures covering core NCLEX-RN content, as well as access to a question bank and online coaches following the course. (The lectures themselves are also available online for a limited time after the review class is completed.)
In addition, Hurst offers an online version with many of the same materials and content as the in-person program, but with the flexibility to tailor the course to your schedule and pace. Their “nurse coach" is able to help students online and to provide technical support.
Both options also provide access to a large test bank so students can practice and review beyond the core programs. Hurst, like Kaplan, offers a money-back guarantee; alternatively, they will provide an intensive remediation program if you don’t pass the NCLEX-RN and decide to continue working with them.
One of the most overlooked test preparation resources is the NCSBN Review for the NCLEX-RN. This option truly allows you to get resources straight from the source of the exam; the study plan and lessons are developed from the actual test planners and authors — and the content is updated as soon as any changes are made to the exam. Although NCSBN’s program does not offer live instruction, it does provide an “Ask an Instructor" feature for students to pose questions and receive explanations from nursing instructors.
There are eight lessons, each of which begins with a pre-test. An evaluation highlights areas for improvement, thus allowing you to tailor your review to topics you need to strengthen. In addition, there are more than 1,300 practice questions, along with more than 2,000 pages of content organized according to the current test plan.
All of NCSBN’s courses are offered online, so you can study according to your own pace and schedule. In fact, there are four different options aligned to the number of weeks you plan to study. NCSBN even includes a study plan to help you use your time efficiently. Their program is one of the most reasonably priced on the market, particularly since you can purchase a course that matches the actual length of time you plan to prepare.
ATI has popular programs that many nursing schools use to augment student learning. There are also multiple options for NCLEX-RN preparation — from live, comprehensive reviews to a Virtual-ATI, which includes an individual online coach to help you prepare.
Another of ATI’s prep tools is the MobileMentor RN-NCLEX App for iPhone and Android, which offers more than 800 questions developed by ATI nurse educators. The content is organized by body system, category, and clinical area. The app has sharing capabilities to enable you to discuss questions and responses with other aspiring nurses who have the MobileMentor.
For an alternative mobile tool, there is the NCLEX Mastery App, available for iPhone or Android (you can purchase it at the App Store or Google Play) — truly studying on the go! This app comes with more than 1,600 questions organized by knowledge level and categories. One of its strongest features is the ability to tag practice questions based on the confidence you have in your answer. You can then go back and customize your learning to focus on content areas that you need to strengthen. This option offers a highly interactive and customizable experience.
Other great features of the NCLEX Mastery app — even for nursing students who are still in school — include the mnemonics and terminology sections. And demonstrating its confidence, NCLEX Mastery has a 200 percent money-back offer for students who attend an accredited U.S. nursing school, purchase the full version of the app (the company also has a more limited free version), and don’t pass the NCLEX.
Some nursing schools partner with NCLEX-RN preparation programs and integrate the programs’ tools and strategies into the schools’ curricula. This gives nursing students access to the test prep companies’ resources and provides additional opportunities to practice with the test’s format. If your school does not incorporate any of these resources, you may want to consider studying independently in a course or with online tools or an app.
Most students put a plan in place to begin studying for the NCLEX-RN soon after graduation. It typically takes a few weeks before a graduate will receive an Authorization to Test, which allows plenty of time to develop a strategy and decide how to prepare. Most students are over the moon about graduation — but remember that the final hurdle still needs to be conquered. Make a plan, stick to it, and success is likely to be yours: About 88 percent of aspiring RNs pass the NCLEX the first time they take it!
_If you're looking for individualized or short-term help on the NCLEX-RN, you might want to consider NCLEX-RN tutoring instead of an intensive prep course. You can use Noodle to browse local tutors by exam._
(n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from ATI Nursing Education.
(n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from Hurst Review Services.
(n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from Kaplan Nursing.
(n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from NCLEX Mastery.
(n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from National Council of State Boards of Nursing.