Do-it-yourself guide to online NCLEX-RN prep

When it comes to working as a registered nurse, the NCLEX-RN exam is the last hurdle a student has to overcome. The National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, is the licensing standard required by registered nurses in all states. Once passed, graduates can start work in the nursing field and begin to advance toward those mean wages of $67,720 earned by all registered nurses working nationwide in 2010.


What's on the NCLEX-RN

Brushing up on topics you studied in nursing school as well as taking practice tests are ways to prepare for the NCLEX-RN. The test is divided into four major categories based on client needs. These include:

  1. Health promotion and maintenance
  2. Physiological integrity
  3. Psychosocial integrity
  4. Safe and effective care environment

These categories are further broken down into other areas on the test. On the NCLEX-RN, you'll typically find that 13 to 19 percent of questions regard management of care, 8 to 14 percent are about safety and infection control and 6 to 12 percent relate to basic care and comfort. TestPrepReview, a source for free online practice tests, offers more details about test questions and the various categories they fall into on the NCLEX-RN test.

Do-it-yourself NCLEX-RN prep

There are numerous courses available for students who want to prepare for the test. But since those courses can be expensive, many students opt to prepare for the NCLEX-RN on their own. These tips can help:

  1. Invest in a few very good books. Books that focus on NCLEX-RN preparation include many practice questions, optional CD-ROM help and the potential for online help as well. The Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination is a good option, as is the Lippincott's Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN.
  2. Structure your time. Since the NCLEX-RN encompasses everything you learned in nursing school, it is important to start your review well ahead of your testing date. Start two or three months prior to the test, making a point of studying for at least a few hours each day.
  3. Form study groups. If you need support as you work through the study books, consider forming a study group, whether online or in person. A study group can tackle questions together, help with accountability and provide support during a stressful time.
  4. Understand rationale. Always pay attention the reasons behind the correct answer. Most books and software programs offer an explanation as to why the correct answer is better than the other options. Understanding the rationale means you are more likely to choose the best answer in following tests.
  5. Practice makes perfect. You can never take too many practice tests. The more you take, the more you learn, and the more comfortable you become with the kind of questions you could be asked. Many online NCLEX-RN prep sites offer practice questions for free.

Online courses for students

If you are nervous about studying on your own, there are several options for online NCLEX-RN prep that can help boost your confidence. Start with these popular options for aspiring nurses:

  1. Kaplan. With best-selling books and wildly popular courses, Kaplan study offers both in-person classes and online programs. Kaplan is so certain that you will pass the exam, they offer a money-back guarantee.
  2. Hurst Review. A leader in NCLEX-RN prep, Hurst has been around since 1988. The review can be taken in person, online or through a series of DVDs.
  3. National Council of State Boards of Nursing. This online, self-paced review course offers more than 1,100 test questions and 2,000 pages of informational content. Choose between four courses of three, five, eight and 15 weeks for a reasonable fee.
  4. Saunders Online Review Course. A fully-interactive course with more than 2,000 practice questions, this program offers customized study plans that cover four, eight or 16-week increments.

Keep in mind that some limited options are free, but most reviews require a fee to use their full service. In some cases, the books you purchase to use as study aids will include a free trial or a period of time to use an online NCLEX-RN prep service.

Regardless of your choice of preparation materials, take your time in going through them. The more you know about the NCLEX-RN and the more time you take to brush up on your nursing knowledge, the more confident you can be about the final outcome. On test day, take a deep breath, try to relax and know that you have prepared to the best of your ability.


  • Cost: $200; additional licensing fees may be required in the jurisdiction you are applying
  • Grading: pass or fail; there is no numerical score
  • Number of times you can take the test: three times before additional coursework is required
  • To register: http://www.vue.com/nclex/