How to prepare SMART for NCLEX – RN Exam?

How to Equip yourself for NCLEX-RN Examination

The most common reasons for delaying or not taking the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) include: lack of confidence in one’s ability to pass the examination, test anxiety, no adequate time to prepare for the examination, and expiration of registration or authority-to-test (ATT) letter. In the study conducted by Woo, Wendt, and Liu (2009), among 28 US-educated RN candidates, 25% expressed that they were not confident in their ability to pass the examination while among 243 internationally-educated RN candidates, 18% expressed that they did not have enough time to prepare for the NCLEX-RN examination.

Perhaps you feel the same right now. You want to delay taking the NCLEX-RN examination because you feel that you lack preparation. If this is the main reason, then you might just find this article very helpful.

  1. Obtain review materials for NCLEX-RN examination.

A study investigating the relationship between NCLEX-RN passing rate and lag time in taking NCLEX showed that NCLEX-RN candidates do delay taking the examination because of lack of preparation. The very first thing you need to do to equip yourself is to get the materials that will assist you in the preparation process. This can be in the form of books, journal articles, NCLEX-related blog posts (from credible sources), electronic resources, practice questions study guides, etc.


  1. Choose a mentor you can trust.

A mentor walks with you all the way from the very beginning until the time you finally receive your US-RN license. Your mentor can help you overcome your test anxiety and lack of confidence through constant and consistent encouragement and practice. Your mentor however, must remind you that delaying in taking the NCLEX-RN examination does not cause you to fail the examination.


  1. Improve your weakness, and develop your strengths.

According to the study of McGahee, Gramling, and Reid (2010), nursing schools give priority to the success of first-time NCLEX-RNs and that they recommend nursing schools to look for trends in student success and failure and help RN candidates to pass NCLEX-RN examination by adequately preparing them. In their literature review, they identified the most significant predictor of NCLEX-RN failure: lower grades in nursing theory courses. Additionally, NCLEX-RN success was related to higher grades in other major nursing courses or subjects and high grades in pathophysiology!

So, go back to your Transcript of Records. Which nursing courses or subjects were you weak? Which were your strengths? Grades may be predictors of failure or success in NCLEX-RN examination but that does not mean you cannot do anything about them. How then will you improve on areas where you are weak? Practice answering questions related to the subject area. That’s it. For those concepts where you are strong, do not neglect them altogether. Practice answering questions related to those strengths still but spend more time answering questions on those concepts that you are weak.


  1. Empower yourself through self-assessment and individualized plan of interventions.

According to Stark, Feikema, and Wyngarden (2002), this strategy of self-empowerment can lead you to lifelong achievement of your goals. This strategy can help you build your self-confidence that will help you prepare for your NCLEX-RN examination. The plan that you will make for yourself based on your own needs will give you confidence that success can be objectively attained. The following guidelines is adapted from the study of Stark, Feikema, and Wyngarden (2002):

Guide to Self-assessment
For each of the four areas, answer the following questions:


What are your strengths in this area? What needs further development in this area?

I.                    Content areas: Consider your work in nursing courses, assessment test results, work & life experiences.

II.                  Test-taking skills: Consider your previous experiences reading and understanding multiple choice questions and previous experience with computerized testing.

III.                Managing anxiety: Consider your responses at other stressful occasions. Have you ever had difficulty thinking clearly or panicked while taking a test?

IV.                Preparation for day of testing: Consider your schedule in the days before testing.

Consider family and work responsibilities, available support systems. Consider whether you have sufficient information about the testing process.


A Guide to Possible Interventions
I.                    Improving in content areas:

a.       Target specific areas of content: What content?

b.      How do you study best?

Study groups, independent study, tutoring, sit in on classes, computer    programs Select a review course or book.

Prepare a schedule: When and where will you study?

II.                  Improving test-taking skills:

a.       Learn strategies for taking multiple choice questions— Academic Student Services counseling or classes, NCLEX-RN® review courses and books, Web sites

b.      Develop strategies for taking computerized tests Practice taking NCLEX-RN®-style computer testing programs

III.                Managing test anxiety:

a.       Reduce stresses related to testing Prepare in advance—follow your plan and do not cram.

b.      Gain relaxation/coping skills

Select and practice mind/body techniques that are effective for you (eg, relaxation, meditation, visualization, deep breathing)

c.       Have a quiet spirit Nourish your own spirit, spiritual care for self (eg, prayer, scripture reading), accept spiritual care from others.

d.      Think positive! Surround yourself with positive people, practice positive self-talk.

IV.                Preparing for the day of testing:

a.       Practice self-care prior to testing.

Include adequate sleep, proper nutrition and hydration.

Locate testing site, know the rules for testing

Know what supplies will be required for testing

b.      Have balance in your life prior to testing

Study vs. work vs. recreation; Solitude vs. social support

c.       Clear your mind

Reduce demands on your attention, spend time in a natural environment daily.


Remember, delaying the time you will take the NCLEX-RN examination will only prolong your agony of wondering, waiting, and asking “what if” and thinking, “if only.” Delay in taking the NCLEX-RN examination does not imply failure, but it is better to just get it over with and jumpstart your career as US-RN with adequate preparation. You need to equip yourself for the examination. No one else can equip you holistically. Not even your mentor. Your mentor is there only to provide you with encouragement and boost your motivation. Every energy and enthusiasm must come from within you.

Start now. Gather review materials for the NCLEX-RN examination, choose a mentor you can trust, improve your weaknesses and develop your strengths, and empower yourself through self-assessment and implement your individualized plan of interventions for NCLEX-RN success!


Ada Woo, A. W. (2009). NCLEX Pass Rates: An Investigation Into the Effect of Lag Time and Retake Attempts. JONA’S Healthcare Law, Ethics, and Regulation, 23-26.

Mary Ann Stark, B. F. (2002). Empowering Students for NCLEX Success. NURSE EDUCATOR, 103-105.

Thayer W. McGahee, L. G. (2010). NCLEX-RN® Success: Are There Predictors. Southern Online Journal of Nursing Research.



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