NCLEX Success Tips

Increasing your Potential for NCLEX-RN Success

There are academic factors and nonacademic factors that have been identified by literature as predictors of NCLEX-RN success. Some of these academic factors that can predict your NLCEX-RN success are GPA; grades in nursing major courses or subjects such as medical-surgical nursing, pathophysiology, fundamentals in nursing, pharmacology, leadership and management, nursing research, nursing informatics and maternal and child health nursing or pediatrics nursing; grades in science courses such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and physics; and your performance on standardized tests. Nonacademic factors that can predict NCLEX-RN success are test anxiety and attitudes toward the test.

Knowing both the academic and nonacademic factors that may influence your future success in NCLEX-RN examination, will help you maximize your potential for success in the examination. However, merely knowing these factors is not enough to ensure your success in NCLEX-RN examination. You need to objectively plan strategies that will increase your potential for NCLEX-RN success. These strategies can be classified as Holistic Interventions, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and KATTS framework for NCLEX-RN success.



 Holistic interventions such as deep breathing exercises, stretching, guided imagery or visualization techniques, yoga and meditation can be used to address the most common factor that put a candidate at risk for failure in the NCLEX-RN examination—TEST ANXIETY.

Try to perform relaxation exercises as early as the time you receive your Authority to Test (ATT). Try 30 repetitions of 4-second inhalations followed by exhalations lasting 8 seconds for an optimal effect on a regular basis even during and after you are done taking the exam. Deep breathing exercises usually ease tense muscles and decrease your level of anxiety. Try also some should-stretching exercises to help relax your back muscles. Visualize yourself taking the examination. Desensitize yourself. Try visiting the examination venue the day before your exam to help you reduce your anxiety.



Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), the first form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), founded by the American psychologist Albert Ellis, can be used to improve the candidates’ perceptions of their ability to pass NCLEX-RN. The personal perception of ability to pass NCLEX-RN is another nonacademic factor that has been identified by research studies to influence NCLEX-RN success.

How is this done? First, the NCLEX-RN candidate must understand that cognition, emotion, and behavior are integrated with each other. Irrational thoughts like “I can’t answer this question, maybe I can’t answer the next question or all the other questions following this one…I will surely fail this exam when it stops at the 75th question…” can lead to negative feelings such as increasing test anxiety, nervousness, overwhelming sadness and worthlessness. These emotions can affect your behavior towards the examination. Next, you have to do self-talk and dispute your own irrational thoughts so it can change those negative feelings. REBT makes use of cognitive restructuring where the test-taker has to stop thinking negatively and prevent negative thoughts from progressing, immediately replacing them with positive thoughts. Performance on subsequent test items can improve with this kind of thinking process.

Thought-stopping and self-affirmation actually needs some kind of practice. Try thought-stopping techniques everytime you have an irrational thought and do affirmation by thinking about the positive aspects.



What does KATTS framework mean? KATTS stands for Knowledge base, Anxiety control, and Test-Taking Skills. These are the three important components of the KATTS framework. These three components are the focus of the KATTS framework in helping NCLEX examination candidates maximize their test scores. For this to occur, all three components must be in proper balance. Do your best to strengthen your knowledge base, anxiety control, and your test-taking skills to maximize your potential for success in the NCLEX-RN examination.

Remember that NCLEX-RN examination tests the candidates’ use of critical thinking skills and analytic skills instead of just purely recall of information learned from textbooks and classes in college. It will test the candidates’ readiness to provide nursing care in terms of knowledge and skills required for minimum safe, effective nursing care. The strategies used to enhance the three components of the KATTS framework can help the candidate maximize his or her potential for success. Here are the strategies under each of the three components:

Knowledge Base

  1. Develop an individualized study plan during the final semester of the senior year in your nursing program. Focus on assessment of your personal strengths and weaknesses in terms of nursing knowledge. If you have not done this during your college years, begin where you are now. Create your own individualized study plan right now.
  2. Based on your identified strengths and weaknesses, complete some content tests or practice tests. If your school has a computerized bank of NCLEX-RN test questions, then practice answering these and preselect question categories from a menu of content areas that you need to enhance. You can also look for NCLEX websites that can provide you with sample NCLEX-RN test questions that you can complete.
  3. Instead of the old method of reviewing notes and textbooks, focus on where you are weak through question drills. Practice, practice, practice answering questions.
  4. Before taking the NCLEX-RN examination, make sure you have completed several comprehensive NCLEX-RN pre-examinations that can help boost your confidence level when taking the final NCLEX-RN examination.

Anxiety Control

Negative consequences of too much anxiety include physical discomforts such as diarrhea, sweaty palms, and palpitations. It also leads to not using study time productively, misreading questions, changing answers from right to wrong, and having some mental blocks causing blanking on the questions. These negative consequences must be dealt with adequately through relaxation and stress management techniques.

Some suggested activities for strengthening the anxiety control component of KATTS framework and other helpful strategies to alleviate anxiety can be found in this article, “How to Eliminate Severe NCLEX-RN Test-Taking Anxiety.”

Test-Taking Skills

Practice, practice, practice answering NCLEX-RN test questions! You can develop your test-taking skills through constant practice. Using the KATTS framework as a perspective, practice answering NCLEX-RN test questions. In enhancing your test-taking skills, you need to understand the rationales for each correct and incorrect answers. Use the question drill technique. How do you do this? Simple. Just try answering multiple questions at one sitting. For example, if you have one hour, try answering 50 questions in all. If you have two hours, answer 100 test questions. Score your test and record it and use the results to identify which areas you need further review.

It also helps to read about test-taking tips for multiple choice questions.

Remember, the most common interventions for ensuring NCLEX-RN success are test practice and instruction or test-taking strategies and test-taking skills enhancement. It is very important to note that every examination is different. Thus, NCLEX-RN success in previous exams and testing environment may not necessarily always predict future successes in NCLEX-RN examinations.


Bowles, L. C. (2008). Recent RN Graduate Perceptions of Educational Preparation. NursingEducation Perspectives, 266-271.

Lisa W. Mills, C. B. (2001). A Holistic Approach to Promoting Success on NCLEX-RN. JOURNAL OF HOLISTIC NURSING, 360-374.

McDowell, B. M. (2008). KATTS: A Framework for Maximizing NCLEX-RN Performance. Educational Innovations, 183-186.