nclex passed 2nd time... my take on it


(this is long!... sorry, but it has been a long process)

So... I passed a week ago! WOoooHooOOooOo. I'm thrilled and at the same time really exhausted from the whole thing. Passing the second time around does not give you that thrill of insanity that most people seem to possess when they pass the first time. Instead, passing the second time seems to slow your heart rate and you sort of freeze mid breath. For me not passing the first time forced me to get a non nursing related job to help pay the bills stat. I totally felt like I threw myself under the buss. Real life is stressful, and to not pass made it more complicated. Then I had to also calm my brain and rebuild my confidence slowly.

Basically I graduated at the top of my class. My nursing degree is my second, and I've become an experienced student and learner. I took an ATI predictor exam at the end of school without studying or preparing and got a 79% probability of passing - not good not terrible. My instructors recommended that I take it again after reviewing and the second time around I got an 88% probability of passing. (They wanted a 90-95% for us) I thought -- hey, that's pretty good! So... I studied Saunders and thought that I'd be set. I took the exam, and I quickly realized that there were so many good answers to chose from. After a while I started to panic because I was getting to 200 questions. What the heck!? So the exam stopped, and I had a feeling that I had not passed. I went home and slept that whole day.

I found out I didn't pass 2 days later, and freaked out about money. I was suppose to start out doing flu shots for the season, and wasn't able to do so. I spent a week looking to get a job, found a job, started working, and it was then that I started to really think -- ok, gotta take this exam AGAIN. I worked 20ish hours a week and made my days pretty clear to have whole blocks of time to study. My state gives me 45 days to retake. I went to Kaplan and signed up for it and started right away.

My good whole hearted advice:

Saunders is a great review tool. Terrible for actually taking questions and becoming a good test taker. It does not emphasize any one particular thing more than another. For example, tuberculosis is like the golden standard of infectious diseases to learn about for the NCLEX. In my opinion so is lime disease and diabetes (a chronic disease). Mosby's is short on all topics and to the point. It gives you what you need... but gives every topic equal importance. You feel EVERYTHING is of importance, and really... knowing HOW to take the exam is the important thing. Study smart and learn the things that are frequently tested on and seen on the nclex. Mosby's end of the chapter questions are NOT good practice for the nclex. I know Suzi recommends it, but I think it's weak sauce and totally focusing on low level questions. Sure, it's great to know if you know the material... but you want to become a PRO at the higher level questions. This is how I passed the nclex. My knowledge base was adequate... it was knowing how to answer the questions that enabled me to PASS.

ATI... sigh. Well, they have a good quickie review book I was given at school. I read it twice and I think it helped square away some psych and peds stuff for me. It's organized so you can see definitions easily. When things are organized they stick in my head better for some reason. The ATI exam had good application critical thinking questions, but AGAIN NO help on how to answer questions or tackle questions you don't know (because face it... there will be lots of questions you don't know for sure).

KAPLAN... my favorite!! I wish I had listened to my friends in school and signed up for it in the beginning. I didn't because I wanted to save money and do it without help. I felt capable. Instead, I ended up losing more money by not passing the exam the first time. Really, just do it. It will make life easier. Kaplan has videos online that you can watch (which I recommend over the inclass option because online they were loaded with helpful information... everything you'll need to know). This is a great option for all types of learners: visual, reading, auditory, writers, yada yada. I did pretty much everything I was suppose to with Kaplan.

The structure:

you read, study, watch videos a lot

then you start taking questions. these tests are called trainers. there are 7 trainers. trainers 1-4 are like pretend nclex, they are the easy level questions. kaplan wants you to do well enough on those to assess you knowledge base. then trainers 5-7 are hardcore and like the real thing. i never had an exact question from kaplan that was on nclex, but veryyy veryyy similar. kaplan has videos that give you questions, pause the video, answer the question how you would, then start the video again and listen to the lady's explanation. sometimes i made faces at the screen and got fustrated, but i learned.

I also took the readiness exam. I remember that on trainer 6 and the readiness exam my score was consistently at a 61%. Kaplan wants a 65%, but who cares. I knew I was ready (with a slightly healthy hesitation).

One area I was super paranoid about for the exam was medications. I'm terrible with them because I basically don't want to memorize them. I'm stubborn. haha. However, after all the questions and all the reading I basically knew a good handful of them by sight. I knew what a good medication answer looked like, and what a bad one probably was.

Kaplan in addition has a question bank. This allows you to question like crazy in a section you are weak. Safety infection seemed to always be sorta low for me. I usually scored low on these tests, like any where from a 40%-70%. It sorta was like, depressing taking those qbank questions, but turned out they were helpful.

So overall, Kaplan totally gave me to mojo to take the exam again. I felt that it prepared me perfectly.

The actual exam 1st time around:

I answered questions too fast!

I didn't think about stuff.

I hardly used my writing board.

I guessed a lot - like A LOT!

I didn't take breaks.

I was tired and lost energy.

The actual exam 2nd time around:

I answered questions slowly! My strategy was to use all my time and pass before 200. If I got to 200 I'd just push through hard.

I thought about every answer choice.

I assessed and implemented. I reduced my choices, rather than picked the correct answer off the bat.

I took up 6 writing boards. My hand was always going up. I wrote out option A B C D and cross out each one.

I felt that guessing was still involved, but I felt I had more direction and skill in it this time around.

I took many breaks. Especially when I was on a hard question and found myself not able to concentrate.

I drank caffeine. (it makes you pee, but I focused well)

I was not as tired and drank gatorade during breaks to replenish myself.

Things to know:

Know you labs. Make flashcards and memorize them. If you think about it, this is simple memorization. These questions on the exam are freebies. Just memorize and you will get free answers!

Become a pro at prioritization. Seriously, these are freebe questions too once you get good at them. Kaplan makes this easy to figure out. Soon you'll be like... DUH, when you see the answer.

The same goes for assignment questions. With enough pratice and know how you'll be able to answer how to assign an LPN or RN to which patient. These questions are popular, and they should be freebes for you as well.

You will realize it is MUCH EASIER to answer hard level questions then it is to answer easy level questions. Contradictory right? Well... easy level questions want you to give recall information. There is so much to know, there is no way we can know it all! Harder level questions actually allow you to use your reasoning and thinking skills. There is no limit on your ability to think and be critical. You will like taking trainers 5-7 much more than trainers 1-4.

If you're curious:

My exam stopped I believe it was around 90 something. My last two questions were insanely easy easy. That made me nervous, but don't over think this exam. It's an insane exam. I got no math questions. I got a few meds here and there. Couple multiple answer questions.


I think that is all. Hope this made sense and will help at least one soul out there.

OHHHH -- uhh, I will say something else. I think it's totally great you guys are religious n stuff, but I believe it sort of doesn't work here. I don't believe God allowed me to pass or fail, as much as I believe God allows some to go hungry or catch the flu. This is the real world and your destiny is fallen by actions. If you study and prepare you will pass. If you don't know how to take the exam you wont pass. Cause and effect relationship. If you are square with yourself on that fact today you will only better your effort to pass the exam and not leave it to destiny or fate. You can pass this exam with the brain power and good hard working skills you possess! You can do it! :) Heck, getting into nursing school was the hard part remember?

Good luck to everyone, and remember if you don't pass... life goes on. And again in a few short months you will resume back on track right where you left off.



354 Posts

Has 2 years experience.

Thanks, deliteful. I'm putting this in my favorites for when my day approaches.


93 Posts

that was so inspiring.. thanks.

i didnt know that kaplan review has videos?? i thought they just have q&A...??

is that only for RN..?? i would love to have that review... please send me that website... thank you sooo much! :)


132 Posts

Specializes in Just passed the Boards :).

congrats, thanks for sharing your experience it will motivate a lot of people


38,333 Posts

:ancong!: and thanks for providing the good advice.


77 Posts

how do I find out about kaplan,this also was very inspiring :heartbeatI want to sit for my exam in feb.:D


2,040 Posts

Specializes in LTC, case mgmt, agency.

Congradulations on passing boards. Best wishes as you begin your career. :D


17 Posts

thank you so much deliteful. your advice is thorough and insightful. i was on the fence about taking kaplan but now because of your post, i am seriously thinking about taking it. and thank you for that last part too.


for the people wanting to know the website for kaplan, it's


6 Posts

I did the kaplan RN program. I am not sure what other programs offer, but with the RN online program you have many videos to watch. You can always call or go to a Kaplan center near you and they can help answer all your questions. They've been very helpful whenever I needed it.

To specify about the videos...

The two types are:

Review of Content Videos - These follow a large book kaplan gives you. I read each section at a time and wrote down important information on plain paper. This is how I usually studied in school. The added bonus was watching the video sections for each section after having reading the material. It further reinforced the material.

Question/Answer Videos- Then after each section there are videos that go over questions. A lady reads the question, the answers, and then reasons outloud her thought process to select the correct answer. I would pause after she read the question, and would pick what I thought was the answer. I'd then compare my thinking with theirs. This I believe was hands down the best thing Kaplan offers. It gives you a skill set and provides you a way to analyze nclex questions. I learned a lot this way and this is where I believe I got a lot of my confidence back with over time.

I will say that the videos can become boring after a while. You need to have a lot of self motivation. I would use headphones a lot to help keep myself focused.

Thanks for all the feedback. Good luck to all of you. :)


155 Posts

Specializes in new mother/baby nurse.

I took Kaplan a few weeks ago. The tips they gave for answering questions were extremely helpful. I will be takin gthe NCLEX for the first time in Feb. I cant wait to get it over with!!

BabyLady, BSN, RN

2,300 Posts

Specializes in NICU, Post-partum.

I have a question for the think that the ATI books messed you up and you would have been better off not studying them at all and just sticking with other review materials?

Graduates of our program (we use ATI) have complained that the ATI material was horrible and to "not even look at it" and stick with Saunders/Kaplan, etc

What is your take on that?


337 Posts

that was so inspiring.. thanks.

i didnt know that kaplan review has videos?? i thought they just have q&A...??

is that only for RN..?? i would love to have that review... please send me that website... thank you sooo much! :)


There are videos with the online materials plus Q-Bank.:redpinkhe Make sure you tell Kaplan you want the Q-Bank which includes everything videos,trainers,q-bank and you should receive a study manual.

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