Need help with HOW not "what" to study


For those who have taken and passed the NCLEX-RN, would you please share how you studied for the test? Most postings share what materials people used but I can't find one that actually identifies how a person who was successful studied day by day until the test. I have taken the exam 3 times and for each I studied at least 6 to 8 hours a day for 2 months with exception of weekends. I would have breakfast, do whatever daily cleaning I had to do, shower and then start studying usually around 8:30 - 9:am (I get up at 6-7) and don't stop until noon except for bathroom breaks. I take an hour for lunch then resume studying until 4 or 5pm. After dinner I don't really study but I do some questions or something pertaining to the NCLEX such as reading articles, checking Youtube (because I am a visual learner and seeing Youtube videos on a subject really helps), checking, etc. Since I have done this for the past 3 tests and have failed the past 3 tests it is obvious this is not working for me. I am an older student who graduated from nursing in Aug 2013. After failing the test 3 times I am desperate to pass on the 4th but I honestly don't know what else to do or how else to study for this test. If you have any recommendations or advice please share. Thank you.

RN403, BSN, RN

1 Article; 1,068 Posts

Have you considered taking an NCLEX review course? Since you have been out or school for so long you might benefit from it.

The minute I got my ATT I made a schedule. I planned out what I as going to study each day up until my scheduled test day. I gave myself a month to study, which, in the end I found was too long because I just drove myself nuts for a month straight and was burned out in the end.

Anyway, make a schedule and break up your day. In the morning I would spend some quality time with content, about two hours, then I would take a break outside to get completely away from the books and to get some fresh air. After this I would do about 50 practice questions...I did about 100 a day and did half in AM and half in PM.

Took another break after questions and then studied medications in the evening along with finishing up the last half of questions. Then I was done for the day. Shut the books, put them downstairs, and didn't touch them again until the next AM. I was always sure to do something I enjoyed after studying all day. You have to keep your mind right too!

The last week of studying I was burned out. I took a day off from studying. I was sick of looking at NCLEX stuff. When I got back to it I studied my weak areas and did lots of practice questions. I also did the entire Lacharity book, very helpful. The day before my exam in the morning I looked over test taking strategies briefly. Literally, like, fifteen minutes. Then I spent the rest of the day outside...completely away from the books. Went to bed early so as to get a good night's sleep and that was that.

Its important that you break down your studying. 6-8 hours a day total is probably what I spend on studying, but, you have to break it up. You can't do too much of one thing in one day. It'll lead you to become burned out very quickly. Getting your mind right should be included in your study plan : watch a funny movie, exercise, spend time with loved ones, etc.

Hope this helps. Best wishes.

Oh, my, dbrenda it's you. I am so happy to see that you have decided to give this exam another go!! Now that you picked yourself back up, the only next step is to kick some butt! Good Luck. :yes:


173 Posts

Thank you RN403. I just couldn't give up after all I've gone through to get this far. Like so many, I don't have the financial means to keep taking this test but to not take it is to give up and I am not ready to do that. I actually sold some things on ebay to pay for scheduling the 4th test. When two more items sell I should have enough to cover the total cost. In the meantime I am looking for a part-time job to help with the finances until I can begin working as a RN. :-)

At this point my greatest problem is coming up with a study plan that will work for me. I think I am good on content. I lack in strategy on how to answer the questions the most. This time I plan to go through Kaplan's NCLEX RN Premier book, Lippincott's Alternate Format Q's and read through LaCharity's PDA which I have downloaded on my Kindle. I plan on spending at least 6 hours per day on studying and doing questions.

Honestly, I don't really know why I didn't pass the 3rd test other than nerves/anxiety and lacking in strategy. Thank you for remembering me and for the good wishes.


45 Posts

Dbrenda I think when u sit to study for 6 to 7 hours u should distribute your time when u r reading the content read it for 4 hours and in between small 5 minute break after 4 hour 30 minutes break than 50 question in 1 hour than 10 break than reading rationales ...

Specializes in Maternal Newborn. Has 9 years experience.

Hi dbrenda1510,

It sounds like the amount of time you're studying and using a few resources is really good. I saw that you have and used Hurst - I did also. I think Hurst is great for core content (though is a little narrow - so I also used Saunder's comprehensive to fill in the gaps within each body system). I think you're right on strategy - as some NCLEX questions are very obscure and strategy will help you eliminate the wrong answers to get to the correct one. Kaplan has really good strategies - decision tree video, strategy video, and they also have over 300 questions (about 10-15 questions per video) where they show you how to break apart the stem and evaluate and eliminate answer choices. These videos were very helpful for me with strategies and NCLEX.

I think it's great you will NOT give up on NCLEX. You will pass. Like you said you need to have core content down (which it sounds like you do) and strategies. Together you will have the tools needed the next go around. We're here cheering for you!

scaredsilly, BSN, RN

1 Article; 1,161 Posts

dbrenda, Glad you are getting back in the game!!

Nothing works for everyone! You sound like you should have nailed it--your study methods sound great!

Here is my suggestion in your case--you obviously have some weaknesses that you are unable to identify. That is really common!! Call your school or search these boards and find a tutor. They are trained to find and strengthen weaknesses so that you can succeed. A professional is going to also be able to tell you when you are ready to test again so that you can test with confidence.

Let us know WHEN you pass!!


86 Posts

Hi dbrenda1510,

I am happy that you haven't given up :)

When I was studying I tried to listen to my body and find the best time during the day that works for me.

I found that I enjoyed sleeping late and I was more mentally ready around 12 pm. As a result of this my study schedule began at noon when I would do a brief content review first ( I would take breaks whenever I got exhausted ). I would do questions around 2pm ( the time I scheduled my NCLEX for ) and I would review the questions right away. My study schedule usually ends around 5 pm and then I would relax. Whenever I was in bed I would listen to the Kaplan questions video before going to sleep. I would listen to approximately 15- 20 questions each night where the the nursing director of Kaplan would take you through each question, teaching you how to approach and apply the strategies to each question.

Please note to maintain this schedule I had to take 3 weeks off work. Kaplan was my primary source, and I occasionally used Saunders for content but eventually I stopped because Saunders doesn't organize the info in order of priority (what the RN would do first) and used the Kaplan ebook instead.

I also used a tutor a week and half before my test date. I met with the tutor 3 times, and she provided me with some helpful tips, especially after analyzing my testing taking style. She also provided me with some helpful resources which helped me to save a lot of studying time.

You can also check out my old posts/threads where I go into detail on what I did each day.

Good luck ! I really hope you'll pass this time :)


173 Posts

Thank you BSNRN2014. I will check out your older posts as well. Did you use a local tutor or an online tutor?

ArrowRN, BSN, RN

5 Articles; 1,146 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg, PCU, Travel. Has 9 years experience.

I really get the title of this post because I've dealt with the same issues. I have not taken the NCLEX yet but based on with I did in nursing school I think I figured out a few ways that works for me. The thing I often do not get is when people in these forums say "I studied", but they don't exactly say what that entailed.

For example, did the person sit for 6 hours reading? was it a combination of reading and then doing questions? did they take notes? did they come up with methods to remember specific points in order to retain information?

I'm also a visual learner and what works for me is a combination of methods. You want to use various methods which encourages active learning and not just reading all day. I took a bit of a break from studying for the nclex, but getting back into it my plan is to read for a short while, take notes while reading (does not have to be super neat notes) and refer to another source on the same topic to get a different view and then answer questions on the topic. Finally review answers and determine why I arrived at the incorrect answers.

Considering that I am also older that the average student, what I found is that while we can incorporate use of computers in learning, writing things down helps information to stick better. Yes it takes longer and is more tedious, but for what ever reason the brain remembers stuff that was manually written down rather than just typed out. For this I use the best of both worlds with a Wacom tablet attached to my computer which has a digital pen and with free software called smoothdraw I can write notes directly into my computer. Sometimes I save it sometimes I don't.

When doing practice questions I recently started to talk my way through each question...I mean out loud and occasionally record myself. Why? Because sometimes when you hear something then you would be like "that don't make no sense". Of course we can't do that during nclex, but my goal is to get my pattern of thinking and upon review I'm able to correct faulty rationales which were leading me to the wrong answers. Then I could be like " why did I choose that answer anyways?" Hey it's using the nursing process on myself. Most repeat taker of NCLEX already know the content but dont know how to answer the questions or understand why they get it wrong.

Well that is how I study, and hopefully I will pass the nclex. Just think of ways beyond the boring reading to remember stuff. Make it into a poem or song and make your own webcam videos and teach yourself or get a white board write while you read. Make studying as interactive as possible.


173 Posts

Man-nurse2b thank you for your post!!! You are absolutely correct, about it taking a little bit longer and a little bit different way for visual learner and older students to actually "get it". I love your plan of study and I will incorporate it into my own. I have been reading through a chapter, reviewing any material within it I felt I needed to review, answering end of chapter questions going over rationals for those I missed as well as the one I got correct. I would do this about 3 hours then break an hour. The next 3 hours I would do questions the first couple of hours trying to do 75 to 100, reviewing the answers & rationals after. Then the last one to two hours (usually end at 4-5pm) I would check out materials online of whatever I had studied that day. After dinner I would watch a few YouTube videos on NCLEX material, read through study pages like the 35 page study guide on Allnurses and review lab values. Sometimes I would have my husband quiz me on lab values or on specific content questions such as those from Hurst review. That's how I have previously studied for the 3 NCLEX tests I did not pass. This time I want to make the changes that will help me pass and be done with the NCLEX once and for all. I'm tired of testing, tired failing and all the emotions that go with failing the NCLEX. I (like so many others) have invested years of my life into becoming a RN and I am not giving up just because of one last test. Having others like yourself reach out with compassion, understanding and help is one of the keys elements that pushes me forward and ultimately will help me succeed. None of us are alone in this venture. Nurses are a strong and caring breed doused with love and determination from Heaven. God bless you man-nurse2b and all the others who are on this journey with us. You will pass the NCLEX will I.

Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma. Has 18 years experience.

HOW I studied was according to the blueprint on the four aspects of becoming a licensed nurse:

1.Safe, Effective Care;

2. Health Promotion;

3. Physiological Integrity;

4. Psychosocial Integrity.

These concepts can be found on NCSBN's website.

I first reflected on what issues I had in nursing school when choosing the best answer; I also knew I knew the content of Pharmacology, but knew I had challenges in choosing the best answer; so I studied from my Pharm success book and PharmPhlash flash cards from the Success series.

I did Kaplan's free practice test, as well as had used NCSBN's pre test to determine what my weaknesses were, then used Saunders NCLEX review flash cards-which are broken down per the four concepts of the exam; I also used Lippincotts apps on iPhone to help with NCLEX review.

I am a hands on learner; there is NO WAY to effectively be "hands on" in a computer adaptive test; however, my strategy that has helped me throughout nursing school and through the NCLEX is finding the action words in the question; as well as imaging me in the actual scenario in order to choose the best answer. I also used LaCharity for alternative format questions to help with imagery in each option that I could best "perform".


86 Posts

Thank you BSNRN2014. I will check out your older posts as well. Did you use a local tutor or an online tutor?

Hi dbrenda,

I used a tutor who works in the Rockland County/NJ area. I did not read the entire review book when I said I reviewed content. I focused on areas which I knew that I was weak in such as infection control/ortho/fluid electrolyte and I also reviewed content for areas I kept getting wrong on the test.