NLN Pre-RN/PAX Tips and Strategies

  1. Greetings to all pre-nursing hopefuls,

    The purpose of this post is to assist potential NLN PAX (for RN) takers in achieving the highest score possible. I have perused this forum and the World Wide Web in order to condense all the information that I have gathered on how to succeed on the test. There will NOT be any sample questions from actual Pre-RN/PAX tests in accordance with forum policy. Further information can be obtained from the NLN Review Guide for RN Pre-Entrance Exam book.

    About myself:

    I received a score of 156 composite with percentage of 99 on DI AD and ALL on my NLN PAX exam taken on February 9, 2011 at Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing in New York. My raw scores were 55/60 Verbal, 38/40 Math and 50/60 Science. I spent approximately 1 month studying for the test, dedicating about 1-3 hours a day. I was an honor student (4.0 GPA) in high school but did not do so well in college (3.0 GPA) with a human biology major. I am turning 27 in 2011. Lastly, I am male if that matters.

    About the test:

    I took the paper-based test (PBT) and was given a Scantron, and a single piece of white scratch paper along with the exam booklet. The PBT results are mailed to the address you provided when you registered within 10-14 days. There is also a computer-based test where your scores are available either immediately or within 24-48 hours.

    The actual test consists of 80 verbal, 54 math and 80 science questions in three separate sections. Only 60, 40, 60, respectively, are counted toward your final score. You will have exactly 60 minutes per section and cannot go back or forward to other sections at any time. During my exam I was allowed 5 minutes of break time between sections and could go to the bathroom. Food and drinks were allowed at Phillips Beth Israel. You are allowed to write/mark on the test booklet but it and the scratch paper cannot be taken home. Bring your own writing utensils.

    Tips and Strategies:

    I highly recommend the previously mentioned NLN Review Guide for RN Pre-Entrance Exam book (by Jones and Bartlett), even if you are a recent high school or college grad. This book will familiarize you with the type of questions on the exam. Additionally, I used the McGraw-Hill's Nursing School Entrance Exams along with's online Biology, Chemistry and Physics study guide, all which I found to be helpful in complementing the NLN Review Guide.

    Allow yourself at least two weeks to study, especially if you haven't been in school for a few years. It only takes about a week to go through the entire NLN Review Guide so plan your study time accordingly if you intend on cramming. Stay calm, and guess if you run out of time.

    For the Verbal section:

    I suggest using's English vocabulary multiple choice test to refresh your vocabulary (and help a good cause while you're at it). Another good site to use is Toefl Vocabulary Word List, Common 5+ Words, Easy to Print, Practice If you know all the words on that list along with the synonyms and antonyms you will be in great shape for the PAX. In general, any high school SAT/ACT vocabulary review book will work. For the reading comprehension of the exam I found that studying the NLN Review Guide and the McGraw-Hill book was enough. Do not bother with the Mc-Graw Hill's Grammar/Sentence Structure/Spelling/Punctuation chapters as those will not be on the PAX.

    What worked for me and others that I talked to for the reading comprehension part is to read the questions before reading each passage. Only read the questions pertaining to that passage; try not to read the answers. This gives you a general template or something to pay attention to while you read the passage. Caution: some people find that this distracts them from the actual reading, so decide for yourself.

    Lastly, most people can finish this section within 60 minutes. If you are a slow reader, practice reading health/science articles from the New York Times or other reputable newspaper. Ask yourself these questions after you read the articles: what would be the best title for this article (aside from the one already given) and what are some facts that support article's theme.

    For the Math section:

    The NLN Review Guide is 100% dead-on in terms of what you need to know to do well. 54 questions in 60 minutes is BARELY enough time (imo) and there is very little room for errors. There are percentages, fractions, multiplications/divisions involving decimals and some basic algebra/geometry. Although most people did very well here, few manage to finish all 54 on time without guessing. I myself ran out of time and had to guess on the last 4 questions.

    My advice is to time yourself using the NLN Review Guide's Mathematics (Section B & Comprehensive Exams). Do the practice questions as many times as it takes to be comfortable with the pace. You will have to be quick and precise. This is the section where you have to do well to get into a high percentile. A score of 38/40 got me a 99% on ALL but only a 98 on AD.

    Some questions you can take shortcuts to save time by either converting fractions to percentages or vice versa. It's also a good idea to know formulas for areas/perimeters of basic shapes i.e. square, rectangle, triangle, and circle.

    For the Science:

    For most people this is the make or break section. The important thing to keep in mind while studying is to know the fundamental concepts, especially regarding physics. For example, does it make sense to you that volume increases as temperature is raised or do you just know the formula? Can you explain the concept of volt and amp to a child without using the equation V=IR?

    I spent the most time on this section as I knew it would be the most challenging. There were questions about cellular structures, human anatomy, tonicity, ecology/earth science, and evolution for the biology part. Chemistry was fairly light and required no specific formula to solve. Those with excellent memory will do well here.

    Do not underestimate the physics part. You have been warned. There WILL be quite a few of these puppies on there; everything from temperature to gas/pressure to energy and electricity. You will have to interpret graphs, charts, tables and pictures. Physics wasn't my best subject so I studied my butts off here. I recommend the McGraw-Hill's Nursing School Entrance Exams book in addition to the NLN Review Guide. It is more detailed in the science section than the latter especially when it comes to physics.

    Do study the CliffNotes' online physics guide. It is a bit beyond what you need to know for the exam but every little bit help, if you can manage. Additionally, know the concepts and formula for velocity, acceleration and be able to read related graphs. The laws of Newton, gas laws (Boyle's and Charles'), Ohm's Laws are all fair game. Again, if you only know the formulas you will only get half of the questions right. Concepts and fundamentals are important here.

    Finally, believe in yourself. Give yourself the best chance to succeed by preparing early and never let go of that drive and will to be the absolute best. Don't settle for "oh if I get an 80% I will be happy." The exam is not a sink or swim situation but it is a chance to prove yourself to schools out there looking for students who do well on standardized tests. Let me know if you have any questions about the PAX. Good luck to all and God bless!

    This link can give you an idea of how well others did and their feelings/strategies, etc. Check the stickies for other information regarding other tests or nursing need-to-knows.

    NLN Results....
    Last edit by Joe V on Mar 29, '18 : Reason: removed blue underline
  2. Visit sulo251 profile page

    About sulo251

    Joined: Feb '11; Posts: 17; Likes: 24


  3. by   cja9001
    congrats on your grades i also took the exam on feb 9 2011, unfortunatelty dindt do very well. really scared of not getting in again composite was 110, 68 ad percentile only. If they start with the 100s in afraid there wont be any space for people like me with the lower grades.
  4. by   mg2011
    Thank you for sharing and congratulations! I'm taking the exam on March 23rd.
  5. by   aspiring_nursing
    Ms G told me I need to get above 55 under AD. is 55 the percentile which I need to score in the 99 like you? Have you heard back from the school you write very well-did well in school and i bet they will take you. Do any of you know if there are any hispanics in the school My background is also like urs. perfect in HS and not so in college-I was very nurvous during the test and I just hope I did better than I think I did bc i dont want to go to lich. if they even take me lol. i know i missed some vocab and chem and phys i tried my best tho and i wonder if i can still be in the 80s percentile. will an 80 percentile get me in?
  6. by   Mentalageis16
    hey sulo251 , can you give me some advise on how to study verbal part, i have most trouble with it, only scored 33 out of 60 when i tested myself. i don't think i'm capable of memorizing 5000 words in less than 1 month, what do you suggest? thanks.
  7. by   nicky76
    Thank you so much for all those helpful tips and a big congratulations. I am currently sudyn for the NLN PAX and nervous is an understatement. Nonetheless, I am pressing on. I just have a few questions for you or anyone else. I know you gave a list of some of the sections we really need to pay attention to. I did not see things like interger, factoring, exponents or were those summed up in where you said basic Algebra? Also are you allowed to use a calculator on the test? When it comes to the vocab words was there a strategy because 500 words in 30 is alot to try to remember. That is all for now, thank you again.
  8. by   mpoppym
    I just want to say thank you so much for sharing!!!!! I have already taken the test and your advice is right on target and will be extremely valuable for anyone prepping to take this exam for the first time, or even a subsequent time to raise their score.
  9. by   sulo251
    Okay I haven't been checking this thread for awhile so apologies if I've made you wait. I did say I would try to answer all and any questions so here goes.

    Yes 99 is the percentile that determines how you compare to other NLN PAX takers; higher is better. If you read the Phillips Beth Israel Applicants 2011/2012 thread ( you will see that I did get an interview in March. I don't quite know the exact demographics of Beth Israel but my interviewer did mention that the school is encouraging more students from minor ethnic groups to become nurses. From the tour I received afterwards it looks like there are quite a few Hispanics though the majority of students appears to be Caucasian.

    A percentile in the 80 is decent. It also depends on the other applicants since they may score higher or lower than you. PBISON looks at the NLN score first to compare you to other students and determines where you stand on the school's applicant ranking.

    @Mentalageis16 and nicky76
    The verbal part consists of two subsections: Reading Comprehension and Word Knowledge. The key is to zero in which part you are struggling with in order to concentrate your studying in that area to bolster your score.

    If you find that you aren't doing well in the Reading Comprehension part, one way to do better is to practice more. I, myself, read the entire NLN Review Guide 3 times over and took all the tests 3x. Keep in mind that the questions you get based on the reading will either be of the "main idea/big picture" type i.e. "The best title for this selection is/The major topic or theme of this passage is" or the "supporting facts" type i.e. "According to the author or The author believes/states/maintains..."

    The review guide gives some good advice on page 20-22 in regards to the reading part. Again, practice makes perfect so keep at it.

    The Word Knowledge subsection aka Vocabulary asks you to define a word or find the synonym. You are given the word in the context of a sentence so this makes it easier than it looks. Pay attention to the tonal properties of the sentence i.e. is it a negative or positive sentence and guess the answer accordingly.

    I know you guys think that the 500 word list is daunting but feel free to edit it down. For example, the first word on the TOEFL list is "Abandon" which I'm sure you all know the definition of. What you could do is copy and paste the entire word list onto a Microsoft Word document and delete the words you already know. Keep deleting words as you memorize them (make sure you really did memorize them). I did the same and eventually my list consisted of about 50 words that I didn't know.

    Unfortunately there are no shortcuts for increasing your vocabulary. All you can do is make it fun to learn; turn it into a game or make flashcards, crosswords puzzles, etc. Do whatever you have to do. Reading more also helps.

    To answer you specific question, Nicky76, regarding the math section, yes, basic Algebra includes everything you mentioned. If you saw it on the NLN review, it will be on the actual NLN (with different numbers and words). Furthermore, you CANNOT use a calculator but you will be given as much scratch paper as you want.

    I know it's not an easy test for many, myself included, so I wish you the best of luck!
  10. by   Mentalageis16

    thank you ! you are a great helper!
  11. by   aspiring_nursing
    hello everyone,
    sulo thank you again for this great post. i have used this site many times for encouragement to to find answers in thisprocess

    i took the test march 23rd and did better than expeceted. i scored in the 90s percentile in the composite score percentile under AD i am still and shock and i want to confirm i am looking at the correct number lol. i scored a 130s in the composite score.

    what killed me was the science, i didnt study the physics (i had no time) and i am clueless about chem-however a lot is common sense and a lot is key words in sentences and choices. for exmple if i see a word in the answer choices thats sounds like lipids and the question is asking something related to fats..i know the lipid answer is the rcorrect choice.

    as for vocab i was really worried about words- i am latina and grew up speaking spanish, although this is a disadvantage some words in english do sound the same and i am familiar with them in spanish- all this aside what helped me losts were GRE vocab cards i had [which i did not use when i had the gre and as a result did not do well] 100% of those words i would say were either in the nln study guide or in the test. learning the words was boring at first but suddenly i loved those cards. i had someone quiz me. i tried to match the words with my own meaning if it sounded like a mean word or positive. i looked at 10 or 5 words a day and quized myself just on those. i added new words to these 5 and quized myself on all and so on and so on. this way i didnt quiz myself on ALL 300 words but did so progressively. its bad to look at all words in one sitting u will not remember them.

    finally i have no chem clue rf physics and forgot most of the ap, bio and micro stuff i learned. i started reveiwing in nov for my march test but i slacked and did not focuss at times and other times did-my goal was to teach myself all subjects but in the end what helped me was familiarizing myself with the questions. i did a question and checked the answer immeditly- and i worked through all the questions about 2 weeks before exam. question after question and read the review only for clarrifications. then if u want after u have learned the questions u could time urself.

    the book is honestly a tresure, the nln review book is what i am referring to. those questions are on the test. not exactly but it really helps you match concepts in questions and answers together and that is what i did.

    the math i think is super easy if you were good in math while is HS. I was, hpwever, i forgot how to subtract hahahaha by hand. so i refreshed a bit and did execllent in this section. its all about knowing-another thing math is easiest because solutions are already in the answer choices so you can work backwards always.
  12. by   biggz
    Thanks for the help bro.. Took the NLN ON JANUARY 11, SCORED 148 comp.. 99%. The cliffnotes website was very helpful with all the sciences, scored 52/60. For Math I just stuck with the NLN Review Guide for RN Pre-Entrance Exam book (by Jones and Bartlett), scored 34/40. For vocab i used a book called "1100 words you must know" SAT prep, scored a 49/60..
  13. by   katie0807
    Quote from biggz
    Thanks for the help bro.. Took the NLN ON JANUARY 11, SCORED 148 comp.. 99%. The cliffnotes website was very helpful with all the sciences, scored 52/60. For Math I just stuck with the NLN Review Guide for RN Pre-Entrance Exam book (by Jones and Bartlett), scored 34/40. For vocab i used a book called "1100 words you must know" SAT prep, scored a 49/60..
    Hey, did you take the NLN PAX on the computer or on paper?
  14. by   2Jeanne
    Great info. Where did u end up going? I'm in a similar boat with a 2.97 undergrad in engineering.