I wanted to share with you my recommendations for NCLEX resources (Kaplan, Hurst, Passpoint, NCLEX Mastery) and some other points:
I passed NCLEX in 75 questions. I spent two solid months training for NCLEX. I studied every day. I made studying for NCLES my job. Some days I studied for 8 hours and on my "days off" (1 every 2 weeks) I only reviewed lab values and used my iPhone app to review questions. My best advice - study content and practice answering questions (start early). And then, practice answering questions some more. For some perspective, I completed over 3,200 questions in two months (not including Passpoint; or book questions in Hurst, Saunder's NCLEX Review or Lippincott Alternative Format).
HESI (through out nursing school; and exit exam)
While my University uses HESI as practice exams through-out our degree program (as bench marks and then as an exit exam), NCLEX questions were not as bizarre. So, if you think HESI is odd, you're right! Take comfort that the NCLEX will be kinder to you and pretty straight forward.
Passpoint (last semester of nursing school, and intermittently during NCLEX prep)
Also, my University recommended we used NCLEX-RN Passpoint to help us train for HESI exams (and also NCLEX). While this question bank is really helpful for training on content (and supposedly it's adaptive like the NCLEX), the NCLEX more difficult than this (even if you score an 8, please use more resources to train on - Passpoint can be misleading).
Two months before NCLEX
For NCLEX prep, begin with Saunders:
Saunders NCLEX RN Comprehensive Review. This is the bible for NCLEX study (and just an overall good resource to brush up on fundamental techniques and content). If you buy it new, use the code and train on their online resources, too. They have 3 audio lectures: F&E, Meds and another one...:) An assessment tool (for you to use to gauge your performance on content) and tons of tests, quizzes, etc. I read most of the chapters in the book and answered the most of questions both in the book, and a few online. Go over the fundamentals [and always review nursing interventions, through-out the book].
I went a little crazy and took two review courses. Hurst and Kaplan (both live, in class).
Hurst Review ($300)
Very catchy, down-and dirty, content review course. Catchy in a way that they break down the content into simple concepts. It's really helpful if you are weak in content or want a different approach to studying content. However I would warn not to rely solely on HURST for content review. Back it up with Saunders because Hurst does not go into detail (they do not cover enough fundamentals, meds or disease processes - if you are sticky in some areas) Also, Hurst has 6 exams of 125 questions online. I do not think they are adaptive.
I took one of their exams in the middle of my prep period
Hurst Online Exam 1: 70% (87/125).
They recommend you get greater than 84/125.
The Hurst exams are kinda like the NCLEX format although I don't think six exams would have been enough for me to feel confident walking into the test center.
Kaplan ($499 - full, live in class review)
I spent a lot of my time reviewing and using Kaplan. After I had some of the content down, I thought I needed to train on how to approach the higher level questions (priority, delegation, SATA, hot spot). While content is important, the NCLEX evaluates your judgement as a nurse and Kaplan is the best resource for this. Kaplan's online lectures you can use to remediate any content areas you are weak on - they are straightforward and albeit slightly boring but solid on content and need-to-know info. Also, Kaplan provides an electronic content book with the course.
Kaplan uses the in class review to teach you how to go through questions (screening tree, priority patient, and analysis of the question). Essentially if you practice enough questions (in class and through they QTrainers and Qbanks) that by the time you take NCLEX it will feel like another Kaplan exam (at least that what I thought). During the course, I needed to work on my pacing on the questions, especially on the longer tests.
I took a Qbank [always timed and 75 questions] every day (or every other day), and a QTrainer once every 4-6 days. From all the exams, I wrote a master word document of all the content I got wrong or didn't understand and reviewed it weekly.
I will not sugar-coat it - some of the Kaplan content is tricky and sometimes hard. This, however, is good practice for you to know how to approach a variety of questions.
Average Qbank: 64.2% (with my lowest being 51% and my highest 73%)
Here are my QTrainers scores:
Diagnostic test: 57% (177 questions; I did not finish in time)
QT1 - 56%
QT2 - 60% (75 questions)
QT3 - 63% (100 questions)
Readiness Test - 64% (I did not finish this; time ran out)
QT4 - 61% (150 questions)
QT5 - 63% (150 questions)
QT6 - 55% (200 questions)
QT7 - 57% (265 questions)
Kaplan Sample Tests
Sample Test #1 - 66% (50q)
Sample Test #2 - 68% (50q)
Sample Test #3 - 83% (30q)
Sample Test #4 - 26% (50 q = all SATA or put in order. Beware- hard.)
Free Kaplan Resources - Online
You can sign up on their website for some of their free Kaplan practice test (50 questions), Strategy Seminar, and Critical Thinking.
Lippincott NCLEXRN Alternative Formats - Book
I used this during the last 2 weeks of my prep. It's really helpful in training you for SATA, higher level calculations, hotspots, place in order. It's a small book and convenient to take with you. There is one problem - the answers are on the same page as the questions. Overall a good resource at the end of your study routine.
NCLEX Mastery ($29.99) - Iphone App (highly recommend this).
I can't stress how much I loved this app. If you can, buy the full version for $20. It's wonderful resource to train yourself when your on the train, bus, at the airport or 10-15 minutes before you go to bed at night.
*although some of my classmates used Uworld. I seen these questions too and they're similar to NCLEX mastery, but unsure what other resources come with the UWorld application)
Pharma Phlash Cards (has both in generic and brandname drugs)
I used these meds cards to quickly go through some meds. I would even recommend these cards for beginning nursing students to review drugs. They are supper helpful, with easy, clear content and nursing tips.
Day before NCLEX
Kaplan / Hurst all recommend not studying the day before. I, however, was uncomfortable with that. So, I reviewed all the content areas I was weak in, took Kaplan sample test 3&4 and reviewed lab values.
At the testing center, you go through security measures and then lock away your bags. Then you are led into an anteroom, where you can pick up your earplugs, notepad and marker that does not erase (so, if during the exam you fill up your notepad, you need to alert the proctor to get you a new one.) This is not a big deal but you should be aware of this because if you're short on time. FYI - During the exam, you can hide the clock and the number of questions your up to. Also, the 5 minute tutorial does subtract from your 6 hours.
The NCLEX was straight forward. Only generic names for drugs. I can't stress it enough - go slow and read the question. I found it similar to Kaplan and was really happy I used Kaplan for the bulk of my NCLEX training (I'm not getting paid by Kaplan to say this, btw). During my exam, I had priority, delegation (both that you need to know content and nursing judgement), calculations, SATA. I had a lot of questions from a lots of content areas (some of my classmates had more of a variety of questions - hotspots, exhibits, audio, pictures, etc). I finished in 75 questions and at that time, I didn't know what to do. I was shocked when it shut off at 75 questions. I left the testing center really numb and perplexed as to what just happened.
[exactly] 48 hours after exam.
I would strongly not recommend the Pearson Vue trick. I have heard this is unreliable. Just wait the 48 hours and pay the $7.95 to have the official results on your computer. This can be downloaded and saved as a pdf for you to submit to your University or employer (just until you receive your official results via mail).
My take home message -
Practice questions every day.
And know that you can do it. You must believe in yourself (and your nursing knowledge)!
I'd be happy to answer any question about my NCLEX prep or the exam. Hope this information helps you!