If you are preparing for an upcoming NCLEX® exam, it’s only natural to feel nervous or apprehensive due to the high-stakes nature of this exam. Building a study plan for the NCLEX-RN is a great way to calm your nerves, build your confidence, and assure that you are prepared to ace your exam.
Occasional, random or haphazard study is not as effective as regular, intentional, well-planned study. When you build an NCLEX study plan and stick to that plan, your chances of passing the NCLEX-RN on the first try improve considerably. In this article, we’ll talk about how to build a 90-day NCLEX-RN study plan and the benefits such a plan provides.
NCLEX-RN Study Plan: Step #1 – Get Familiar With the NCLEX-RN Exam
If you have 90 days before your NCLEX exam, an important first step is to familiarize yourself with the actual test so that you know what to expect on exam day.
If you begin your test prep by becoming familiar with the look and feel of the questions you’ll face on exam day, it will help relieve exam anxiety and allow you to study more efficiently.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN®) provides a detailed test plan for both the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN®, as well as sample exams. The test plan provides information about the level of questions included on the exam (application-level questions), a detailed outline of the content included on the exam (Client Needs categories), and how the content will be distributed throughout the exam. The test plan also includes other helpful information for students such as the passing standard, scoring, and sample questions.
The NCSBN also provides free practice exams that consist of previously used NCLEX exam questions. Though these practice exams can be helpful, you’ll need an additional resource as part of your NCLEX test prep.
It is important to work through NCLEX-RN practice questions with a resource that doesn’t just tell you if you got a question right or wrong . . . but why you got the question right or wrong.
Knowing the “why” behind correct and incorrect answer choices will help you develop critical thinking skills as you work through your exam-like practice questions. It becomes less about memorizing content and more about learning as you analyze real-life clinical scenarios.
NCLEX-RN Study Plan: Step #2 – Choose a Premium Resource To Study for the NCLEX
With just three months before your NCLEX-RN exam, it is crucial to prepare with a high-quality resource like UWorld’s Nursing QBank that has been developed by experienced nurse educators and practicing nurses.
The very best resource will provide you with . . .
- An interface that looks identical to the NCLEX-RN exam
- Challenging, passing-level NCLEX-RN practice questions and detailed rationales for the correct and incorrect answers so you learn as you practice
- Next Generation NCLEX®-style practice questions to develop your clinical judgment
- Vivid images and illustrations to deepen your understanding of key concepts
- Flashcards that utilize spaced repetition technology (more on this in a moment) to help you retain and recall information on test day
- Self-assessments with an NCLEX readiness predictor so you can know where you stand and how far you have to go before you are NCLEX-ready
- Performance tracking that identifies your strengths and weaknesses for more targeted study and self-remediation
- A free app for your mobile device so you can study anywhere, anytime
Building your study plan for the NCLEX-RN exam around a resource that has high-quality questions and detailed rationales is essential for exam success. When you practice daily in a QBank that has the above features, you’ll feel confident and well-equipped to pass on the first try.
NCLEX-RN Study Plan: Step #3 – Utilize Digital Flashcards With Spaced Repetition
If you have just 90 days before your NCLEX-RN exam, maximizing each practice session and studying efficiently is the name of the game.
As part of their NCLEX test prep, many nursing students flip through print or digital flashcards randomly. But working through flashcards at random will not prepare you to recall that information in a high-stress situation like the NCLEX. If you study this way, you are spending precious study time reviewing content you’ve already mastered – rather than focusing on the more challenging content that you have not yet learned.
Flashcards that utilize spaced repetition technology present difficult concepts more frequently until you master them, then less frequently so you will be forced to actively recall them later. This practice of active retrieval will help move concepts from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. This is why our flashcards are such an effective study tool.
Remember, it’s important to make every practice session in your NCLEX-RN study plan count with only 90 days until your exam. Creating custom study sessions with flashcards that use active retrieval strategies can help you do that.
NCLEX-RN Study Plan: Step #4 – Create a 90-Day Study Plan for the NCLEX-RN Exam
Okay, now that you have become familiar with the exam and chosen a premium test-prep resource that has innovative digital study tools to help you recall the information on exam day, it’s time to actually build out your three-month NCLEX-RN study plan.
When working through the UWorld NCLEX-RN QBank, it is more beneficial to spend time studying the vivid imagery and detailed rationales for the correct and incorrect answers for each question than it is to complete a set amount of questions each day. All of our questions are written at the application level or above, so you are only studying the types of challenging questions you will find on the NCLEX. However…
Nursing students who work through the entire QBank, are generally more confident and usually score higher on their NCLEX exams.
There are over 2,350 traditional and NGN® questions in the QBank, so building your NCLEX-RN study plan is simply doing the math. Let’s look at three different scenarios . . .
- If you are committed to studying every day of your 90-day study plan, you will need to work through at least 25 NCLEX-RN practice questions per day. Plan to spend at least 5-7 minutes per question as you familiarize yourself with the questions and detailed rationales.
Maybe, as you look ahead at the next three months, you realize you won’t be able to study every single day. Perhaps you have a weekend job or other obligations over the next 90 days, so you build a study plan with 60 days of solid NCLEX prep, not 90 days.
In this second scenario, you’ll need to work through at least 39 questions per day. It will be important to find time to study throughout the day, so be sure to download UWorld Nursing’s free app so you can practice on the go.
Perhaps you are going to practice in the morning and in the evening each weekday and take weekends off for the 90 days. That means you are studying for 60 days . . . but twice a day. Therefore, you have 120 study sessions planned.
In this last scenario, you would need to work through 20 questions per study session.
The important thing is to build a realistic plan that you know you will be able to follow. Once you’ve built your study plan for the NCLEX-RN exam, be sure to stick to it. With only three months until exam day, every practice session is important.
NCLEX-RN Study Plan: Step #5 – Integrate Self-Assessments Into Your NCLEX Test Prep
As you build out your 90-day NCLEX-RN study plan, make sure you plan to take two self-assessments.
The first self-assessment should be taken at the beginning of your study plan. This will give you a baseline of your knowledge and exam-readiness. You will see what your strengths are and, more importantly, your weaknesses.
Knowing the specific areas in which you need to improve allows for more targeted NCLEX preparation.
The second self-assessment should be taken as you move further into your 90-day study plan (around the 60-day mark is recommended). This second self-assessment will show the improvements you have made and the improvements you still need to make in order to ace your NCLEX-RN exam.
A second assessment during your 90 days of test prep gives you the information you need to make any necessary adjustments in your study sessions so you can focus in the final weeks leading up to your exam date.
NCLEX-RN Study Plan: Step #6 – Make Studying Your #1 Priority for All 90 Days
Throughout your time in nursing school, you have no doubt learned how to multitask. You’ve learned how to budget your time, giving all of your responsibilities equal priority. However, during these last 90 days of NCLEX test prep, your study sessions need to be your number one priority.
You’ll need to adjust your calendar in order to make sure your three month NCLEX-RN study plan gets the majority of your focus.
The NCLEX-RN is a rigorous, high-stakes licensure exam, so make sure that you diligently work through NCLEX-RN practice questions and carefully study the detailed answer explanations in accordance with the study plan you’ve created.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a life outside of your NCLEX test prep. Obviously, you can’t study for 24 hours a day, and it is not wise to burn yourself out with excessive study. You’ll want to find a balance. This is the beauty of creating a 90-day NCLEX-RN study plan. Your study plan will serve as a roadmap to keep you focused, balanced, improving and ready to ace your exam and begin a rewarding career as a practicing RN.
We’ve Covered A Lot . . . So Let’s Summarize
In order to build an effective 90-day study plan for the NCLEX-RN exam, these things are imperative . . .
- Familiarize yourself with the exam format and the question types you’ll see on exam day. With the introduction of Next Gen NCLEX question types beginning in 2023, creating practice tests that include these questions will be key. Practice tests are key here, but be sure to use a resource that gives you answer explanations for correct and incorrect answers.
- Don’t try to go it alone. Choose a premium digital test-prep resource to use throughout the duration of your study plan – make sure it has been developed by experienced nurse educators and practicing nurses. They’re the experts.
- Innovative study tools that use proven learning methods such as spaced repetition and active retrieval will make your NCLEX test prep much more efficient and will help improve your exam readiness. Be sure to look for this study feature.
- When building your study plan, determine the number of exam-like questions in the UWorld Nursing QBank you want to work through (we suggest the whole QBank) and the number of study sessions you are planning. Then simply do the math to find out how many questions you should work through each session.
- Self-assessments are key to a great NCLEX-RN study plan. Plan to use both self-assessments. The first will give you a baseline of your strengths and weaknesses, and the second will show you if you need to make any study adjustments in the final weeks before your exam.
- It’s been a long road to get to your NCLEX-RN exam, but don’t burn out in the last 90 days of test prep. Be sure to make your test prep priority #1. The good news is this: A study plan will help you do that.