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When should you start studying for the NCLEX-RN?

You might have heard conflicting opinions about when to start studying for the NCLEX-RN®. “I just studied the courses, walked right in, finished in 75 questions and that was it.” Or, “You need to absolutely throw yourself into studying for the NCLEX from your first day of nursing school.” It can be hard to know what to expect and how hard to study for the NCLEX. So let’s give you an overview of when to start studying for the NCLEX-RN®.

Manager of Curriculum Julie Kolde, MSN, said “Research has shown that the more exposure learners have to NCLEX-style questions throughout their program, the higher their chance of passing the NCLEX is. So take advantage of all of the NCLEX questions that are scattered throughout your courses. Practice makes perfect.”

In other words, the sooner the better. Start your very first semester to familiarize yourself with NCLEX-style questions, and go over the answers. Read blogs, listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos that can help you internalize concepts (rather than just facts)  that can help you widen your nursing knowledge. You may find that your learning style differs from a traditional lecture model, and that you understand the content better if you can watch a video of an influencer who suffers from the condition you’re studying, or listen to a podcast from a nurse who specializes in the concepts you’re struggling with.

Start study groups to teach and discuss the material you’re learning, or find a study technique that works best for your learning style. You will find that this highly contributes to you feeling confident and prepared for the test.

The NCLEX is an iterative test, which means it changes based on that answers you do and do not get right. It is most important to focus on your weak areas. How do you keep everything top of mind? Nightingale College has NCLEX success coaches that can guide you as you create a study plan that will help you ace the test.

Does it make me a worse nurse if I pass the NCLEX in 265 questions instead of 75? Does it matter if I pass on the first time?

The NCLEX rates technical proficiency in nursing concepts. What the NCLEX cannot measure is how kind, caring, and patient a nurse will be. Remember, poor NCLEX performance DOES NOT mean that you will not be a good nurse. What it does mean is that there are some gaps to fill in before you have the knowledge you need. Work with the NCLEX coach to fill those gaps, and you will be on your way to becoming a registered nurse.

Factors to consider that might impact your performance on the NCLEX-RN:

Performance on other tests / Test anxiety

If you struggle with test anxiety, a high-stakes test like this might be stressful for you. Throughout nursing school, you will take HESIs that will prepare you for the NCLEX. By the time you are prepared to take the NCLEX, you will have completed several large exams and many smaller tests. Use those tests as practice tests for the NCLEX so you can see what test-taking strategies work for you. Remind yourself that you can take the NCLEX as many times as you need to! Check out this blog for tips to overcome test anxiety.

Time after graduation

The time you wait after graduation can have an impact on how well you perform on the exam. Studies have shown that the highest success on NCLEX is achieved when it is taken within 60 days of the last course instruction. Within thatwindow is best. This leaves you some time to prepare but not so much that you forget what you learned in your courses.

Confidence level

Seperate from test anxiety, confidence level can affect NCLEX scores. When you prepare for the NCLEX, you should feel confident that you prepared as much as possible.


Take some time for self-care before the test so you don’t already feel burnt out before you go in. The day of the test, take a few minutes to meditate. Lie down on the floor and just breathe for a few minutes to recenter yourself. Eat a healthy breakfast without too much sugar. Don’t overdo it on the caffeine. Don’t pick a fight with your significant other that morning.

NCLEX Coaching

We’re serious about the success of working with the NCLEX coach, a free resource available to learners and alumni at Nightingale College. Here’s what a past learner said about Jodi Thompson, our coach:

“Jodi is working with me to help pass the NCLEX. She is doing a great job. She has helped see ways to remember content that is very important for the NCLEX. She gave me a study plan from my exit hesi and we are going over that. Jodi is very helpful person and I appreciate her help.”

Our coach also received this email from a learner: “I just wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time to work with me. It meant a lot to me and it helped me so much. I took the NCLEX yesterday and I passed!! I am so happy and I know I passed because you worked with me. Thank you!!!”

To set up your coaching appointment, email Jodi Thompson at Good luck and FLAME FORWARD!

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