When to Start Studying for the NCLEX


During nursing school, students constantly think about the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX- RN). This exam is used by the Boards of Nursing to test entry-level nursing competence of candidates for licensure as Registered Nurses. If students do not pass this exam, then graduating from nursing school would be a waste of time. Most nursing students wonder when is a good time to start studying for the NCLEX-RN. Do you start in your first, third or last semester?

Nursing programs attempt to prepare students for the exam by requiring quarterly tests to determine that student’s percentage rate of passing. The program wants to know that when a student graduates, he or she has a good chance of passing the NCLEX-RN the first time. Academic performance in pre-nursing courses and on standardized tests determines NCLEX-RN failure or pass rate. One study suggests requiring nursing students in their last nursing course to take the Arnett Development Corporation’s Computer Adaptive Test (ADC-CAT) to predict if students will pass or fail the NCLEX-RN.

Depending on what type of school nursing students attend, depends on when the NCLEX preparation begins. Usually from the first semester, the school has a student taking computerized tests to see how well students score. Most students will eventually obtain study books and guides to begin preparing for the NCLEX-RN. During the last semester is usually a good time to start studying for the exam. The last semester for some schools is very busy, but by now the students should know how to manage time and some multitasking abilities.

During the last semester, nursing students won’t get as much studying done as they would like, but it’s a start. Also, by this time, students are more familiar with medical terms, safety, diseases and diagnosis. Reviewing a few pages of review a day will help students get familiar with NCLEX study books. There are many study guides to choose from, but all of them have most of the same instructions. The study books will tell students how to prepare for studying for the exam and what to look for in certain questions.

During the last semester, if students decide to take the Kaplan review course, this would be a good time to do so. Kaplan review is a facility that holds classes that prepare students for the NCLEX-RN. Most nursing schools in your area will have students graduating at the same time or within a few months apart.

The NCLEX exam deals more with familiarization of the questions than memorization. However, starting after graduation does not mean that a student will fail. A percentage of students that start studying early still run a small risk of failing. The studying that is done during the last semester is very minimal and should not be stressful.


Laird, L. (2003). Examining the Relationship between Student Scores on the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and the Computer Adaptive Test (CAT). Retrieved from: http://www.vccaedu.org/inquiry/inquiry-spring2003/i-81-laird.html


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