How to Prepare for the NCLEX: 9 NCLEX Study Tips to Follow

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The Next Gen NCLEX is the new version of the nursing licensure exam. All aspiring registered nurses must pass this exam. Wondering how to prepare for the NCLEX? Start with developing a reasonable study schedule, start studying shortly after entering nursing school, and set goals for each study session.

Nursing student on laptop

If you enroll in the College of Mount Saint Vincent’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, you can look forward to graduating with your nursing degree in as few as 16 months. After graduation, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to obtain your nursing license. Then, you’ll be ready to apply for your first job as a registered nurse (RN).

As of April 2023, the NCLEX has been replaced by the Next Gen NCLEX. What is the Next Gen NCLEX? This new version of the test is meant to better evaluate a nursing candidate’s ability to apply sound clinical judgment to patient care decisions. Below, you can explore how to prepare for the NCLEX.

Now you know the broad answer to the question, what is the Next Gen NCLEX? Let’s review some Next Gen NCLEX prep methods and tips to learn how to prepare for the NCLEX.

1. Start Your Next Gen NCLEX Prep Early

The Next Gen NCLEX is rigorous, so you’ll need plenty of time to prepare. When you enter the ABSN program at Mount Saint Vincent, 16 months might seem like plenty of time to prepare for the licensure exam. However, you’ll be so busy with your classes, labs, and clinical rotations that the time will fly by, and before you know it, you’ll be arriving at the testing center. Due to the sheer amount of nursing knowledge you need for the exam, it’s not a good idea to delay studying until graduation.

You’ll want to start studying for the Next Gen NCLEX shortly after you begin your classes. If you begin your prep work as soon as possible, you’ll be better prepared and more confident heading into the exam. Although you can retake the test if you don’t pass, attaining a passing score on the first attempt is preferable since you’ll enter the workforce faster.

Students in masks working on computers outside

2. Become Familiar with the Next Gen NCLEX Format

Before diving into how to prepare for the NCLEX, it’s helpful to understand what to expect from the new NCLEX format and how it differs from the old version.

First, let’s consider how the NCLEX has not changed. Like the old test version, the NGN will be taken via computerized adaptive testing (CAT). CAT works by determining the next question based on your response to the previous question. If you answer a question correctly, the next one will be a little more difficult — and vice versa.

As with the previous test version, you’ll have five hours to complete the NGN, including breaks. You’ll answer at least 70 questions and potentially up to a maximum of 135 questions (depending on your answers).

Now, let’s consider how the Next Gen NCLEX differs from the old version. The NGN includes different types of questions. As previously mentioned, these are designed to assess your clinical judgment and reasoning more accurately.

In other words, you’ll be tested on how you apply clinical judgment to cases rather than on your ability to memorize nursing knowledge. (However, you’ll still need your nursing knowledge.) These new types of questions include extended multiple choice, in which you can select as many appropriate responses as needed rather than just one correct answer.

Nurse practitioner talking with patient

Are you starting to think about potential nursing careers? Check out this blog on how to become a nurse practitioner in 6 steps.

3. Develop a Reasonable Study Schedule

Now that you’re more familiar with the NGN format, the next step in your Next Gen NCLEX prep is developing a reasonable study schedule. Make a note of your classes, labs, clinical rotations, and similar responsibilities in a day planner or scheduling app. Look for opportunities to schedule study sessions whenever possible.

It’s best to study every day — even if you can only spare a half hour. You may find that breaking up your study sessions into shorter chunks (e.g., 30 minutes to an hour) is more productive than a marathon study session of five or more hours.

4. Make the Most of Every Study Session

To prepare effectively for the Next Gen NCLEX, you should make the most of every study session. Establish an agenda for each session so you know exactly what you will work on. You may even want to set SMART goals for your NCLEX study sessions. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Begin by spending a few minutes reviewing material from your previous study session. This can enhance memory retention. Then, move on to the new material. Focus on your problem areas.

5. Improve Your Time Management Skills

Nursing student in purple gloves and mask

Time management will be crucial for your Next Gen NCLEX prep and nursing school in general. If you find yourself procrastinating during a study session, minimize distractions by shutting off your phone and finding a quiet place to study.

You might also try the Pomodoro time management method to help you stay on track. To use the Pomodoro method, set a timer for 25 minutes (or use a timer app). Focus on working through your study materials for each of those 25 minutes. Then, allow yourself a five-minute break to get up, stretch, or watch a cute pet video on social media.

Then, do another 25-minute Pomodoro cycle. The Pomodoro method can effectively combat procrastination because it emphasizes working for a set period no matter how much work you get done, rather than getting a certain amount of work done in a specified amount of time.

6. Consider Forming a Study Group or Teaming Up with a Study Buddy

One of the reasons why Mount Saint Vincent has onsite ABSN classes rather than online coursework is because it enables nursing cohorts to develop greater camaraderie. You may become close to other members of your cohort, particularly if you form a study group or team up with a study buddy. Like solo study sessions, study groups should establish an agenda for each session to maximize time.

nursing student checking patient's heartbeat

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7. Use Next Gen NCLEX Prep Resources

You’ll find loads of NCLEX study tips and prep resources online. Look for study guides, video tutorials, sample questions, and practice tests. You can even sign up to receive an NCLEX question of the day. The more NGN sample questions you answer before the exam, the more confident you’ll feel on test day.

8. Manage Test Anxiety with Stress Reduction Techniques

Even if you are well-prepared, it’s normal to experience some anxiety as your NGN test date approaches. Manage your test anxiety with stress reduction techniques like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, relaxing music, and mental visualization. Try a variety to find the ones that work best.

9. Know What to Expect at the Testing Center

CMSV student in mask in class

You should read the testing center’s rules and procedures before your test day. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early. You’ll need to provide your biometrics — signature, photograph, and a palm vein scan. When the test begins, you’ll have five hours (including breaks) to complete the exam. Take your time with each question. Unlike some other tests, you won’t be able to return to previous questions to reconsider your answers.

Ready to Prepare for an Exciting Career in Nursing?

When you’re ready to contribute to positive patient outcomes as an RN, the admission counselors at Mount Saint Vincent are here to help you get started. Our friendly admission team will walk you through every step of the admission process — from the initial discussion to application submission.

With three start dates per year and a graduation timeline of just 16 months, the Mount makes nursing education as accessible as possible for those interested in transitioning to a second career. Contact us today to learn whether our ABSN program is a good fit for you!