By Alice Johnson-Davis, RN, MSN

In order to become licensed, aspiring nurses must have an approved nursing degree and pass the NCLEX. The NCLEX provides states in the US with a way to verify a nurse’s knowledge and gauge their ability to safely practice as a nurse. The NCLEX is very important and the exam takers should prepare for the exam properly. 

Once you have made the decision to dedicate the time and energy to prepare for the NCLEX, you have to determine just HOW you will do so. In this three-part series, we’ll dive into the practical steps you can take to set yourself up for success on the exam.

1. Access the NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing) to understand the concept of the NCLEX exam

Determine which state Board of Nursing (BON) you will be using to apply for the NCLEX.  Each state has a few differences in its requirements, the timeframe of eligibility, and forms to submit.  It is best to apply to the BON in the state in which you will be working.  If you are an international nurse, your employment agency will facilitate this step with you. 

2. Gain information about the NCLEX exam  

Information from the NCSBN will help you understand more about the exam itself, how it is structured, and what to study for.  Questions to seek answers to include:

  • What are the categories and subcategories covered on the NCLEX?
  • What is the percentage of questions from each subcategory
  • What is a CAT, Computer Adaptive Test
  •  What are the minimum and maximum number of questions on the test?
  • What is the overall “test plan” of the NCLEX?  A comprehensive document is available that contains this information.
  • Where can I take the exam?

3. Ask yourself, how do I learn best?

There are many methods to study for the NCLEX that suit different learning styles, time limitations, and schedules. Within your own circumstances, determine what method helps you retain information best: 

  • Attending an in-person 10 day class presented by an instructor.
  • Working at your own pace with a self-study program
  •  Reading textbooks with an online program to practice
  •  Reviewing YouTube videos, listening to pre-recorded audio lectures

Your best learning style is not an “all of the above” answer. The key is to identify one primary style and utilize that until exam completion. Mixing and matching styles and resources can result in confusion and conflicting information.

If any of this information has been helpful, giving you ways to prepare for the NCLEX, stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of this series for three more tips on preparing for the NCLEX.

About the Author


Alice’s career as a registered nurse has spanned more than four decades, and she has found professional success in many different aspects of nursing. After obtaining a BSN and MSN, she worked as a critical care nurse, taught nursing at a collegiate level, worked with international nurses to help them prepare for NCLEX success, and has mentored thousands of young nurses.  In her personal life, she enjoys taking Pilates, gardening, and traveling to experience new adventures with her husband, Tom, and daughter, Austin.