What do nursing students dread the most? Is it scary clinical professors? Skills check-offs? Their first encounter with a yeast-infested pannus? Nope! It’s NCLEX! A fellow nursing student named Julie writes in with this query:

I would love to hear your thoughts on NCLEX preparation: great review books, is it worth it to take a prep course (like Kaplan), any great practice question resources, any other helpful advice to aid in passing.

You have some great insight and I’d love to hear your thoughts on NCLEX!

First of all, you do not have to wait to start studying NCLEX-style questions. I started studying with NCLEX study books from Day 1 in good ol’ Med-Surg. I really loved the Mosby NCLEX books and used those a lot…mainly because they wrote great questions, they were organized by body system, AND they provided rationales for every correct and incorrect answer (sometimes knowing WHY something is wrong is just as important as knowing why the other answers are right!).

So, for example…while we were studying renal in Med-Surg, those are the questions I focused on with my NCLEX study books…as I got closer to graduation and my actual test date then I started taking practice tests that would throw all the body systems in together. Once I graduated, I obsessed about finding a job, learned snowboarding, and studied for about 6-8 weeks I think.

In the few days prior to the NCLEX, I did practice tests of at least 75 questions to prepare me for the length of the exam and just hoped I wouldn’t have to sit through all 265! The night before the exam, I did a few questions just to keep the ol’ grey cells limber. However, I did not study at all the morning of the exam as that goes against my principles of staying reeeelaaaxed on test day! I scheduled my test for early-ish in the day, ate a good breakfast, and went in with an open mind so the answers could just flow right on out of my head onto the computer screen. I don’t remember much about the actual exam, except that I felt like I was guessing A LOT. I also got a ton of those awful “select all that apply” questions…those are evil! I do remember that I cried all the way home, and got pulled over for talking (and crying) on my cell phone. The officer was very sweet and said, “I’m sure you passed”…. but he was also a jerk and still gave me a ticket! Whatever!! But he was right, I passed!

I didn’t take any Kaplan courses, but when I looked into them they seemed really expensive to me…my thoughts are that if you are having trouble with NCLEX-style questions when you graduate your school hasn’t done a very good job of preparing you for the inevitable. Most schools will utilize NCLEX-style questions on all your exams, and also require you to complete exit exams each semester such as ATI or HESI.

So there, you have it…my NCLEX advice and tearful experience. Hope yours is better!

Has anyone taken a Kaplan course? Care to share your experience?


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