If you want to ace the NCLEX exam, you’re going to need the best NCLEX review books and study guide out there. Well, don’t worry – there are 10 best NCLEX review books that nurses have been using for years to conquer the dreaded NCLEX. Even so, you may have already heard how difficult the exam is.
You may have heard that you might have to answer more than 200 questions covering everything from basic care to pharmacology – and these questions are pulled from a bank of thousands. Not only that – the test is adaptive, meaning it gets more difficult the more answer you get correct. And to top it off – it’s timed. You’ve only got six hours to take it.
Maybe you’ve talked to a nurse or two who’s taken it and passed. Did they tell you horror stories of poring through thousands of prep questions and not sleeping for a month straight while they studied non-stop for it? Or maybe they were one of the lucky few who spent a week preparing then breezed right through. Yeah, right.
Why The NCLEX Is So Important
Well, duh, you have to pass the NCLEX exam to get your license to practice nursing. Yes, that is correct. You have to get a passing score on the NCLEX exam to become a nurse, whether you’re an RN or PN.
But the NCLEX isn’t just testing how well you can memorize facts and data to mark the right boxes on an exam. That’s why they use CAT (computer adaptive testing) to give you the exam.
With CAT, the more answers you get right – the harder the questions become. The test adapts to the test taker, challenging them. There will be a point where you don’t know the answer to a question (actually, there’ll probably be more than one point). The test is designed that way.
Nobody can memorize all the information covered by the NCLEX anyway – there’s too much to know. And the test knows this.
What they want to see is not that you’ve got a supercomputer for a brain and have committed every piece of data to memory – no. What they want to see is that even if you don’t know something, that you know enough to safely practice nursing.
That means that you know enough to know what the proper steps are that will cause the least amount of or no harm to the patients under your care.
They want to see critical thinking, flexibility, and caution from you.
Is The NCLEX Exam Really Hard To Pass?
It’s hard – but not impossible. True, it covers more information than most people can ever hope to memorize and will ask you things you absolutely don’t know, but it’s beatable.
There are so many factors that go into how successful you’ll be on the NCLEX exam like:
- How well prepared you are
- Do you have test anxiety?
- What’s your learning style
- Your physical health
- Your emotional health
Your biggest asset is being prepared. You’ve got to put in the study time and effort on a regular basis. If you aren’t prepared, it’ll be a tough slog. One of your best preps is going to be the right study guide.
But to make you feel better – the current pass rate for the NCLEX is around 75%. That’s pretty good odds. And if you just happen to not pass the first time – they’ll let you take it again . . . and again until you make it.
What Makes A Good NCLEX Study Guide?
What makes a good NCLEX study guide? Well, all the ones we’ve gathered for you are great. They’re written by PhDs, advanced nurses and educators who know what you need to prepare. But they all have the same things in common:
Here’s a few things to look for in any NCLEX study guide:
- Practice Questions – more than anything you want your practice guide to have tons of practice questions, the more the better. The ones we found have thousands.
- Practice Exams – good NCLEX study guides will give you at least one practice exam to help you prepare.
- Updated Content – you want the latest clinical updates and NCLEX test plan, The NCLEX exam is scheduled for an update in 2023.
- Strategies – you definitely want a study guide with strategies to help you know what to expect on the exam.
- All Question Formats – your study guide needs to include all the alternate question formats, including multiple responses, prioritizing [ordered response], fill-in-the-blank, figure/illustration, chart/exhibit, video, and audio questions.
- Extra Resources – most guides include access to websites with extra resources like videos, practice quizzes, and more.
Is The Saunders NCLEX Guide The Best One?
The question gets asked a lot: what NCLEX study guide is the best – that is, after all, why you’re here reading this blog right?
While the HESI, Lippincott, and Davis guides are great, the Saunders NCLEX Guide is at the top of the list for the simple reason that it goes for the “kitchen sink” strategy of providing questions, quizzes, tests, online resources, charts, graphs – everything you need and then some.
It also helps that it’s written by two nursing PhDs, Angela Elizabeth Silvestri, Ph.D., APRN, FNP-BC, CNE, and Linda Silvestri Ph.D., RN, FAAN. They’ve been helping nurses pass the NCLEX exam for years.
So take a look at the Saunders Guide – it’s up first on the list. But don’t neglect the others – they have other additions and twists that are good for different types of learners and those with less time to organize their studying.
So are you ready to get your NCLEX guide and start studying? Hah, right – well you still need an NCLEX guide and we’ve got the best ones for you.
What we’re going to do is give you the top-rated NCLEX study guides plus a couple of extra resources that’ll make sure you’ll be fully prepared when you sit down to the exam.
Here are the top 10 NCLEX exam study guides and if you want to stick around, at the end we’ve got some clever studying tips that’ll help you study smarter, not harder.
What Is The Best NCLEX Review Book?
All of these NCLEX books and study guides will give you everything you need to crush the NCLEX exam. While every one of them covers all the majors, there are a few minor differences in writing style and the way the information is presented. Have a look and find the best one for you.
Best Overall NCLEX Study Guide
Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination
Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-PN
At the top of every list of NCLEX exam reviews, It’s been updated to include all the most recent additions and changes to the NCLEX test plan. The Saunders review guide by Angela Elizabeth Silvestri, Ph.D., APRN, FNP-BC, CNE, and Linda Silvestri Ph.D., RN, FAAN goes for the overkill approach with thousands of practice questions.
Don’t be intimidated by the size of this book (it’s a brick) or the amount of information. You want everything you can get – and it’s got it all. With everything from test-taking strategies, questions, and tests to audio summaries and access to the Evolve website, there’s nothing forgotten here.
Bonus: you can customize quizzes and tests, plus utilizing the extra resources on the website.
Here’s some of what you’ll get:
- More than 5,200 practice questions in the book and its online companion Evolve website with customizable quizzes
- A comprehensive 75-question exam that hits all of the content areas in the same percentages as the exam
- Lots of visual elements like charts, graphs, and tables
- Covers all of the question formats, including prioritizing, multiple response, fill-in-the-blank, hot spot (figure/illustration), charts & exhibits, audio questions, and useful videos.
- Explanations for correct and incorrect answers
- Audio review summaries: pharmacology, fluids, and electrolytes, acid-base balances
- Tips and advice on test-taking, the CAT (computer adaptive test), and views on the NCLEX from nurses who’ve passed it
There are tons more included with at least 8 newly added sections.
Pros: comprehensive information, updated, lots of questions, Evolve website access
Cons: Can be a bit information-heavy at times
Most Well-Organized NCLEX Study Guide
HESI Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination (6th Edition)
The HESI Comprehensive NCLEX-RN review will help get you ready for both the NCLEX and the HESI exit exam. With an easy to read outline format, this study guide reviews concepts, and clinical areas.
It also provides HESI tips on applying the critical concepts of clinical decision making and it includes the companion Evolve website that lets you practice taking the test in exactly the same electronic format as the real NCLEX.
Here’s some of what you’ll get:
- More than 900 NCLEX practice questions
- HESI hint boxes highlighting the most crucial information and concepts
- Critical thinking study questions
- Chapters organized by clinical areas
- Pharmacology tables
- All question types
- New additions: all updates, 300 additional questions, clinical judgment scenarios
Pros: pharmacology tables, critical thinking study questions, organized by clinical area
Cons: not as many practice questions as others
Easiest To Use NCLEX Study Guide
Lippincott Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN
Lippincott’s Q&A Review hits all the four main content areas and has almost as many practice questions as Saunder’s, but it’s a bit quicker, yet still comprehensive guide to practice NCLEX exam questions.
Its content aligns with the NCSBN 2019 test plan covering the four major areas of nursing: obstetrics, pediatrics, medical-surgical, and mental health nursing.
You’ll get access to their online Passport program with randomized tests to help you prepare.
An attractive feature of this guide – the low price.
While studying, you can take tests that cover the concepts you’re reviewing. Here’s some of what’s included:
- More than 6,000 NCLEX questions
- Content aligned with the NCSBN test plan and written in the same style as the exam
- All question types
- Rationales for correct and incorrect answers
- Study tips and test-taking strategies
Pros: quick and easy to ready, comprehensive, price, NCSBN aligned
Cons: not as many questions as Saunder’s
NCLEX Study Guide With Most Questions
Davis’s Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN® 3rd Edition
Do you absolutely need ALL the NCLEX study questions? Davis’s Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN has them. It includes more than 2,500 questions in the book and 10,000 online – including the dreaded SATA (select all that apply) questions. You’ll also get to take two comprehensive exams to test
- NCLEX test plan overview
- Audio, video, and clinical judgment questions
- Strategies for answering each question type
- Rationales for correct and incorrect answers
- Test-taking tips and strategies for getting the right answer if you don’t know
- Two comprehensive exams
- 1-year subscription to online tests with 10,000 interactive questions
- Assignment builder that creates customized quizzes for problem areas
- Analyzes your strengths and weaknesses
Pros: tons of questions, customized quizzes, test analyzer
Cons: not as many questions in the book
NCLEX Study Guide With Good Add-Ons
Mosby’s Comprehensive Review of Nursing for NCLEX-RN Examination 20th Edition
Mosby’s NCLEX Review is a classic test for NCLEX prep. Fully updated to include the newest NCLEX test plan it includes more than 4,000 questions – including 600 in the new alternative format questions. Also includes a companion CD to customize quizzes and download audio summaries.
Some of what’s included:
- 4,200 practice questions
- Content is grouped by categories of concern
- Detailed rationales for correct and incorrect answers
- Text references for rationales
- Two comprehensive exams
- NCLEX Preparation Toolkit
Pros: lots of alternative format questions, companion CD
Cons: could have more explanations
Best NCLEX Study Guide For Visual Learners
Illustrated Study Guide for the NCLEX-RN® Exam 10th Edition
Looking at a brick wall of text can be scary – and boring. Liven things up with colorful charts, drawings, and more. With a tight, concise outline format, visual format, and fun cartoon mnemonics, this guide is especially good for those who are visual learners.
Some of what you’ll get:
- 2,500 questions on the Evolve companion website
- Mnemonic cartoons to help you remember key concepts and processes
- Integrated systems approach to each type of care
- Appendixes summarizing medications and procedures
- Test answer rationales and explanations
- Priority boxes to study priorities of nursing care
- Pharmacology tables
- Icons to easily identify content, disorders and treatments
Pros: great for visual learners, mnemonics, pharmacology tables, priority boxes
Cons: not as info heavy
Best Quick Review For NCLEX Exam
CliffsNotes NCLEX-RN Cram Plan
Gah, – ok. While we’re a little hesitant to include anything with the word “cram” in the title, this little book by CliffsNotes has some useful information and good reviews. The most useful part of this guide is probably the calendars that will help you organize your study time.
Just to be clear – if you think you can cram for the NCLEX and pass it – you can’t. The only way you’ll be prepared is by continuous, steady studying.
- Calendars to create a study plan with how much time you have until the NCLEX exam (2 months, 1 month, 1 week)
- Diagnostics test to help you find out where you need to focus
- Subject reviews on need-to-know topics
- Practice tests
Pros: study calendar to organize time
Cons: light on some topics
Best Current Review Guide For NCLEX
NCLEX-RN Exam Practice Questions by Ascensia
This review book with practice questions by Ascensia has the most up-to-date info available to make sure you get the freshest review out there. In addition to the most current info, you’ll get real examples, test questions, graphics, explanations, and everything you need to quickly review and prepare for the NCLEX.
Some of what you’ll get:
- 1000+ test questions
- Detailed exam overview
- Test-taking tips and strategies
- Reviews for all NCLEX subjects
Best Priced Study Guide
NCLEX RN 2020 And 2021 Study Guide
TPB Publishing makes study guides for everything from the LSAT to the MCAT and this NCLEX guide is updated for the new testing outline. It has the same exam preparation, test questions, and review quizzes as the others but does it at a VERY attractive price. Here’s what’s included in this study guide:
- Test-taking strategies
- All test sections: Management of Care, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Safety and Infection Control, Psychosocial Integrity, Comfort and Basic Care, Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies, Reduction of Risk Potential.
- Practice Questions with explanations
- Comprehensive review
Pros: great price, covers all the basics
Cons: not as much info or extras as others
Best NCLEX Supplemental Guide
ReMar Review Quick Facts For NCLEX
Need a quick review of NCLEX facts and figures? The ReMar Review Quick Facts For NCLEX does just that – gives you just the quick info you need without having to plow through a ton of chapters and pages. The best part is that it gives you quick little study routines you can knock out in 45 minutes to an hour every day.
It’s all no-nonsense and straight to the point giving you these resources:
- Self-study program
- Pharmacology quick facts
- Help to identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Quick, effective studying routines
Need more? Here’s a list of additional resources that include flashcards, books that focus on difficult areas, and a cram guide.
NCLEX Drug Guide: 300 Medications You Need to Know for the Exam
Pharmacology is one of the most intimidating sections of the NCLEX exam, but it doesn’t have to be with the right study aid. This guide from Kaplan covers 300 need to know medications that are sure to be on the test. It’s also pocket-sized so you can take it to go.
Davis’s Drug Guide for Nurses
While not technically an NCLEX study guide, the Davis Drug Guide has extensive info on all the drugs and medications you’ll need to know – and you can hold onto it for reference after you pass the exam.
The NCLEX exam doesn’t have to be the scary monster it’s made out to be. Just remember with the right preparation and study time, you can ace it. In fact, your chances are pretty good because the pass rate is more than 85% on average
All you need is the right tools and the right attitude. So get yourself a guide and some flashcards and get to studying.
If you put in the time and effort, you’re going to do just fine.
Speaking of effort – you’ve got to use your limited studying time wisely. So here’s those studying tips we mentioned earlier. They’ll help you organize and maximize your study time and get you ready for the big day.
NCLEX Exam Studying Tips:
Here’s some great NCLEX studying tips – but if you want to really get some genius tips and hacks to help you pass the NCLEX the first time, look here.
You can’t wait to cram all of your studying until the last week or two. You need to study in short 1 – 2hour block at least 5 times a week
Answer Practice Questions
Probably the most reliable way to prepare yourself for the NCLEX is to answer practice questions – lots of them. As in hundreds of them. The more practice questions you answer, the less surprised and more comfortable you’ll be during the test.
Get Study Buddies
Studying with partners is invaluable. They may understand something you don’t or have notes you missed. You can quiz each other and have practice tests.
Focus On Weaknesses
If you’re having a hard time with a particular subject – like pharmacology – work on it. Find your weaknesses and put in some extra effort.
If you don’t fully understand a concept – ask a teacher, mentor or fellow nursing student about it and have them explain it to you.
If you’re struggling, find a tutor. Most schools provide tutors, so take advantage of them. The extra time and effort are worth it.
Know Your Learning Style
Some people are note-takers; others need to watch how something is done. Find out whether you are visual, auditory or a reading/writing learner and modify your study style for it.
Nursing has more mnemonics to remember procedures and dosages than any other profession. Get those mnemonics and use them – they really do help you remember.
That’s right – teach somebody. There’s no better way to get a full understanding of a concept or subject than be teaching it to somebody else. Teach one of your fellow nursing students and you’ll find out very quickly what you do and do not understand.
We would gladly hear your feedback as to how you’ve aced the NCLEX exam, hope we helped you get inspired. Congratulations in advance!