Study. That’s the only way to pass the NCLEX on your first try.

Ha . . . ha. Yeah I know, you were hoping for some secret knowledge, some super-clever study hack where your brain just turns into a giant sponge soaking up lab values, procedures, pharm info, and medical definitions.

Well, if you know it, let me in on it too. Because those of us who aren’t geniuses have to pass our tests the hard way by putting in those hours of studying.

Yes, most mortals have to study hard for the NCLEX – cramming is ridiculous – but the hours don’t have to be long or difficult.

In fact, we’ve got some tips to help you study smarter for the NCLEX that may just border on genius-level. These may not be the ultimate secret, but they’re going to definitely give you an advantage.


Here are 5 Ways You Can Study Smarter For The NCLEX:


1. Set A Study Schedule

This comes before ever picking up a review guide or starting an online quiz. You’ve got to set a study schedule – and stick to it. Cramming for the NCLEX exam is out of the question – there’s too much information to cover.

You need a regular studying schedule. Here’s some tips:

  • Get a monthly planner – use it to plan your studying schedule
  • Break it up – shoot for 3, 45-minute to 1-hour sessions rather than one long session
  • Set a reminder on your phone – sometimes we all forget

Sure, you’re packing on extra study sessions in addition to your nursing school classwork, but if you want to pass the NCLEX (hopefully the first time) regular studying is going to work way better than long all-night marathons.


2. Have The Right Tools

Don’t just rely on your textbooks to study for the NCLEX because it’s going to take a lot longer.

There are a ton of great NCLEX prep guides out there that condenses everything you’ll need to know into easily digestible reviews. You also get practice questions, quizzes, tests, and online resources.

Here are three great tools to help you study like a brainiac:


  • NCLEX study guides

These are the review guides mentioned above. No matter which one you choose, all of them give you enough practice questions, reviews, guides, quizzes, online resources, and tests to get fully prepped.


  • Online NCLEX prep courses

Online NCLEX prep courses are a bigger investment, but you get what you pay for.

The best part about these online courses is that you get to practice NCLEX questions in real-time, on a computer with a time limit – just like you’ll see on test day.


  • Flashcards

Never underestimate old-school technology. Flashcards are an amazingly clever way to study questions, procedures, and NCLEX info that are proven to help you retain what you learn.

Bonus: you can put them in your bag or pocket for a quick study when you’ve got an extra minute. Here’s where you can find the best NCLEX review flashcards.


3. Do Lots Of Practice Questions

Practice questions are on the top of everyone’s NCLEX tip list because they work. They’re as close to taking the real NCLEX as you’re going to get – especially if you’re using an NCLEX study guide or one of the great online prep courses.

Did we say lots of practice questions? Yeah, you need to do lots of them – as in hundreds of them until you can recognize the questions and are comfortable with each type of question.


4. Start A Study Group

Research has shown that studying in a group effectively supercharges your brain’s capacity for learning. Here are a few reasons why:

  • All learning styles are included (visual, auditory, tactile, kinetic)
  • You can ask questions and clear up anything you don’t understand
  • Study group members are more likely to study regularly
  • Sharing of resources (notes, books, guides)
  • Study groups provide support (mental and emotional)


5. Take Time Out

I know, sounds counterintuitive because you want to maximize your valuable hours for studying. But if you don’t pause, take a breath and practice a little self-care, it can have a major impact on the effectiveness of your studying.

Studies have recorded data showing that stress can actually impair your brain’s learning process, making it more difficult to learn new information and commit it to memory.

Don’t study for nothing – make sure all that hard work pays off. It’s a two-pronged approach, focusing on your physical and mental health. Here are some simple self-care tips:

  • Eat healthy – whole foods, less sugar (cutting out soft drinks is easy), drink more water
  • Get good sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Practice yoga, mindfulness, or meditation (as little as 5 minutes can help)
  • Go for a walk outside
  • Get a massage
  • Do something you enjoy: read, listen to music or a podcast, etc.

Reducing the stress isn’t just good for helping with your anxiety levels – it’ll also help you learn more quickly and retain what you’ve learned.

How difficult is the NCLEX exam?  Is it feasible to ace it the first time? There’s no real secret to passing the NCLEX. You just have to be prepared.

And how do you best prepare for an exam that is testing you on everything you learned in nursing school? You study.

Use these tips and you can study smarter and more effectively – when you pass the NCLEX on the first try, everyone’s going to want to know your secret.

Do not lose hope, but perhaps to lessen your stress you may want to learn the answer to can you take the NCLEX more than once?

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