Nursing Undergrad

Passing the NCLEX

Yes, I was one of those unfortunate souls who got every single question on the NCLEX…but guess what? I passed! We all know you can pass OR fail in as low as 75 questions, up to all 265. I already heard from several of my classmates who passed in just 75 questions the week before. That was going to be me too, of course. My mind started spiraling when I hit question #76 and I became sick when I hit the 200s. Everyone I started testing with finished hours before me. Soon I was all alone. It was agonizing not knowing if I was just one question away from seeing a black screen or not. 265 questions and 5 hours later, I sat in the parking lot, called my mom, and cried. I couldn’t stop panicking. I was convinced I failed and left feeling so unsure of myself. I was frantically trying to remember what the last question was and if I got it right or wrong. I don’t recommend trying to think about any of the questions or answers by the way!

When I got home, I tried the Pearson VUE trick and it seemingly worked. However, I couldn’t stop sulking until I got my official results 48 hours later. You have to pay for expedited results, but it was worth every penny to end my misery. I was then crying tears of joy and my parents took me out for dinner and drinks 😊 I was proudly one of Michigan’s newest RNs!

Our school exclusively used Kaplan as a resource and their books/practice Qs were all I used. (Unfortunately, I have no experience with HESI or ATI so I can’t tell you how well those prepare you). We took a mandatory 2-week in-person course after graduation and then studied on our own until we felt ready. I graduated early May and took it on June 24th. I took a mini-vacation after graduation and then spent ~6 weeks solely dedicated to studying. How much time you need to prepare depends entirely on you. While I felt prepared for what would be tested on, I was not prepared for the actual testing experience. You go the testing center, get fingerprinted, have your picture taken, and wait with people who are taking a variety of other exams. Then, you are called into a small computer room with big cameras behind you. There are big, bulky headphones waiting at your station. No talking or looking around. It was very impersonal and unwelcoming. The experience is what you’d imagine it to be. Yet, I didn’t imagine myself sitting there until I actually was. My best advice is to do some imagery and have meditation techniques in mind beforehand!


  1. Understand how the NCLEX-CAT works but don’t agonize over it. Watch this video about what to expect before you start studying any content. Learn the pass/fail scenarios and then move on.
  2. Your nursing school test scores and overall grades don’t always correlate to NCLEX success à you still need to PREPARE more than any exam before. The studying is not the same and your nursing school notes won’t be enough. You now need to think like a nurse, not just to pass a test.
  3. Take a review course. I’m assuming it will be virtual this year but still take one. It keeps you accountable and allows you to ask questions as you have them.
    The course also taught me how questions will be asked.
  4. Do as many practice questions as possible. I used the Kaplan Content Guidebook (link) that came with the course and answered all the practice Qs in the book and online Qbank. You will get vital feedback about what content areas you need to study the most. They also put your knowledge to the test in different ways. (Do all the remediation too, as annoying as it is)
  5. Practice taking exams like it’s the actual test day. Go to a library cubicle with big headphones, no interruptions, no music, and no notes. Try-out your mindfulness techniques and learn when to take a break (I didn’t take one but should have!)
  6. Don’t assume you’ll pass in 75 questions. Prepare your mind like you’re in it for the long haul. If I had some more endurance with taking up to 265 Qs at a time, I wouldn’t have spiraled so easily.
  7. No one will know or care how many Qs it took you. Your future manager won’t ask, and no one will remember how many times it took you to pass!
    You will STILL get your nursing license.
  8. Take some breaths. You are more prepared than you think you are.
    Be confident in yourself, you got this!

Study Hacks

**Obviously don’t cram, but here is a good cheat sheet that still seems helpful. I can’t guarantee the accuracy since it was made in 2012, but the general concepts are similar.

***STICK TO A CONSISTENT STUDY SCHEDULE. Print out a monthly calendar and fill in all the days/hours you plan to study, with the topics too. Give yourself some off days. Having a pretty, organized calendar makes it more exciting when you’re getting close to the end!

The Content Review Guide that came with the Kaplan course. You can also purchase the NCLEX-RN Prep Plus from Amazon too!

*COVID-19 Changes* (now effective thru Sept 30!)

Some of the best nurses I know didn’t pass the 1st time, so don’t let it get you down if that happens. You WILL pass and be a great nurse! Please feel free to reach out with any questions you have. I’d love to help!

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