How to Pass NCLEX-RN Exam

Study Plan

In this article...

Is it just plain old practice and preparation that lets you pass tough examinations with ease, or is there something else? I remember searching for the answer to this question during my college days, and the answer was a big resounding yes. It’s just preparation and practice.

Understand the NCLEX RN exam pass criteria. Prepare a study guide based on the content plan of the NCLEX RN exam and practice using simulated tests. These are the steps to easily pass the NCLEX RN exam. 

In this article, I will explain three main ways the NCLEX board assesses and scores your exam paper. And what you can do to pass the exam with minimal stress.       

What’s the Best Way To Ace the NCLEX RN Exam?

The answer is a good study guide that takes into account all nuances of the exam. 

Please remember this before we get to the main part of the article: NCLEX RN exam can be competitive and even difficult, at times, due to the number of methods the NCLEX board employs, so there is fairness in assessing your skill as a healthcare practitioner. 

But there are strategies you can follow to ace the exam with minimal exam stress, and I will cover them for you here. First, you’ve got to understand the passing standard of the NCLEX RN exam before you prepare a study plan.

You Pass the NCLEX RN Exam Based on Three Criteria

The NCLEX board outlines three ways you can pass their exam, and they are:

Criteria 1 — the computer (CAT) is sure you’re qualified! 

This method is the most common way candidates pass the exam; it’s based on the confidence interval rule. Simply put, after attending anywhere between 85 to 150 questions, the computer algorithm is 95 percent certain you have the skills to earn your certifications.  

The exam stops as soon as the decision is made. Hence, not all participants are going to answer the same questions or the same number of questions. Some can pass after 100 questions, while others can attend over 140 questions to achieve the same confidence interval scores.  

Criteria 2 — a passing standard determines your result!

I mentioned some candidates can answer over 140 questions, and the computer algorithms are still assessing their skill levels. 

In this criteria, if you can answer all 150 questions of the exam and have still not reached the confidence interval levels needed to pass the exam; the CAT system scraps criteria one and uses a predetermined passing standard to grade your paper.     

The passing standard is determined based on the internal review of the exam questions by the NCLEX board and is a fixed score that changes every three years. 

Criteria 3 — You have used up the official exam time

Remember the part where I mentioned not all candidates attend the same number of questions? Due to this, some attendees can finish the exam in two hours while others can take five hours, which is the official time limit of the exam. 

In this scenario, if you have exhausted your time limit for the exam (five hours), and the CAT system has still not passed the judgment based on criteria one, the passing standard is used to determine the final result. 

Keynote: Criteria 3 only comes into play when you have attended at least 85 questions of the exam. If not, your exam attempt is deemed a failed attempt. If you have completed 85 questions, your scores for these questions are calculated, and a verdict, either pass or fail, is made based on the passing standard.  

The Smart Way To Study for the NCLEX RN Exam

Alright, so now you know the criteria you must meet to pass the NCLEX RN exam. And it’s easy to figure out that criteria one is the most straightforward and perhaps the easiest way to pass the exam. 

So, what’s the best way to meet 95% confidence interval scores, and the CAT declares you the winner even before you attend 100 questions? (again, a minimum of 85 questions to attend)     

Planning and preparation are the keys to any exam strategy! The most efficient way to study for this exam is to focus on content parts that have the highest minimum probability of appearing as questions in the exam.

Please visit this article and check out the content plan for the NCLEX RN exam. The content plan for the NCLEX RN exam has four major sections, and most do not have an equal probability to appear as CAT questions. 

Hence, here is one way to cover your ground for the exam based on numbers and percentages:

Management of Care — the topic with the highest chance for CAT questions 

Have the exam syllabus on your side. You can refer to the article I shared or this document. This is a subsection of the first major section (Safe and Effective Care Environment) of the content plan of the exam. 

I’m putting this as the first topic you need to cover because there is a 15 percent chance your next question in the CAT system is going to be from this topic, which is the highest of all the content sections

Which should be followed by:

Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies — the second highest chance

Still, have the syllabus on your side? Good! This is the next subsection you should turn your attention to. And it comes under the fourth major subdivision “Physiological Integrity.” This section alone has around a 13 percent chance of appearing as an individual CAT question.   

The second highest chance of all the topics. I believe you can see where this is going. And based on this, you can create a study to cover the rest of the topics, and it should follow this pattern of studies:

Other topics to cover and their order

After studying the first two topics, here is how you can cover the rest of the topics based on my guide:

Main sections and their subsections 

  • Physiological Integrity
    • Physiological Adaptation: 11 percent 
    • Reduction of Risk Potential: 9 percent 
  • Safe and Effective Care Environment
    • Safety and Infection Control: 10 percent  
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance: 6 percent 
  • Psychosocial Integrity: 6 percent 

If I was attending the exam, this is how I would cover the topics. But we all are talented in different ways. Hence, if you excel at some topics and want to focus on the content you love, please go ahead but always keep the percentage figures of the syllabus in mind, as numbers don’t lie. It’s a certainty.    

Wrapping Up

Study preparation and practice are how you pass the NCLEX RN exam. But before you begin your studies, know how the exam board grades your paper and the technical details as this will allow you to craft a plan and make informed decisions.

If you need to practice for the exam, feel free to use our free resources, such as the simulated tests for the NCLEX RN exam, and check your performance. 

I’m also inviting you to try our comprehensive study guide for the NCLEX RN exam, which has a pass rate of 97 percent for first-time attendees and uses realistic simulated questions to train you for the exams.