(Mostly) painless prepping for the NCLEX


iStock | Igor MojzesiStock | Igor Mojzes

The NCLEX—it’s emblematic of a time both exciting and terrifying for student nurses. But if we’re being completely honest, it’s mostly just terrifying with, like, a dash of excitement. And understandably, if you’re a student on the cusp of graduation, you want to be 110 percent prepared for it (if not 120 percent). 

Below, Katie Kleber (aka Nurse EyeRoll) shares her own prep strategy to help you gear up for the big exam. And get this—it even offers some leeway for a nice cold beer: 

You’ve just spent years and thousands of dollars taking classes prepping you for one really expensive test. Stressed much?

Below is my post-nursing school graduation timeline. If I had to do it again, I think I would approach it the same [way]. There’s no way to completely take the stress out of this ridiculous process, but I think if you approach [it] with intention, you can reduce stress significantly. And don’t listen to those people who are fabulous test-takers who say prep courses are a waste of money and just bought a $20 book, studied for a night, took it hung over and passed. They’re douche bags and make you feel stupid. And you’re not. So there.

I graduated at the beginning of May a few odd years ago. Not at the top of my class, but not at the bottom, either. I’m not crazy smart, but didn’t bum/charm my way through, either. So I guess you’d say I’m pretty average.

I took a full week off after graduation and didn’t look at one textbook or think about nursing at all. ’Twas glorious.

I then took the weeklong Kaplan Review Course the third week of May. I highly, highly recommend this course.

When Kaplan started, I put ALL of my nursing books from school away and focused on the book that Kaplan gave me (and honestly have barely looked at them since). I did what they told me during the course and followed their plan.

I didn’t cross-reference things from various books, I didn’t buy an NCLEX study guide, I didn’t cram, I didn’t try to read as much as possible. It’s just too much information. If you don’t get it by now, you won’t. You should have a general knowledge base; now you just need to know how to break the questions down to get to the answer.

I did 25 to 50 questions daily for four weeks until I sat for boards. I took one day off per week of no questions/studying. I do not recommend waiting months to sit for boards. The longer you wait, the more you forget. Just get that test over with.

I took my test three hours away [from home] in the afternoon the second week of June. I got great sleep the night before, had my husband drive me so I could relax on the way and also had him take me out to lunch right before. I definitely had a delicious beer with lunch. I think that helped with my nerves.

I was done in 1 hour and 15 minutes and passed with 75 questions.

Reminder: I’m not a 4.0 student and not a great test-taker.

You will walk out feeling like you failed, needing to poop/throw up immediately. You’ll feel like that even if you graduated summa cum laude and are a great test-taker. You just spent years fighting for every single point, all while getting used to an 80 percent needed to pass. I think I read somewhere that you only need to get 40 percent correct on the NCLEX to pass. I don’t know if that’s true and can’t remember where I read that, but when I think about the percent that I think I answered correctly, it couldn’t have been more than that. Expect that.

I know nurses who timed out after the six allotted hours and passed. I know those who got all 265 questions and passed in three-plus hours. I know quite a few [who] passed in 75 to 120 questions. I know one [who] passed with 75 questions in 20 minutes.

The ones [who] didn’t pass didn’t take it seriously or put the time in. Pick a study course and stick to it, take days off, test as soon as you’re ready and relax the day before.

I hope this helps, you recent nursing school graduates, you. By the way, congrats! You’re so cool to me! Nursing school sucks and you’re done! Yay! Now go pass the NCLEX!

To read more, visit

Nursey-123x18511Learning how to be a great nurse at the bedside while maintaining your sanity at home is no easy task. Becoming Nursey: From Code Blues to Code Browns, How to Take Care of Your Patients and Yourself talks about how to realistically live as a nurse, both at home and at the bedside…with a little humor and some shenanigans along the way. Get ready: It’s about to get real, real nursey. You can get your own copy at, Amazon or Goodreads (ebook).

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