How to Study for the NCLEX in 30 Days

Preparing for the NCLEX can be a challenging task! One of the questions many new graduates ask about their NCLEX prep is: How long do I need to study for the NCLEX? Recommended study times may vary depending upon the level of preparation needed and can range anywhere from 4 – 8 weeks. This article will provide a four-week strategy for how to study for the NCLEX in 30 days!

Week 1: Developing a Road Map (Study Plan)

First things first. You won’t know where you’re going without a road map. This week, spend 2-4 hours developing a study schedule. You can use a blank sheet of paper with thirty boxes or a digital or paper planner. If you already keep a personal calendar, consider integrating your study schedule with the system you already use. First, select an NCLEX Test Date and write it on your calendar. You can always change this later, but having a date to work towards will help guide your studying. Once your test date is set, work on scheduling practice tests, along with review and remediation times for filling in for the remaining dates leading up to test day.
The secret to NCLEX success is question exposure. Taking, reviewing and remediating as many test questions as possible is KEY! Plan to pull together practice question resources that will expose you to a minimum of 3500 questions. That might seem like a lot of questions. And it is! But the key to NCLEX success is answering questions, not studying content. There will be a time in your study when you will need to review previously learned content. For now, though, the goal is to get through as many questions as possible. For example: 3500 questions/28 days = at least 125 questions per day. Set a regular schedule to answer 63 questions in the morning and 63 questions in the evening. Follow each testing session with a review and remediation period of ALL the questions, not just the questions answered incorrectly. It is important to review all questions in order to ensure that you clearly understood why the correct answer was right and that it wasn’t just a lucky guess.

Weeks 2 & 3: Working Your Action Plan for NCLEX Success

Continue to work through practice questions, taking breaks after each testing session. Review and remediate the previous practice set PRIOR to taking the next practice set. Remediation is just as important, if not more important, than answering questions. This phase of NCLEX prep will not only help you understand your test taking style but also reinforce less familiar content. Having this content refresher may assist you in selecting correct responses on future practice questions, especially if you are able to gain a clear understanding of why you responded to or answered a question the way that you did.

Week 4: Countdown to the NCLEX

As test day approaches, your anxiety may begin to rise. Self-regulation techniques, such as mindfulness techniques (meditation, yoga, reciting positive affirmations) and exercise can help improve your focus and stamina while reducing anxiety. Negative self-talk may also cause a loss of focus and create additional stress. Here are a few stress relievers to get you through this last week: 

  • Make sure you take regular breaks throughout study periods
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand
  • Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water, and low or no caffeine!
  • Go for brisk walks. Exercise will help allay anxiety and promote relaxation
  • Get adequate sleep. Plan your schedule so that you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep
  • Visit the NCLEX Test site in order to familiarize yourself with the location and how long it takes to travel there. This will prevent additional anxiety on the day of the test and give you an idea of how much travel time you’ll need.
  • The day before the NCLEX (Day 29) – schedule something FUN!

Test Day

It’s here! The big day has arrived! Repeat positive affirmations: “I am prepared! I will be successful!” Now walk into your NCLEX Test site and pass that test!

Need help prepping for the NCLEX? Check out Kaplan’s resources.

Janice Lanham RN, MS, CCRN-K, CNS, FNP is one of our 600 nurses working to help you pass the NCLEX.