As of April 1st, 2023, the NCLEX has transitioned to the Next Gen NCLEX (NGN). With this significant test change, it’s important to know what to expect on the NGN–and how to study for it. To help you get started on your NGN test prep, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten tips for the Next Gen NCLEX so you feel confident on exam day. Review what our experts believe are the most important tips and strategies for success on the new NCLEX.
[ Read Next: All About the New Next Gen NCLEX ]
NEXT GEN NCLEX QUICK TIPS
- Tip #1: Know what is covered on the exam.
- Tip #2: Understand the exam’s format.
- Tip #3: Build up your test endurance.
- Tip #4: Create a study plan.
- Tip #5: Assess yourself honestly during your studies.
- Tip #6: Know what kind of learner you are.
- Tip #7: Understand that the exam is based on real-world experience.
- Tip #8: Know which strategies work–and which don’t.
- Tip #9: Manage the test experience.
- Tip #10: Take advantage of NGN prep resources.
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #1: Know what is covered on the exam.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) is the organization that develops the nursing licensure exams. Each NGN test question has gone through rigorous analysis and beta-testing to ensure its validity as part of the question test pool. The NCSBN has developed a detailed test plan which you can download from their website. In this document, you will see a comprehensive list of the areas tested and the content under each area. You will also see the percentage range of questions you can expect to encounter when you take the exam. Use this document to check your knowledge base. Also, be sure to review the updates to the NCLEX, including conceptual changes emphasizing clinical judgment, five new item (question) types on the exam, and a new scoring system that allows for partial credit.
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #2: Understand the exam’s format.
The Next Gen NCLEX continues to use a computerized adaptive testing (CAT) format like its predecessor. This means that no two exams are identical. The NGN you take will adapt to your answers and be different from any other individual’s exam. While the exam will provide you with a minimum of 85 questions, and a maximum of 150 questions, the NGN uses an algorithm to produce each new question based on your performance on previous questions. Some questions are multiple-choice, while some are multiple-answer (Select All That Apply). Images and graphs may also appear on the NCLEX.
The exam ends when the candidate either passes the test after correctly answering enough questions to stay above the passing line with 95% confidence interval, OR the candidate fails the test by not staying above the passing line with 95% confidence.
Sometimes candidates try to self-evaluate and guess how they are doing as they go through the exam, but the NGN doesn’t work that way. It is best to focus on the questions at hand. What is easy for you might be a real challenge to someone else. Each Next Gen NCLEX question is as important as the next!
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #3: Build up your test endurance.
Preparing to pass the NGN is all about building your test endurance. Unlike other exams you may have taken, the Next Gen NCLEX isn’t a test you can cram for. Over many years of providing NCLEX Test Prep, Kaplan has found that students who pass the first time have spent several weeks to months preparing for the test. How much time you can spend studying for the NGN each day depends on you, but it’s important to remember that this is a test of safe practice covering all areas of patient care and health/disease management.
The Next Gen NCLEX is part of the “marathon” of becoming a nurse, not only in preparation but in the actual exam itself. Please remember that the exam might take you up to five hours. Take progressively longer practice tests so you can train your brain, as well as your backside, to successfully sit and focus for the duration of your NGN experience.
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #4: Create a study plan.
It is important to be resolute in your preparation for the Next Gen NCLEX. You’ve come this far–don’t quit now! Here are some things you can do to create and stick to a great study plan:
- Plan to study a bit every day.
- Set goals for each study session. Is it the completion of a Practice Test? Working through a certain number of practice or QBank questions?
- Remediate every question. Know why you got a certain question right or wrong. Content? Strategy? Understand the rationale for every answer. Kaplan provides you with rationales for each answer choice, right or wrong. Remember, you may see this same question presented differently on the Next Gen NCLEX.
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #5: Assess yourself honestly during your studies.
Know what kind of test taker you are and assess yourself critically–and honestly–during your test prep so you understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Kaplan Nursing has found that successful NCLEX test takers:
- Have a good understanding of nursing content.
- Tackle each test question with confidence because they assume that they can figure out the right answer.
- Don’t give up if they are unsure of the answer. They are not afraid to think about the question, and the possible choices, in order to select the correct answer.
- Possess the know-how to correctly identify the answer.
- Stay focused on the question.
Unsuccessful NCLEX test takers often:
- Assume that they either know or don’t know the answer to the question.
- Memorize facts to answer questions by recall or recognition.
- Read the question, read the answers, read the question again, and pick an answer.
- Choose answer choices based on a hunch or a feeling instead of thinking carefully.
- Answer questions based on personal experience rather than nursing theory.
- Give up too soon because they aren’t willing to think hard about questions and answers.
- Don’t stay focused on the question.
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #6: Know what kind of learner you are.
Do you learn best by listening to videos and lectures or reading books? Are you a good note-taker? Have you used NCLEX Qbanks successfully? Are you better at a Self-Paced program, or do you need an instructor for guidance? All of these are critical components of preparation and study. Your Next Gen NCLEX prep should provide you with a comprehensive variety of videos, written reviews, strategies, and practice materials to suit your complex learning preference best.
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #7: Understand that the exam is based on real-world experience.
The former NCLEX test was based on evidence-based practice. However, test takers are now urged to think like they are in the real world when taking the new Next Gen NCLEX. So, instead of assuming that you have a perfect situation when answering questions, you should consider real-world factors, like having restricted time, space, and resources.
If you have worked in healthcare, you may notice that different facilities each may have slightly different ways of doing things that they deem safe and effective. However, do not assume that this applies to the NGN. For the exam, you must assume that you have a perfect situation, with ample time and resources to perform your duties. Choose your answers based on this “perfect world” scenario.
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #8: Know which strategies work–and which don’t.
During nursing school, you may have noticed that tests and correct answers varied by teacher and were mostly driven by content. On the Next Gen NCLEX, this isn’t the case. Massive research and testing have gone into each NGN question. And while you may get all of your content questions correct, this doesn’t mean you’ll pass. This exam tests your ability to think critically, and you must apply content to a scenario in order to answer correctly.
Here are some strategies that might have worked in nursing school but DON’T work on the NGN:
- “Cramming” in hundreds of facts about disease processes and nursing care
- Recognizing and recalling facts rather than understanding the pathophysiology and the needs of a client with an illness
- Knowing who wrote the question and what is important to that instructor
- Predicting answers based on what you remember or who wrote the test question
- Selecting the response that is a different length compared to the other choices
- Selecting the answer choice that is grammatically correct
- When in doubt, choosing the answer choice (C) or (D).
Here are some strategies that DO work on the NGN:
- Visualization: Create an image in your mind about the scenario you are reading on the exam. See the patient they are describing and place yourself in that situation.
- Reword the Question: NGN has a topic in mind they want to know if YOU know the answer to. The first step to correctly answering questions is to find out what each question is really asking.
- Use the answer choices for clues about the topic: Yes, the topic is THAT important. If you are clueless about the topic after reading the question stem, then look for a pattern in the answer choices to help you determine the topic.
- Eliminate obviously wrong answer choices: One of the major problems of unsuccessful test takers is that they do not thoughtfully consider each answer choice. They react to questions using feelings and hunches. Unsuccessful test takers look for a specific answer choice and select an answer too quickly and without thinking.
- Recognize expected vs. unexpected outcomes: Expected outcomes are the behaviors and changes you think are going to occur as a result of nursing care. These outcomes allow the nurse to evaluate whether goals have been met.
Remember, the Next Gen NCLEX is testing your ability to make safe, competent decisions based on evidence-based knowledge. Use information from your approved nursing textbooks or a summary review of them, such as the Kaplan Review of Essential Content.
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #9: Manage the test experience.
Do you have test anxiety? We are all a bit nervous from the pressure of such an important milestone exam. Just remember that you made it through nursing school. What strategies did you use to overcome anxiety on past exams and experiences? You learned about stress management with patients in nursing school. It helps to apply those principles to yourself now as you prepare.
Use these methods to minimize stress as you study for the NGN:
- Keep a balance between your studies, work, and personal life.
- Sleep regularly. Sleep is the master antioxidant and restorative healer.
- Exercise daily. Regular exercise is good for your body, but it also changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills.
- Study a bit every day, but don’t let study consume your life. Build it into your daily routine like any other task, such as taking a daily NCLEX practice question.
- Get ready for NGN exam day by taking a trip to the testing center. Know the route and traffic patterns so you don’t get lost or caught in unexpected traffic snarls. Locate the parking lot and building. Find the lockers where you will be storing your belongings, and review what you can and cannot bring to the exam so you feel prepared.
- The night before the exam, make sure you have gas in your car, get adequate sleep, wear the proper clothing, and bring the proper ID documents.
Ultimately, the best way to alleviate anxiety is to study properly. The NGN won’t seem so scary when you feel prepared and confident!
Next Gen NCLEX Tip #10: Take advantage of NGN prep resources.
The Next Gen NCLEX launched in April 2023 and is now the only licensing exam available for aspiring nurses. Because of this test change, it’s more important than ever to begin your test prep early and to utilize trusted resources so you are “NGN ready.” Kaplan has a variety of NGN test prep options to help prepare you to pass the Next Gen NCLEX, so spend some time browsing options to identify the prep style that fits you best. More students recommend Kaplan for NCLEX prep than anyone else.* Why? Our personalized study plans and comprehensive tools cover everything you need to pass. In fact, 97% of Kaplan NCLEX students pass the first time.‡ We guarantee you’ll pass the first time, too—or get your money back.†
Susan Benesh, AGNP-C, MS, FN, FAWM is one of our hundreds of nurses working to help you pass the NCLEX.
* More Students Recommend Kaplan: These are the findings of two quantitative surveys conducted by Kaplan conducted August 26, 2022, through September 30, 2022, and September 5, 2022, through October 9, 2023. A sample of 368 NCLEX test prep customers was interviewed online, of which 118 customers prepped with Kaplan and 250 customers prepped with any other market competitor (selected from a closed ended list representing the majority of the NCLEX prep market with the option to write in a competitor). The distribution of competitors selected in the survey is not necessarily reflective of true market share. The results showed that Kaplan has a net promoter score that is statistically higher than the competition at a 95% confidence level with a 10% margin of error.
† Passing Guarantee: Conditions and restrictions apply. For complete guarantee eligibility requirements, visit kaplannursing.com/guarantee.
‡ NCLEX Exam Pass Rate: Results based on a Kaplan post-exam survey of first-time, NCLEX-RN exam test-takers who graduated from their nursing program during the first 6 months of 2023. Respondents had access to a Kaplan Self Paced or Live Online NCLEX-RN exam prep retail product on or after January 1, 2023, and reported they had passed the NCLEX-RN exam in the first 6 months of 2023 (n = 115). Survey responses were responses received August 17, 2023, to September 25, 2023. The study is based on students who have provided their pass/fail status. While the study focused on students who took the NGN exam, data may include some respondents who purchased and sat for the NCLEX-RN exam prior to the current Next Generation NCLEX-RN exam.