How to Pass the NCLEX with 75 Questions in One Attempt

How to Pass the NCLEX with 75 Questions in One Attempt

One question is at the forefront of the mind of nearly every nursing student “How to pass the NCLEX?” Some even lust about the possibility of finishing the exam at the 75 question mark so they can be done with the agony of the dreaded “nursing boards” as quickly as possible. No one wants to pay the $300 (and up) fee to take the test again. So passing the NCLEX on the first attempt is a huge priority

Nursing school is a challenging experience. As if the rigors faced during your nursing education weren’t enough, you then have to take your professional licensure exam. Whether you have completed an RN or LPN program, you still must pass your “boards” to practice as a nurse.  Nursing school is about jumping through hoops, and NCLEX is just one more to jump through.

If you’ve stumbled onto this page in a nervous effort to find any tips or advice you possibly can to do well on the NCLEX, then you’ve come to right place. If you’re worried about your NCLEX test preparation, you are not alone. You wouldn’t be a good nurse if you didn’t think things through (nursing process, anyone?).  But since you’re already thinking like a nurse, then I’m sure you’ll do fine. However, just to be on the safe side, here are a few NCLEX tips and strategies that will give you a little extra confidence.

Tips to Pass the NCLEX

Stop Stressing.

The hard part is over. You’ve completed nursing school and put in the time and effort needed in order to be worth of taking your state boards. The tests you take in nursing school are meant to mimic the types of questions you will see on the NCLEX. In my experience, the questions on nursing school test my senior year were far more difficult than 70% of what was on the NCLEX.

You passed those, right?

Don’t Cram

By now you know most of what you’re going to know. Attempting to go over every detail you’ve learned in the last 2 years in a month is not going to get you anywhere. You should retouch on areas you had difficulty during school, but only briefly. Do not attempt to memorize your entire drug book! Do not listen to MP3s of lab values when you’re going to sleep.

Just don’t!

Review an NCLEX Strategy Guide

Saunders Strategies for Test Success

I think that the best NCLEX guide is Saunder Strategies for Test Success: Passing Nursing School and the NCLEX. This book will give you the foundation you need to approach any NCLEX question (whether you know the material or not) with the tools you need to select the right answer. It’s impossible to remember every single lab value or medication, but it is possible to eliminate wrong answers and then make use of deductive reasoning to find the best possible answer of those that remain. I wish I had known about this book before I started nursing school because it teaches you how to answer the types of questions that are on all the tests in nursing school. Those tests are designed to prepare you for the NCLEX.

Review Questions and Take Practice Tests

Don’t spend every waking hour of every day with your nose in a book or computer screen taking practice tests. But do spend some time keeping your testing skills in peak performance. There are several good resources online for practice NCLEX questions as well as books.

Online Resources



Study, But Don’t Over Study

Determine a study routine and stick to it. I caution you not to overdo it here. If your study routine consists spending every waking hour from now until test day trying to cover every single item you may have touched on in the last two years, you need to seriously reconsider.  Spend a few hours each day reviewing what you struggled with during nursing school. Make sure you focus on test taking strategies as well. These strategies are actually what you need to know how to pass the NCLEX, rather than just the raw data that will make up the questions. The question banks are a great resource, but you need to ensure that you are training your brain to think critically rather than trying to memorize answers. This is one of the biggest mistakes many NCLEX preppers make.

Focus on Your Problem Areas

You should try to touch every area but spend more time on the areas that you really struggled with. One area that most students are challenged by is Pharmacology. Consider looking at some different resources outside of the class notes and books you already have. For Pharmacology NCLEX prep, I recommend the Medmaster Course. It is very affordable ($37, and 25% off with code NERDY25) and it’s videos and audio lessons can save you a lot of time and effort trying to find the pharmacology information you need to know from multiple resources. You can get more information about this course, as well as some pharmacology study tips in our post 3 Pharmacology Tips to Help You Pass the NCLEX.

Don’t Study On Your NCLEX Test Day

Just don’t study on test day. You’ll just end up stressing yourself out if you try to cram in “just a few more questions.”  We’ve already discussed how at this point you really shouldn’t be attempting to cram in content. Try to find a relaxing activity to fill your day with. But avoid anything NCLEX on NCLEX day, except well… the NCLEX itself.

Show Up Early

The last thing you want do to do is fail your test by missing your appointment. Make sure that you know your way to your destination and arrive in enough time to use the restroom, drink some water, and sit down and relax. You don’t want to be running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to get to your testing appointment.

Go with Your Gut and Don’t Doubt Yourself

I cannot tell you the number of times I thought to myself “It’s supposed to be harder than this,” while I was taking the NCLEX. I found myself in doubt of answers that I knew, I just had to stop and tell myself to stop doubting. If I knew the answer, then why would I try and tell myself I didn’t? You have to be confident in your decisions on the test. Read all the answers and use critical thinking, but don’t be afraid to go with your gut.

CAT : Computerized Adaptive Testing

The NCLEX uses computerized adaptive testing technology. What that basically means is that is choose your next question based upon if you successfully answered a question. Once you answer a certain amount correct in a certain level you bump up to the next level. You then have to answer a certain amount correct to bump up again until you get to a minimum of 75 questions. Every question you answer makes the computer recalculate your probability of success. So based upon how many you get correct it predicts if giving you more questions will help you pass or not. So getting past 75 questions does not mean you fail the NCLEX, it actually means it’s pretty sure you can pass it. However, it needs you to answer a few more questions correct before it can be sure.

Don’t Psych Yourself Out Trying to Figure Out the CAT Process

Don’t freak yourself out trying to figure out if the question you are answering is easier or harder than the one you just answered. In addition to the fact that you’re just wasting time and it doesn’t make a difference, somewhere along the lines of 30 questions will be “test” question for use in future NCLEX exams. So you may be freaking out because you got an easy question after a serious of select all that apply and thinking that you bombed them, when in reality the computer is just throwing in a “test” question (that doesn’t count) at random.

Do Your Best and Forget the Rest

Do your very best and have confidence in yourself. There is no use trying to incorporate any and all what-if’s. You know this this stuff, and you can and will pass the NCLEX and practice as a nurse.

Use your critical thinking skills you’ve developed in nursing school. They teach you exactly how to pass the NCLEX. All those hoops and ridiculous questions did have some justification. Trust me when I tell you that nursing school won’t be the last time you use your brain.

Hang on tight, this nursing ride can be a crazy one, but we are thrilled to have you!

How was your NCLEX experience?

Please Comment below and share with us!


  1. Kayla M says

    I completed LPN school in 2009. I failed my broads twice and I gave up. I felt like it wasn’t right for me. Since then I’ve been working different jobs but I keep thinking about “what if I took my boards again?” So now, 6 years a 18 month old son and a wonderful fiancé later I’m ready to finally pass my boards. I’m just afraid I’ve forgotten way to much. Does anyone know if I would hVe to take a refresher course or if I could test at any time? Also, what’s the best studying material? I have a Lippincott book from when I tested 6 years ago but surely there’s an updated version. Thank you for your help.

  2. says

    Thank you so much for this post! I love the Saunders comprehensive review books, they have helped me a ton in school.

      • genny says

        Nerdy nurse I’m and taking my nclex for pn I am so nervous I get panic attacks when it comes to taking test do you have any advice ?

        • says


          Have faith in yourself and try not to stress. The worse thing you can do is psych yourself out going into the test. Study daily until the day before the test. On that day, do something fun and relax. Arrive at your test site early. Don’t second guess yourself when picking answers. It was easy to do this when taking the NCLEX, but as long as you’ve read all the answers, go with your instincts and don’t try to over-analyze the question. Use Malow’s Hierarchy of needs and ABCs!

  3. Ana says

    I have failed 6 times. I’ve done Kaplan Online and in-class in two separate occasions. I’ve done Hurst review as well. I currently have a tutor but can’t afford it after all the money I have spent so it has been a waste because I cannot continue with him. I have read Saunders Comprehensive Review twice front and back as well as Kaplan Review Text. I honestly do not know what else to do. I’m in a funk that I can’t get out of. I still want to be a nurse pretty bad but I’m at a point where I ask myself is it still worth all the tears I’ve shed. You would think after failing so many times I would be used to the feeling but it’s worse each time I get the results that I’ve not passed. I’ve still not given up but the struggle sure is real.

    • Kayla says

      I’m so proud of you for not giving up on your dream Ana! I cannot fathom how much work you have put into studying for the NCLEX and I’m so sorry you haven’t passed. Please do not give up. You did not go through nursing school to be defeated by a test! Good luck and I’ll pray you pass this next time.

      • Kimberly says

        Kayla, these words are encouraging to me too! Like you Ana I’ve taken the nclex RN 4 times and have not passed yet! 150 questions once and 3x 265 questions. Not giving up but not sure what to do ?

  4. says

    Great post Brittney! So many students psych themselves out when it comes to standardized tests. When studying it’s important to create an environment as close to the testing environment as possible – quiet, distraction-free, and timed.

    Good luck to all the NCLEX-RN writers out there!

  5. anna spears says

    I just failed the NCLEX for the 5th time. I took Kaplan twice, and an individual online tutor program twice. Am I a hopeless case? I studied and felt like I knew the material. I think it’s the “choose the best” questions that trip me up. I feel totally defeated. Any advice?

    • Amy says

      I feel the same way. I too have failed 5 times. I just want to pass but don’t know what else to do!

      • says

        SSo sorry to hear, me too took it 6 times and failed. I am using the Saunders 2005 test taking strategy, Lippincott etc. I am using prepu NCLEX interactive online for Q&A. Its very similar to the NCLEX because it adapts while you proceed. The questions are similar to the NCLEX and it goes to level 8 which is I think actually harder than the real deal, but it helps with strategy and critical thinking.

  6. diana says

    I did Nclex RN and failed first attempt, I have been studying and trying to focus on areas I got below passing standard..I am planning to take exam next month..I really need your prayers. .

  7. Natash says

    I took the NCLEX exactly one month from today. Passed with 75 questions on my first try. I was absolutely terrified to take the NCLEX because of all the posts I was reading online and friends telling me how difficult it was. I had studied a good 3 weeks but didn’t feel completely prepared. After my screen turned off at 75 questions, I was dumbfounded. Couldn’t believe what a breeze it was. I mean I had taken harder tests during nursing school!!

    I think if your school has a good pass rate (mine had a 100% pass rate last semester) and you’re getting mostly As, you will pass on the first try. If your school doesn’t have a very high pass rate or you’re an average student, you definitely need to put in time to study. Hire a tutor, buy a crash course, study with a friends, whatever it takes.

    The NCLEX tests minimum competency. They just want to know that you will be a safe nurse. Not knowing what time of day to give a particular drug is not going to kill a patient, but if you don’t know a serious s/e or adverse reaction of a drug, that will weigh heavily on you.

  8. lyndsey says

    I’ve taken the NCLEX 3 times, i did kaplan, hurst, and the nsbsn review. i don’t know what else to do. i used the lippencott text as well. I’ve spend so much money on reviews and can’t even think to spend more. I’m so upset i thought i had it this time.

  9. mary Swan says

    If you don’t prepare you won’t likely pass its that simple. Not all nursing schools are challenging, ours should have failed handfuls of people but needed the money so didnt. Teachers would give us answers on tests and would walk us through answers if we were stuck. Crappiest school ever, I’ve failed the NCLEX twice and have finally bought a review program so I can pass the 3rd time. Hoping Kaplan can help me as I have a job in already training at. Good luck to everyone!

  10. Barry says

    I was the first graduating class to take the NCLEX-RN on computer. I passed with only 75 questions. This was about 18 years ago… but my advice as a seasoned nurse mirrors the blog post. Realize that all the tests you’ve already taken and passed are designed to prepare you for the NCLEX. I chose not to take a review course. I had peers who did take a review course and felt it was worth the time and money. At the end of the day, you ARE ready for this! You’ve got this!

  11. Maggie heinen says

    My computer turned off at 75 questions first attempt I prepared with Kaplan. Think like he ivory towers. I love being an rn

  12. NursingStudent15 says

    I am graduating in a couple months, but the NCLEX in my state is offered around the time I graduate. I heard it takes about 5 weeks to get everything processed in order to take the NCLEX, and the next test date isn’t until 5 months later. Can I take my NCLEX in another state? Or do I have to take it in the state I wish to be hired. Thank you in advance!

    • says

      I have never heard of only having the test at a certain time. It’s an computerized and individual process. And you’re right, it takes between 3 to 5 months for all the paperwork to process.
      However, since you are a senior in nursing school they should be walking you through all the steps you need to submit the needed paperwork to the BON and actually register for a testing date and time.

      I would recommend reaching out to your nursing faculty advisor and confirming this information. If they do not normally lay it out for you like, that I would ask them to do that for you, as the process can be complicated without guidance.

      • Barry says

        You certainly can take the nclex-rn in any state… however you will have to endorse back to your state of practice… so probably not going to move things along quicker… And as far as I know, you can schedule the test at your convenience once you’ve been approved by the BON to do so.

    • AriannahopefullyRN says

      The amount of time it takes from when you graduate and when you sit for the NCLEX depends on a lot of factors many of which you have the control over. Since the NCLEX exam is national most of the requirements are basically the same in every state. You need to apply for a license and get fingerprints and background check completed usually through a livescan provider, and register with Pearson VUE. All of those things you can do months ahead before you graduate! That way all the Board of Nursing in your state needs is your transcripts sent out by your school…how quickly they send them is up to them, and how quickly the BON processes them is also out of your control. I just graduated this May in Florida and my school sent out the transcripts on the Monday after graduation. Since all that was needed was my transcripts and I had registered with Pearson VUE I received my ATT 6 days after graduation and took the exam 12 days after graduation! Faster than I ever would have imagined being able to take it…I get my quick results tomorrow… Please pray for me! Good luck to you!

  13. Suzanne says

    I am about to start my last semester of the RN program and am overwhelmed about which nclex review book to buy. I was thinking about Saunders NCLEX review, but I’m not sure. Everyone seems to have an opinion on which is best and why. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated!

  14. Allison T says

    At a recent Calif Nursing Student Association convention, I sat in on a short sample of the Hurst Review course, which I liked. The approach was easy and informal, and I felt like I had a better understanding of both hypervolemia and diabetes insipidus than when I walked in … and I’m not even in clinical rotations yet! After returning home, I checked out the Hurst website, where they have another section on video. It was the same, informal and informative. That seems like an approach well-tailored to my individual tastes. The instructors consistently emphasize the importance of knowing core content “without doubt or hesitation” so that we really comprehend the reasons for pathophysiology. Makes perfect sense to me! Given Hurst’s “repeat the live class for free” policy, I can imagine taking it before and after my final semester, to really cement this info before the NCLEX approach.

    • Kathy says

      I took the Hurst Review about 2weeks prior to my NCLEX date. While I thought the review of the core content was helpful, I must say the balance of my NCLEX didn’t even brush the vast majority of the core content that Hurst says know without doubt and hesitation. One question about SIADH was where the core content came in handy.

      I passed NCLEX with only 75 questions. I know a gentleman that did fail with 75 questions. I didn’t feel like I had passed when I left the exam, but I passed. It was the most agonizing wait ever to find out if I had.

      I believe practice questions and studying the rationale for the missed questions is beneficial too.

  15. MommynatorRN says

    The Kaplan Review (paid for by our school) and their decision tree was totally awesome. I made it to 90 questions and done. Even if you can’t do a Kaplan review, do lots and lots of questions.


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