When Should Nursing Students Start Preparing for the NCLEX?

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If you’re in nursing school, everything you do is preparing you for the most important test of your career: the NCLEX! Technically, you’ve been learning information that will prepare you to take the NCLEX since your very first day of classes, but how do you know when to start studying specifically for the big test?

We’re sharing some tips on when you should start preparing for the NCLEX and how to get started.

How Early is Too Early?

Even though you may not start studying intensely until closer to the time that you take the exam, it is never too early to start preparing for the NCLEX! The best thing that you can do to prep, no matter where you are on the nursing school timeline, is to familiarize yourself with NCLEX-style test questions. The more comfortable you are with the questions and testing styles that you will see on exam day, the more it will help you to be successful in the long run.

Related Read: Learn About Learning System: Your Individualized Quizzing Experience

Decide When You Are Going to Take the Test

When you should start heavily preparing for the NCLEX depends on when you are taking it. You should start by visiting the NCSBN website to learn about the application and registration process and see all of the different times and locations you can choose from to take the exam.

If you are not familiar with NCSBN, or the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, you will want to be! Familiarize yourself with this important organization and their NCLEX-related resources before taking the NCLEX.

Start Preparing About 6 Months Out

In order to allow enough time to review the extensive amount of information that will be covered on the NCLEX, successful candidates usually start studying about 5 or 6 months before they are scheduled to take the test, which is probably around the beginning of your final semester in nursing school. This is a great time to start doing remediation – reviewing and studying topics that you maybe weren’t as successful on during nursing school, or that you have forgotten a bit about since you went over them in class.

Related Read: Your NCLEX FAQs Answered by a Nurse Educator

It’s important to note that the 5 to 6 month window for preparing is a suggestion, but every candidate is different. You know your personal learning habits and study skills the best, so be sure to give yourself ample time to get through all of the information. If you are a slow reader or test taker, or if your busy schedule won’t allow you a ton of time to study, you may want to start prepping further out from your test date.

Buckle Down Near the End

The last 8 to 12 weeks before you take the exam is the time to really buckle down and dedicate your time to preparing for the NCLEX. If your nursing school gives you access to ATI NCLEX Prep tools like BoardVitals or Virtual-ATI, you should begin using these resources in this time frame.

Related Read: Virtual-ATI, Live Review and BoardVitals: A Breakdown of NCLEX Prep

If you don’t already have a prep resource available to you, 8 to 12 weeks before the exam is a great time to get one! A prep resource designed specifically to help you get ready to take the NCLEX will help you focus your studying and ensure that you are reviewing effectively. NCSBN does not officially endorse any review courses, so it is important to do your research beforehand to make sure the prep resource you pick is from a trustworthy and reliable source.

ATI offers a variety of NCLEX prep resources to suit different students’ needs, from personalized virtual coaching to thousands of practice questions to live review sessions. You can learn more about all of these great resources on our website.

Looking for more help while preparing to take the NCLEX? Follow ATI Nursing Education on Facebook for NCLEX questions, helpful articles, and more!

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