Here’s a fun game: Google the search phrase “NCLEX-RN review course” or “NCLEX-PN review course” and check out the astronomical number of results that pop up. There are literally a million (plus change).
Actually, that’s not such a fun game. Because when you’re a student nurse in training and your career hinges on finding a good, reputable NCLEX review course to prepare you to take on this high-stakes exam, the last thing you need is to feel utterly overwhelmed. (You already have the pharmacology section to do that for you.)
Don’t fret. There may be 1,340,000 Google search results for NCLEX-RN review course but the team here at Brainscape knows how to sniff out the quality ones!
In this article, we’ll give you tips for choosing the right review course for you, as well as what we consider to be the best NCLEX review courses and tools available.
These recommendations have been carefully chosen by our experienced team of NCLEX prep nerds, led by Justine Buick, The NCLEX Tutor, a qualified Registered Nurse with a Masters of Science in Nursing, which she earned with honors from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
And who are we?
We’re Brainscape, the creators of the world’s smartest flashcard app. Based on decades of cognitive science research, our learning algorithm adapts to the individual to help you master your subject efficiently and effectively.
Together with The NCLEX Tutor, we’ve put together a comprehensive collection of NCLEX-RN flashcards of NCLEX-PN flashcards, which you can study throughout your NCLEX review course to help you permanently onboard the facts and ace your exam!
More on that later, though. Right now, here are our tips for choosing a good NCLEX review course ...
[And when you're ready for that next step, make sure you check out '5 Keys to passing the NCLEX nursing exam!']
Features of a great NCLEX-RN review course
- Offered by qualified, experienced individuals or organizations
- Has been around for awhile
- Is written in accordance with the most up-to-date NCSBN test plan
- Explains the content well and in an engaging fashion
- Has NCLEX tutors with recent or active clinical experience
- Has instructors readily available for assistance
- Has good student reviews
- Covers both content and test-taking strategies
Tip 1: The best NCLEX-RN review courses are offered by qualified, experienced individuals or organizations
It’s simple. You’ll want your NCLEX-RN review course to be offered by an individual or organization that has demonstrated expertise in nursing, medicine, and healthcare.
The more educated and experienced they are, the more you can benefit from their advice and, therefore, the more prepared you’ll be to take the NCLEX. So make sure your instructors are Registered Nurses with at least a Masters Degree in Nursing (or a related field, like education).
Tip 2: The best courses have been around for a while
Time is one of the best tests of the mettle of an NCLEX review course. Because if it isn’t all that good at helping students, it’ll have a low pass rate for the NCLEX. And if it has a low pass rate for the NCLEX, it won’t recruit new students, which'll see it fading into obscurity.
The best NCLEX-RN review courses, therefore, are those that have a few years under their belt and a demonstrated track record of helping students pass the NCLEX, as well as recommendations from experienced instructors who can vouch for them. They are also dynamic: constantly refined and updated so as to iron out any UX (user experience) wrinkles, while remaining consistent with the most up-to-date NCSBN test plan.
This brings us neatly to our next point ...
Tip 3: They are written in accordance with the most up-to-date NCSBN test plan
The very last thing you want is to spend weeks, if not months trudging through an NCLEX review course only to discover that it hasn’t prepared you properly for the exam. So you’ll want to make sure that the NCLEX review course you choose is designed in accordance with the most recent NCSBN test plan for the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN exam.
In English: it teaches you what you can expect to be tested on in the NCLEX today. Avoid old, stuffy courses that change little over the years and refuse to keep up with the times. This is especially important considering the recent introduction of Next Generation NCLEX, the new line of exam questioning, by the NCSBN!
(The National Council of State Boards of Nursing or NCSBN is the independent, regulatory organization responsible for, amongst other things, administering nursing licensure examinations like the NCLEX.)
Tip 4: The best NCLEX-RN review courses explain the content well and in an engaging fashion
Right, so you’ve found a few NCLEX review courses that are relevant, up-to-date and are offered by experienced, qualified agencies (whether an individual or an organization). But this could all mean nothing if the review course doesn’t take the content and explain it in a way that is coherent, succinct, and accessible to everyone.
We’ve all had those bad teachers who have single-handedly managed to reduce an interesting subject to a near-comatose experience. Similarly, an NCLEX review course that invests little to no time making their content understandable and engaging could compromise your ability to do well, or even pass the NCLEX.
Tip 5: NCLEX instructors have recent or active clinical experience
There are nuanced (sometimes marked) differences between textbook nursing and “real-life” nursing. What you learn in the textbook might not always be 100% relevant in the emergency room for a particular client. And this attests to the complexity of the human body and mind: they simply don’t always stick to the script or, in this case, the textbook.
An indelible part of being a good nurse, therefore, is evolving your skills of critical thinking, quick assessment, and sound judgement, which is best done through clinical work or being mentored by people with hands-on experience.
Tutors with recent or active clinical experience offer the benefit of proper education, but passed through the lens of the real world, which will prepare you for the inexorable realities and challenges of nursing.
Tip 6: NCLEX instructors are readily available for assistance
Do you want to pay good money for an NCLEX-RN review course and then have to wait days to hear from your instructor whenever you have a question? NO! A good review course will be staffed by attentive, knowledgeable instructors that will be readily available to assist you and answer your questions in a timely fashion.
You’ll know everything you need to about the quality of the instructors from the next point ...
Tip 7: Good NCLEX-RN review courses have good student reviews
When in doubt about an NCLEX review course, check out what other students have had to say about it through online reviews and testimonials. If you can, look up a couple of those students and ask them what their experience was like—what they liked and disliked about the course—and whether they’d recommend it to you.
This will put you in a much more objective position to make the best possible decision for you, without being swayed by marketing rhetoric.
Tip 8: The best NCLEX review courses cover content and test-taking strategies
A good NCLEX-RN review course won’t just teach you what you need to know in order to pass the exam but also guide you through how to tackle the exam questions, particularly the dreaded ‘select all that apply’ or SATA questions. Knowing what to expect from the exam and having a test-taking strategy in place will take the guesswork out of the NCLEX, making you feel more confident and prepared.
The team here at Brainscape has also compiled all kinds of useful resources for you to use in your preparation to take on the NCLEX so be sure to check them out:
- How to study for the NCLEX more efficiently
- The best test-taking strategies used by top students
- How to use NCLEX practice questions
The best NCLEX review courses (in our opinion)
Considering all of the above points, Justine Buick, The NCLEX Tutor, filled us in on her favorite NCLEX review books and courses:
- Saunders Comprehensive Review book
- Hurst NCLEX Review course
- Mark Klimek NCLEX Reviews (we recommend the live, in-person review only)
- ReMar Review
Other really helpful supplementary study resources are:
- SimpleNursing.com (definitely check out Mike Linares’ videos)
- RegisteredNurseRN.com (watch Sarah’s videos)
FYI: A “100% guaranteed pass” is a unicorn. Ain’t no such thing.
Before we introduce you to a few other supplementary study tools, we need to alert you to the following: no review course, no matter how good, can 100% guarantee that you’ll pass the NCLEX. Just as you can never 100% guarantee the outcome of a medical procedure, no matter how routine, you cannot promise a student that they’ll pass if they take your course.
There’s a word for that: advertising. And advertising is all-too-often bad science.
The only way you’re 100% guaranteed to pass the NCLEX is by putting in the hard work. And now that we’ve given you some great tips on how to choose a good, reputable NCLEX-RN review course, we’re going to introduce you to some excellent supplementary study tools to help you on your journey of NCLEX mastery:
The best supplementary study tools for the NCLEX
The real secret to passing the NCLEX the first time is the hard work YOU put into mastering the content. The only thing is: the NCLEX is a knowledge-intensive exam with a staggering volume of facts to remember. It also requires you to take all that knowledge and apply it to the scenarios in question, and this can be a major challenge for many nursing students.
This is where Brainscape steps in as a proven supplementary study tool to help students learn and review content twice as fast as simply working through your textbook and study notes.
Brainscape NCLEX-RN flashcards
Our certified NCLEX-RN flashcards and NCLEX-PN flashcards have been put together by one of the best names in the business—Justine Buick, The NCLEX Tutor—and cover the essentials you need to learn to pass this exam.
Aside from the convenience of being accessible by the web or an app on your phone or other devices, Brainscape has been designed in accordance with key cognitive science principles to work with your brain’s hardwiring to help you learn and remember the facts.
Here are just a few reasons why NCLEX students love Brainscape:
- The flashcards break the NCLEX curriculum down into logical bite-sized pieces, which it poses in simple question-and-answer pairs.
- They compel you to study using active recall and metacognition, two cognitive learning principles that are proven to help you form deeper, more permanent memories of the information you’re studying.
- They focus on your weaknesses and save you time on unnecessary study through the spaced repetition of information you aren’t confident about.
- They enable you to study anywhere, anytime in those little breaks you find yourself with throughout the day (on the bus, treadmill, between classes, etc.), all of which add up!
Using Brainscape, you can dedicate yourself to the steady, metered, and consistent review of nursing content throughout your learning journey. And this will ensure that you master the necessary knowledge and are prepped for success come NCLEX day!
(We also have free NCLEX study planners and exam countdown sheets just for you, which you can customize however you want to stay hyper focused, and on track to crush your study goals!)
The NCLEX Tutor
Our proud partner and creator of Brainscape’s certified NCLEX-RN flashcards, The NCLEX Tutor, has been helping nursing students pass the NCLEX and other nursing exams through private tutoring, live webinars, and her Nugget Pages review book, since 2014.
This student-friendly NCLEX review book delivers an easy-to-understand overview of the most common content asked about on the exam. From Fundamentals, Management of Care, Safety and Infection Control, and Pharmacology to Adult Health, Mental Health, Maternity, and Pediatrics, Justine’s Nugget Pages are a powerful and effective learning tool for helping nursing students master their subject.
A final word on passing the NCLEX-RN
There are hundreds, if not thousands of NCLEX learning resources “out there” in the wild, wild west that is the World Wide Web. But with the tips we’ve given you in this article, you have everything you need to choose an excellent, reputable NCLEX-RN review course, as well as some recommendations, AND learning resources like Brainscape’s NCLEX-RN flashcards (or NCLEX-PN flashcards) and Justine Buick’s NCLEX “Nugget Pages”.
Armed with these tools, you have almost everything you need to prepare for and successfully take on the NCLEX. The only missing ingredient is YOU, your hard work, and your dedication to pursuing your ambition to become a nurse.
And we can tell you right now that if you’re reading this, YOU’VE GOT IT.
**NCLEX-RN® is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), which neither sponsors nor endorses this product.