The 3 Best NCLEX Review Books: Compared and Analyzed for 2018 .

Updated:

You're choosing a book for the biggest test of your life.

But how do you decide which NCLEX book to buy?

Well, I've done something different:

...I've bought each book and actually tested them.

I've analyzed each book's NCLEX questions and content in measurable ways.

I picked the three top books that can completely prepare you for the NCLEX.

These three books are the best in their categories: nursing knowledge, nursing judgment, and NCLEX practice.

Read on, and I will show you exactly how you can fit these books into your NCLEX success plan.

Study smart, and study hard. I hope this helps you!

Kevin Pan, RN

LPN Students!

I didn't forget about you.

I just haven't been able to review LPN books yet.

For now, the recommendations here should apply to NCLEX-PN books as well.

Best wishes,

Kevin

The 3 Best Books to Help You Pass the NCLEX

BEST OVERALL

Kaplan NCLEX-RN Prep Plus 2018

Why I chose Kaplan:

  • It follows the NCSBN's Test Plan perfectly.
  • It has the best walkthough about NCLEX strategy.
  • It's very easy to read.
  • The NCLEX question quality is excellent, and so are the rationales.
Kevin's Detailed Review

Best Content

Saunder's Comprehensive Review

Why I chose Saunders:

  • It has the most content by far, for about the same price as other content review books.
  • It has a very well-thought out online question bank included with new purchases.
  • It's perfect if you have a shaky nursing foundation.
Kevin's Detailed Review

Best Q&A Review

LaCharity's Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment

Why I chose LaCharity's:

  • It has the best NCLEX question balance, quality, and difficulty.
  • The difficulty really ramps up in the case study sections at the end.
  • Its 1337 NCLEX questions are plenty to practice with, but won't overwhelm you in volume either.
Kevin's Detailed Review

Basic Comparison: Total Pages, Number of NCLEX questions, and Prices

In this chart, I compare each book's thickness, number of pages, and number of practice questions both in-book and online.

Key Takeaways:

  • Saunders Comprehensive Review, Lippincott's Q&A Review, and Davis's Q&A Review are the biggest books here.
  • Davis's Q&A has by far the highest number of NCLEX questions due to its 10,000-question online bank.
  • Despite all that, I've ranked Kaplan's and LaCharity's books higher than the other Q&A reviews. Read on to see why!
Kaplan's NCLEX-RN Prep Plus 2018 Saunders Comprehensive Review LaCharity's Prioritization, Deleg. and Assgnmt. Lippincott Q&A for NCLEX-RN Davis's Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN HESI Comprehensive for NCLEX-RN Mometrix NCLEX-RN Secrets
Rank: 1 2 3 4 (Tie) 4 (Tie) 5 6
Verdict Best Overall Best Comprehensive Best Q&A Best Value Q&A
(Tie)
Best Value Q&A
(Tie)
Best Quick Comprehensive
Thickness
Number of Pages 507 pages 1133 pages 346 pages 1108 pages 1022 pages 398 pages 285 pages
Number of NCLEX Questions Included...
...in Book 485 996 1337 4637 2750 0 240
...Online 180 5142 0 1366 10,000 700 0
Pricing
Avg New $30.69 $58.15 $36.90 $33.24 $31.50 $53.29 $38.57
Avg Used $26.15 $48.60 $33.77 $24.28 $27.99 $30.54 $26.64
Detailed Review Detailed Review Detailed Review

Detailed Comparison: Question Difficulty, Question Focus Areas, and Cognitive Levels

NCLEX Question Difficulty

I practiced a large sample of questions from each book, trying my best to get each right. I counted how many I got right and wrong, and the percent that I got wrong is used to rate how difficult each book is.

Key Takeaways:

  • Kaplan NCLEX-RN Prep Plus and LaCharity's Prioritization are the optimal difficulty level.
  • Saunders Comprehensive Review was a bit easier, and also probably even easier than this test suggests because the practice questions are basically quizzes about the content of each chapter.
  • Lippincott's Q&A was too easy.
  • Mometrix and Davis's Q&A were both more difficult - but not for the right reasons. Because so many of the questions were content-focused and knowledge-based (as I'll show you further down), it was easy to get them wrong if you simply didn't know the answer. You couldn't use your judgment to arrive at the answers.
  • HESI Comprehensive Review rated well - but there's just no point in buying it when you can get Saunder's, which has more content AND practice questions, unless you really want a quick comprehensive review that's not too in-depth.

Question Focus

As I practiced each NCLEX question, I rated it on whether you needed nursing content, nursing judgment, or if the question actually combined both of those things in order for you to get the question correct.

My definition of each are as follows:

  • Nursing Content: Requires knowledge of physiology, laboratory, pharmacology, pathophysiology, nursing procedural knowledge, cultural knowledge, or any other medical/nursing factual knowledge/comprehension (above and beyond layman’s knowledge) to answer the question correctly. Good for studying, but can lack dimension and won’t really improve critical thinking or nursing principles.
  • Nursing Judgment: Requires critical thinking, test strategy, or application of nursing principles (least invasive intervention, prioritization, nursing process, health promotion, compliance, ABC’s, delegation principles, legal principles, safety and infection control, therapeutic communication, cultural principles) to answer the question correctly. Good for practice and honing nursing judgment, though will not help with highlighting content weaknesses.
  • Both: Requires both of the above to answer the question correctly. Highly desirable!

Key Takeaways:

  • The books with the best focus were LaCharity's Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment and Lippincott's Q&A Review.
  • Kaplan's NCLEX-RN Prep Plus also had a very good balance.
  • Saunders Comprehensive Review (maybe unsurprisingly) really skewed toward nursing content rather than judgment, and had very few questions that focused on both.
NCLEX Question Focus:
Nursing Content 32% 54% 20% 24% 33% 35% 64%
Nursing Judgment 32% 26% 36% 34% 30% 36% 20%
Both 36% 20% 45% 42% 37% 29% 16%
Question Focus Rating
Learn More
Detailed Review Detailed Review Detailed Review

Cognitive Level

As you might know, the NCLEX uses a Bloom's taxonomy to make sure the cognitive levels of each question are at a certain level. Here's what you'll see in my chart:

  • Bad Question: This is actually not a Bloom's Taxonomy level. It's when I run across an NCLEX question that's so bad, I have to deduct points from the book somehow. Sometimes its just a wacky topic that no nursing student should expect to know. Other times it's conflicting answers and rationales, or something that's just plain wrong.
  • Knowledge: This is an NCLEX question that only requires you to remember a fact to get it correct. Low cognitive level.
  • Comprehension: This is an NCLEX question that requires you to understand the definition of something or be able to describe something. Also a low cognitive level.
  • Application: These questions require you to use you existing knowledge in NEW situations. These are the winners!

Key Takeaways:

  • Kaplan NCLEX-RN Plus is the clear winner here.
  • Mometrix and Lippincott Q&A were behind in this category.
  • Every other book had some small problems here and there, but most were generally good quality.
Cognitive Level of NCLEX Questions:
Bad Questions 0% 1% 4% 3% 3% 0% 2%
Knowledge 2% 6% 4% 11% 6% 8% 22%
Comprehension 2% 5% 5% 6% 8% 3% 10%
Application or Above 96% 88% 88% 80% 83% 88% 66%
Cognitive Level Rating
Learn More
Detailed Review Detailed Review Detailed Review

NCLEX Content Coverage

Long story short, a lot of people don't know that the NCSBN gives us 8 subcategories, out of which there are 83 related content areas, which break down further into 523 task statements. Whew!

If you want to learn more about using task statements to your advantage, I describe it in more detail here.

Knowing these task statements is the best way to truly prepare for almost any NCLEX question!

There's only one book that actually tries to follow this structure:

Key Takeaway: Kaplan NCLEX-RN Plus is the only book that follows the NCSBN's Detailed Test Plan, giving them a huge advantage.

Kaplan NCLEX-RN Prep Plus 2018 (Best Overall)

I was surprised by my reaction to Kaplan NCLEX-RN Plus:

Kaplan's the big old corporate NCLEX beast, and I thought they were old news.

But this book was a breeze to read! I even thought the font size was bigger - but it's not!

Somehow, the formatting makes reading this book so easy.

The book starts with almost 100 pages of strategy review, which trumps all others.

Here's the biggest reason this book will help you pass the NCLEX:

Kaplan then goes through all of the related content in the NCSBN's NCLEX Test Plan. I present the details in my full review.

You see, NCSBN, the organization that manages the NCLEX, gives everyone a study guide with 523 specific things the NCLEX will ask you about.

Most books don't follow it! This is the only book that does.

One more thing that did surprise me:

The NCLEX practice questions and rationales are high quality (see the chart).

Each rationale is rich, giving you the reworded question, a strategy, the needed nursing content, the NCLEX category, and a rationale for each incorrect answer choice.

The main thing I want you to know about this book is this:

I would recommend this book for ALL students, regardless of your situation.

However, it's not the perfect NCLEX book. It's not 2-4 years of nursing school contained in 500 pages.

My idea of a perfect book is something that follows each of the 523 task statements of the the NCLEX Test Plan - in detail.

I haven't found that perfect book yet, but Kaplan is the closest I've found.

It hits the 83 related content areas, just not always, it seems, in complete detail.

Learn more about NCLEX task statements

Use this excellent book to guide your study, and use the textbooks, notes, and material from nursing school to fill in gaps.

However, I think you should supplement this book with other NCLEX books if any of the following apply:

  • Graduation Date: You graduated from nursing school more than 6 months ago.
  • School Location: You were educated outside of the U.S.
  • School Quality: Graduated from a low-performing nursing school (NCLEX pass rate less than 85%)
  • Repeat Test Taker: If this is not your first NCLEX attempt.
  • Confidence Level: If you feel you haven't retained enough information from nursing school.

Saunder's Comprehensive Review (Best Comprehensive Review)

Depending on your situation, Saunders Comprehensive Review is either information overload...

...or the perfect way to catch up on everything you've forgotten.

This book is a thick beast with tons of nursing content, like a textbook in outline format.

You MUST remember that the NCLEX has ONE purpose:

To test how you apply nursing knowledge in nursing situations.

To APPLY nursing knowledge, you first have to HAVE nursing knowledge...

...and that's where this book comes in.

I don't think learning every single thing in this book would make you pass the NCLEX.

You'd need some way to improve your nursing judgments, critical thinking, and test strategy.

But you might need it for this reason:

Saunder's Comprehensive Review is a great start if you have a shaky foundation.

I also reviewed HESI Comprehensive and Kaplan's Content Guide...

...but neither of them just had the scope of information that Saunders presents.

I would recommend this book if any of the following apply to you:

  • Graduation Date: Graduated from nursing school more than 6 months ago.
  • School Location: Educated outside of the U.S.
  • School Quality: Graduated from a low-performing nursing school (NCLEX pass rate less than 85%)
  • Repeat Test Taker: If this is not your first NCLEX attempt.
  • Confidence Level: If you feel you haven't retained enough information from nursing school.

Saunders would also be a good resource to use as a reference instead of reading it cover to cover.

As you review the NCLEX test plan's task statements, just use Saunders to look up specific topics to learn about them.

Prioritization, Delegation, and Assignment (Best Q&A Review)

Question and Answer books like LaCharity's Prioritization are a great way to practice for the NCLEX.

But here's the problem...

...nobody knows what the actual NCLEX questions are. It's a trade secret kept very confidential by the NCSBN.

So here's the only thing you can do at this point:

Only study the best quality NCLEX-style questions.

I rated the NCLEX-style questions in these books by actually trying them.

I also measured 3 qualities that makes or breaks a Q&A Book:

  • Question Difficulty
  • Question Focus: Nursing Content, Nursing Judgment, or Both?
  • Cognitive Level based on Bloom's Taxonomy: Knowledge, Comprehension, or Application?

LaCharity's stood out for having the best balance between all of those things.

It's not the perfect book though, and here's why:

Its formatting is a bit annoying, the rationales are just enough to get by, and its introduction reads like dry bread.

It has some dud questions too:

I found 5 NCLEX questions that I would have thrown out altogether.

But the overall balance and quality of the NCLEX questions themselves?

That's where this book shines.

LaCharity's book is like that nursing professor that just isn't that friendly - but by god, she'll turn you into a good nurse.