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Detailed Review and Analysis of Kaplan NCLEX-RN Prep Plus 2018

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Why It's the Best Overall NCLEX Book

Book: Kaplan NCLEX-RN Prep Plus 2018

Author: Kaplan Nursing

ISBN: 9781506233307

Pub. Date: February 6, 2018

Kaplan's Prep Plus was my surprise top pick as the best overall NCLEX book for these reasons:

Pro: It's the only book to actually follow the NCLEX Detailed Test Plan released by the NCSBN.

Pro: It's so easy to read.

Pro: No other book covers NCLEX strategy, test-taking skills, and nursing judgment so well.

Pro: The practice questions are very well rounded and have the best rationales I've seen.

It does have drawbacks:

Con: It doesn't cover every detail of each related content area, which is how it's commonly misunderstood. Kaplan opts to guide your study, rather than give you all the details of everything you need to know.

Con: While the practice questions are excellent, there are less of them than other books.

Con: The online area is a bit disappointing.

Verdict: I would recommend Kaplan NCLEX-RN Prep Plus 2018 for EVERYONE studying for the NCLEX. If for some reason, you HAD to pick only one NCLEX book and take the exam, I'd choose this one.

BUT...depending on your situation, you might need additional help. It won't make up for a low-quality nursing school background or a bad foundation of basic nursing knowledge.

Extra practice questions from another book may be a good idea too.

I definitely think you should also buy some more NCLEX books together with this one, if you're in these situations:

  • 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.
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NCLEX Introduction, Study and Strategy

The one thing I first noticed, of course, is the introduction. Like every other book, there is a basic introduction about the NCLEX.

But unlike every other book, the introduction goes deeper. Over 100 pages deeper:

The authors of the book really try to get you to understand just how and why the NCLEX is different from what you're used to doing in nursing school.

Right from the beginning, they are trying to show you how you need to think differently to "get" the NCLEX.

Kaplan "shows" you how the NCLEX works rather than just "telling":

Unlike other books that are organized by body system or population type (like nursing school - boo!)...

...this book is organized by the integrated topics that the NCSBN recognizes (like the NCLEX - yay!).

Take a look at the NCSBN's description of Health Promotion and Maintenence, then look at Kaplan's mirroring table of contents below.

They're the same!

This is a pretty big deal because believe it or not, out of all the books I've reviewed, Kaplan's is the only one that does this.

Now, let's look at how Kaplan NCLEX Prep Plus covers test and NCLEX strategy:

After the table of contents, comes a full 100 pages of NCLEX strategies, with lots of examples in the form of practice questions (I actually didn't include these when I counted the total number of NCLEX questions).

They review examples of questions from...

  • ...each of the 8 NCLEX subcategories.
  • ...each step of the nursing process.
  • ...each of the cognitive levels (including the lower ones to demonstrate what is NOT a proper NCLEX question)
  • ...and examples of each type of alternate format test question

They then review some general testing strategies:

  • rewording the question,
  • eliminating incorrect answer choices,
  • not predicting answers,
  • recognizing expected outcomes (which fixes a common misunderstanding that nursing school causes),
  • and the all-important technique of obtaining clues from the answer choices.

After all that, NOW in Chapter 3, the "actual" NCLEX-RN Exam Strategies begin! I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but Chapter 3 begins on page 57 and ends on page 104.

They talk about strategies for all kinds of specific types of questions:

  • real world vs NCLEX nursing,
  • patient vs equipment questions,
  • lab value questions,
  • med administration (not calculation!) questions,
  • notifying the physician questions,
  • priority questions (using Maslow, Nursing Process, and Safety as the three principles for answering those)
  • management of care questions,
  • patient positioning questions,
  • and therapeutic communication questions.

That is a lot of coverage for some of the trickiest types of questions on the NCLEX, and I can definitely say it's much more coverage than any other book does on the topics.

Here's the icing on the cake about this section:

It's presented in such a clear, easy to process way that it's a breeze to read.

I felt like Kaplan NCLEX Prep Plus's formatting made all of it just enter my brain, make sense, and stay there - and I'm sure you'd want that too!

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Nursing Content Coverage

So I've described about one fifth of the book so far.

The bulk of the book is now dedicated to reviewing something else.

This is something most nursing students don't even know to look for:

Each of the 83 related content areas on the NCSBN's Detailed Test Plan.

Yes, 83.

Remember this picture of the Health Promotion and Maintenence Subcategory? Each of these 9 areas is a related content area.

The NCSBN identifies 83 of them in total, and they're all covered by Kaplan.

Here's where Kaplan possibly falls a bit short:

Most related content areas are covered really well, but some just aren't.

You see, the NCSBN further breaks down those 83 related content areas into 523 task statements.

Each task statement is a specific task that a nurse should be able to do.

Guess what? Each question on the NCLEX is about one of these task statements.

Therefore, knowing the task statements = preparing for almost any NCLEX question!

Here's a visual way to look at it, with screenshots from the NCSBN's Detailed Test Plan.

8 Subcategories break down into 83 Related Content Areas, breaking into 523 Task Statements.

You can learn more about how to use task statements to your advantage here.

So, back to Kaplan.

Looking again at Health Promotion and Maintenence, Kaplan covers the "Aging Process" pretty briefly...

...despite all the task statements that the NCSBN outlines for that related content area:

But to their credit, Kaplan does tell you what you need to learn:

As you review for the NCLEX-RN exam, make sure you understand the special needs of each of these age groups so that you can provide the necesary care and education required."

This is how this book was designed - they're not trying to get into the nitty-gritty details. But they're telling you what direction to go.

This is also why the book is so misunderstood (at least a little bit). I feel like it doesn't have the ratings it deserves on Amazon, for this reason.

Despite that, Kaplan RN Prep Plus remains my top choice for you:

Through its coverage of the related content areas, it's the only book that can help you with the exact things the NCLEX wants you to know.

This is why I recommend this book as a guide for your study, rather than as a cover-to-cover "pass-the-NCLEX-Free" tool.

Used properly, you can prepare for the NCLEX in a way that no other book I've reviewed can provide.

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Quality of the NCLEX Practice Questions

NCLEX Question Difficulty

Difficulty of NCLEX Questions: (Higher % = Higher Difficulty)
Percent I got Wrong 34%

When I sampled 50 questions from this book, I got 34% of them wrong, and the rest correct.

This is smack dab in the middle of the pack in terms of difficulty compared to the other books I reviewed. We're good here!

NCLEX Question Focus

NCLEX Question Focus:
Nursing Content 32%
Nursing Judgment 32%
Both 36%
Question Focus Rating

Kaplan RN Prep Plus had a healthy combination of NCLEX questions focused on nursing content, nursing judgment, and most importantly, questions focused on both.

To be specific, it had 32% content questions, 32% judgment questions, and 36% questions that required both to get the answer.

Key Takeaway: Only two other books that I sampled had a better balance of focus, but not much better.

As a reminder, my definition of each focus area 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!

NCLEX Question Cognitive Level

Cognitive Level of NCLEX Questions:
Bad Questions 0%
Knowledge 2%
Comprehension 2%
Application or Above 96%
Cognitive Level Rating

I found zero bad questions and a whopping 96% of the questions were application level or above!

Key Takeaway: Kaplan was the clear winner amongst the books in this area.

Rationales

Here is one more area where this book just absolutely shines.

A picture will speak a thousand words:

But here's my two cents anyways :)

This rationale is so awesome because:

  • It first walks you through the reworded question AND strategy you need for this question.
  • THEN gives you the knowledge involved to get the answer right.
  • ALSO gives you rationales for each incorrect answer choice and why it's wrong.

Trust me - compare it to some sparse rationales (like LaCharity's book) and this really feels like someone cares.

Online Materials

Unfortunately, the online materials is one area where Kaplan NCLEX-RN Plus falls short.

They give you a timed 180-question test with rationales at the end and a basic analysis.

After you finish, they provide a "retake" test.

Here's the thing:

It's the exact same questions in the exact same order.

So I'm not really impressed with the value that retake test is providing here.

Not only that, but here's what I found when I analyzed the practice questions:

They were extraordinarily easy! I only got 20% of them wrong. The focus and cognitive level weren't as good as the book either

And lastly:

The final section of online material has about 70 minutes worth of video.

These videos aren't bad, but they pretty much go over the material that's presented in the first 100 pages of the book.

Overall, the online area is just underwhelming.

Specifications and Analysis Overview

Overall, Kaplan is a must-have for all students, though with one caveat:

It's not better than every other book in every aspect.

I'd say Saunders has a lot more content, and LaCharity's book has the highest quality NCLEX questions.

But if for some reason you could only choose ONE book and take the NCLEX, I would pick Kaplan NCLEX Prep Plus.

Here's why:

  • It will teach you the strategies you need in great detail.
  • It will walk you through each of the 83 related content areas on the NCLEX, and tell you what to study in detail.
  • Finally, it will test your application of critical thinking with high quality questions and very helpful rationales.

I hope this review helped!

Kaplan's NCLEX-RN Prep Plus 2018
Verdict: Best Overall
Kevin's Overall Rating (4.5)
Thickness
Number of Pages 507 pages
Number of NCLEX Questions Included...
...in Book 485
...Online 180
Difficulty of NCLEX Questions: (Higher % = Higher Difficulty)
Percent I got Wrong 34%
NCLEX Question Focus:
Nursing Content 32%
Nursing Judgment 32%
Both 36%
Question Focus Rating
Cognitive Level of NCLEX Questions:
Bad Questions 0%
Knowledge 2%
Comprehension 2%
Application or Above 96%
Cognitive Level Rating
NCLEX Content Coverage
Follows NCLEX-RN Detailed Test Plan, Educator's Version Yes
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