Is The NCLEX Hard? 9 Tips to Make Your Exam Easier

The answer is yes! The NCLEX exam is challenging because it tests the nurse's ability to think critically and make decisions in different healthcare scenarios.

Are you wondering, “Is the NCLEX hard?” Feeling a little anxious is natural if you’re preparing for this important exam. After all, the nclex is a significant hurdle in becoming a licensed nurse. But just how difficult is it? 

After taking and passing this exam, I’m about to share my experience to help you understand what to expect. Dive in right now!

Is The NCLEX Hard?

The answer is yes! The NCLEX exam is challenging because it tests the nurse’s ability to think critically and make decisions in different healthcare scenarios. The test also covers numerous materials during your student career. 

However, despite its difficulty, you can still pass the NCLEX. According to statistics from the NCSBN, 88.56% of first-time US-educated students passed the NCLEX-RN, and 86.67% of them passed the NCLEX-PN in 2023.

You can pass the NCLEX exam if you participate in good nursing programs, buy good prep courses, and create a good study plan.

After doing research, I’ve found several reasons why nurse students assume the NCLEX exam is challenging, but here are the primary elements that make it tricky:

The NCLEX Tests The Ability To Think Critically

One of the primary reasons why the NCLEX exam is so challenging is that it is not just a memory-based test. It is a test of critical thinking.

Unlike most exams you’ve typically taken where the most correct answer is clear, the NCLEX presents you with multiple correct answers, but your task is to pick the most correct one. 

For example, a question may ask what immediate intervention is needed for a patient with specific symptoms. All four options could technically be correct, but you must use your critical thinking skills to determine which action is the most urgent or appropriate. 

In this case, you must recall your nursing knowledge while knowing how to apply it in practical healthcare situations. 

It tests critical thinking
It tests critical thinking

The Exam Covers Numerous Materials

The breadth of material that the NCLEX covers is another factor contributing to its difficulty. The exam encompasses all the topics you’ve studied in nursing school, including the following major areas:

  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity 
  • Physiological Integrity
  • Safe and Effective Care Environment

These significant areas consist of various subcategories. For example, the Safe and Effective Care Environment includes Management of Care and Safety and Infection Control. 

You must know that the knowledge covered in your nursing school may build on itself. Thus, if you don’t understand a concept clearly and firmly, it may appear in the exam later and haunt you. 

The Pressure Often Gets To Students

The stress and anxiety surrounding the NCLEX exam make it more complex than it needs to be. Many nurse students get stressed by overthinking or second-guessing their knowledge and abilities.

These elements can lead to performance anxiety, which can negatively impact your ability to recall information and make decisions on the test. 

Students get stressed
Students get stressed

Why Do Some Nurses Fail NCLEX?

Many factors contribute to the NCLEX exam failure, but here are the common reasons that often stand out:

Reason 1: Lack Of Understanding Of The Exam Format And Content

Some nurses fail the NCLEX because they do not familiarize themselves with the exam format and content. The NCLEX is not just a test of knowledge; it also assesses a nurse’s critical thinking and decision-making skills. 

It uses a complex computer adaptive testing method, where the difficulty level of questions changes based on the test taker’s previous answers. You may struggle during the exam if you are unfamiliar with this format. 

As mentioned above, this exam covers various topics requiring in-depth knowledge and understanding. If you fail to grasp the breadth and depth of the content, you may find the exam challenging and fail. 

Reason 2: Anxiety

The pressure to pass the exam can lead to heightened anxiety and stress levels. This state can impair some nursing students’ ability to think, concentrate, and recall information during the exam. 

Reason 3: Study Too Late

Preparing for the NCLEX is not something you can accomplish overnight. It requires months of diligent study and thorough preparation. 

Candidates who start studying late may find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of content to cover and the little time available. This results in inadequate preparation and, ultimately, failure. 

What To Do If You Fail The NCLEX Exam?

Reasons for NCLEX failure
Reasons for NCLEX failure

Can You Pass NCLEX With All Easy Questions?

It’s possible to pass the NCLEX with all the easy questions. The exam uses Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT), which adapts to the student’s ability level. 

If you answer the questions correctly, the system will continue to give you a slightly more challenging question. The next question will be more straightforward if you provide an incorrect answer. 

However, it’s about more than just the difficulty of the questions. The NCLEX also considers the consistency of your answers. The test ends once the computer determines your ability lies above or below the passing standard. 

So, even if you get easy questions, if you answer them consistently correctly, it’s possible to pass the exam. 

How To Overcome NCLEX Difficulty?

If you find the NCLEX challenging, here are strategies to overcome the difficulties and help you ensure your success:

Manage Test Anxieties

As shared above, anxiety can hinder your performance significantly. So you must find effective ways to manage this stress. Consider mindfulness techniques, deep breathing exercises, or yoga.

Make A Plan

Having a solid study plan can make a huge difference. Start by identifying your weak areas and dedicate more time to them. Break your study sessions into manageable chunks rather than marathon sessions. Stick to your plan. 

Find A Partner

Studying with a partner can make the process less daunting. They can provide a different perspective, help you understand complex topics, and give moral support. 

Find Additional Resources

Don’t limit yourself to just one resource. There are numerous study materials available, both online and offline. Online forums, NCLEX prep apps, and extra textbooks can provide a broader range of questions and explanations. 


As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Regularly taking practice tests can help familiarize yourself with the exam format and time limit. It also enables you to identify areas you need to focus on. 

Avoid Focusing On Clinical Experiences

While clinical experiences are crucial, they can sometimes confuse you on the test. NCLEX tests the knowledge in the textbook rather than your personal experience. So, focus on what you’ve learned in your books. 

Never Second-Guess Yourself

Trust your abilities and the knowledge you’ve gained through your rigorous study. More often than not, your first answer is the correct one. 

Plan For Test Day

Have everything prepared for the test day. Know the way to your testing center, have a good night’s sleep, and eat a balanced breakfast. Ensure you have all the necessary documents ready. 

Stay Positive

Maintaining a positive mindset is as important as the knowledge you’ve acquired. Believe in your ability to pass the exam. 

 Strategies to overcome NCLEX difficulties
 Strategies to overcome NCLEX difficulties

Final Thoughts

Is the NCLEX hard? Yes! The exam tests the nurse students’ ability to think critically rather than recall the learned knowledge. It also covers a broad range of content during your student career. Besides, test anxiety makes the NCLEX seem more challenging. 

However, you can pass the exam successfully with proper strategies and good preparation. If you need a detailed study plan, comment below, and I will share it with you in the next post!