NCLEX Study Schedule: 1 & 3-Month Samples

January 29, 2024
6 min read


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 10/23/23

Interested in learning how to create an NCLEX study plan? Whether you have three weeks or three months left to study, we’ll provide you with several NCLEX study schedules to help you kickstart your prep.

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The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a pivotal step in your journey toward becoming a licensed nurse. Proper preparation is the key to passing this challenging exam, and a well-structured study schedule is your roadmap to success.

This article will provide two distinct study schedules: a one-month intensive plan for those with limited time and a three-month comprehensive plan for a more balanced approach. 

These schedules serve as your customized path to NCLEX success, providing clear, step-by-step guidance. They'll help you efficiently manage your time, cover crucial content, and practice with NCLEX-style questions.

Are you ready to ace the NCLEX? Read on to find the plan that’s right for you.

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How to Create an NCLEX Study Schedule

Here are the steps you need to follow when you start studying for the NCLEX:

  1. Evaluate Your Current Knowledge: Start by taking a practice NCLEX exam or a diagnostic test to gauge your baseline knowledge. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Set a Realistic Exam Date: Determine your target exam date, whether one or three months away. Be realistic about the time you can dedicate to studying each day.
  3. Break It Down: Divide your study period into blocks of study time. Aim for at least four to six hours of study per day for a one-month schedule, and for a three-month plan, aim for two to three hours per day.
  4. Prioritize Content Areas: Review the NCLEX test plan to understand the content areas and their weight on the exam. Allocate more time to areas where you need improvement.
  5. Create a Weekly Study Calendar: Plan your study sessions for each week. Include specific topics or content areas to cover in each session.
  6. Use Quality Study Resources: Gather reputable study materials such as review books, online courses, and practice questions. Ensure your resources align with the NCLEX test plan.
  7. Active Learning: Engage actively with the material. Take notes, create flashcards, and teach the content to someone else. Active learning enhances comprehension and retention.
  8. Practice Questions: Incorporate practice questions daily. These simulate the exam environment and help you apply your knowledge. Aim to complete hundreds or even thousands of practice questions.
  9. Assess Progress: Regularly assess your progress by taking practice quizzes and exams. Identify areas where you still struggle and revisit those topics.
  10. Simulate Test Conditions: Closer to your exam date, take full-length practice exams under timed conditions. This will help you adapt to the test's format and build endurance.
  11. Adapt and Adjust: Be flexible with your schedule. If you're consistently struggling with certain topics, allocate more time to them. Likewise, if you've mastered a section, adjust your schedule to focus on weaker areas.
  12. Self-Care: Don't neglect self-care. Ensure you get enough rest, eat well, and stay hydrated. A healthy body and mind are essential for optimal study performance.
  13. Review and Final Preparation: In the last week or two before the exam, focus on reviewing key concepts, strategies, and relaxation techniques. Avoid cramming the night before the exam.
  14. Stay Positive: Maintain a positive mindset. Anxiety can hinder your performance, so practice relaxation techniques and positive affirmations.
  15. Exam Day Plan: Plan your exam day well in advance. Know the location, required identification, and the rules of the testing center.
  16. Trust Your Preparation: On exam day, trust in your preparation. Stay calm, manage your time wisely, and approach each question methodically.

Remember that everyone's study needs and capacities are different, so adjust your schedule accordingly. The key is consistency and dedication to your study plan. With these steps and commitment to your schedule, you'll be well-prepared to tackle the NCLEX and take a significant step in your nursing career. 

Below are plans for one-month and three-month study schedules.

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1-Month NCLEX Study Plan

A one-month NCLEX study schedule is an intensive, focused approach to preparing for the exam. While this timeline may seem tight, it can be highly effective if you're disciplined and have a solid foundation of nursing knowledge. Here's a comprehensive one-month NCLEX study plan:

Week 1

During the first week of your study plan, focus on diagnostic assessment and content review. The first three days involve taking a diagnostic NCLEX test or practice exam to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

After analyzing the results, the subsequent days from four to seven should be dedicated to content review, particularly focusing on areas identified as weaknesses in the diagnostic test. Using reliable NCLEX review resources such as books, online materials, or courses is essential during this phase.

Week 2

Moving on to week two, the emphasis shifts to comprehensive review and question practice. Devote most of your study hours to more content review encompassing crucial nursing topics.

These topics include pharmacology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, maternity nursing, and psychiatric nursing. Reinforce your understanding through review books, video lectures, and supplementary resources.

During the last seven days of this week, start daily practice question sessions, aiming to complete a substantial number each day. Focus on various question formats, including multiple-choice, select all that apply (SATA), and prioritization. Thoroughly review both correct and incorrect answers to grasp the underlying rationale.

Week 3

Week three should be dedicated to simulated exams and a review of weak areas. On days 29 and 30, simulate the actual NCLEX test environment by taking two full-length practice exams under timed conditions. This helps acclimate you to the test-taking atmosphere and allows for performance analysis, highlighting any lingering weak points.

Week 4

Finally, during Week four, engage in a final review and prepare for test day. Review challenging topics or areas of weakness identified in your study period. Utilize your study notes, flashcards, and previously practiced questions. Focus on maintaining a calm and positive mindset while managing stress with relaxation techniques.

The final two days before your test should involve last-minute preparations, such as confirming your exam details and ensuring you get a good night's sleep. On exam day, trust your practice, approach questions methodically, and manage your time effectively. After completing the exam, avoid discussing specific questions with others to maintain the integrity of the test.

Remember that this one-month study plan is demanding and requires dedicated effort. It's most suitable for individuals who have already completed nursing school coursework and have a strong foundation in nursing knowledge. 

Regularly assess your progress, adjust your study plan as needed, and maintain a positive attitude throughout your preparation.

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3-Month NCLEX Study Plan

A three-month NCLEX study schedule provides ample time for comprehensive review and extensive practice. This timeline is particularly suitable for nursing graduates who prefer a structured and less intensive study schedule. Here's a detailed three-month NCLEX study plan:

Month 1: Building a Strong Foundation

Below is a detailed schedule for the first month:

Week 1-2: Diagnostic Assessment and Content Review

  • Begin with a diagnostic NCLEX test or practice exam. Assess your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Focus on content review based on your diagnostic test results.
  • Study core nursing topics, including pharmacology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, maternity nursing, and psychiatric nursing.
  • Use reputable NCLEX review books, online resources, or review courses to reinforce your understanding.
  • Create concise study notes and flashcards for quick reference.

Month 2: In-Depth Review and Question Practice

Here’s a study schedule you can follow during the second month:

Week 3-6: Comprehensive Content Review

  • Dedicate most of your study time to comprehensive content review.
  • Deepen your knowledge of nursing subjects, including anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, and nursing procedures.
  • To enhance your understanding, utilize multiple study resources, including textbooks and online materials.
  • Regularly review your study notes and flashcards.

Week 7-10: Practice Questions and Simulated Exams

  • Begin daily practice question sessions. Aim to complete 50-100 questions per day.
  • Cover a wide range of question formats, including multiple-choice, select all that apply (SATA), and prioritization.
  • Focus on understanding the rationale behind correct and incorrect answers.
  • In the final weeks, incorporate full-length simulated NCLEX exams to build stamina and assess your readiness.

Month 3: Refinement and Test-Day Preparation

Below is a detailed schedule for the final month:

Week 11-12: Final Review and Simulated Exams

  • Concentrate on a final review of challenging topics or areas of weakness.
  • Utilize your study notes and flashcards for quick revisions.
  • Continue to practice with timed, full-length NCLEX practice exams.
  • Analyze your performance and pinpoint areas needing improvement.

Week 13: Test-Day Preparation

  • Confirm your exam appointment details, location, and identification requirements.
  • Focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle with adequate sleep, nutrition, and stress management.
  • On the day before the exam, refrain from intensive study and relax to ease anxiety.

Exam Day

  • Trust your preparation and approach each question methodically.
  • Manage your time wisely during the exam.
  • After completing the NCLEX, avoid discussing specific questions with others.

This three-month NCLEX study plan offers a balanced approach to exam preparation. It allows you to review content thoroughly, practice extensively, and build confidence gradually. 

Regularly assess your progress, make adjustments as necessary, and maintain a positive attitude throughout your NCLEX journey. With diligent preparation, you'll be well-prepared to succeed on test day.

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Think you're ready for the NCLEX? Take our free NCLEX Pop Quiz to put your knowledge to the test!

FAQs: NCLEX Study Schedule

Here are our answers to a few frequently asked questions about creating a NCLEX study schedule.

1. How Long Should You Study for the NCLEX?

A recommended study period is one to three months. This timeframe allows for comprehensive review and practice, increasing your chances of success. However, the recommended duration varies based on factors such as prior nursing knowledge, study habits, and familiarity with the exam format.

2. How Do I Come Up With an NCLEX Study Plan?

To create an effective NCLEX study plan, start by gaining a solid grasp of the exam format and your desired score. Create a structured study schedule, divvying up your time among various content areas and emphasizing the weaker subjects. Regularly engage with NCLEX-style questions, review your progress, and conduct timed practice exams. 

3. Can I Study for NCLEX in Two Weeks?

Yes, you can study for two weeks. However, this timeframe is exceptionally condensed and may not provide adequate preparation for most candidates. Given the exam's complexity, choosing a longer study period of at least one to three months is advisable for a more comprehensive review.

4. Is Three Weeks Enough to Study for Nclex?

A three-week study period may be enough if you have a strong nursing foundation, efficient study habits, and excellent time management. However, it might not provide ample preparation for everyone.

5. Is It Necessary to Follow a Structured NCLEX Study Plan, or Can I Create My Own Schedule?

No, it is not necessary to follow a structured NCLEX study plan. While structured study plans provide a framework, creating a personalized schedule is acceptable and often more effective.

6. Can I Study for the NCLEX Using Only Online Resources, or Should I Incorporate Textbooks?

Yes, you can study with only online resources. While online resources are valuable for NCLEX preparation, incorporating textbooks can enhance your understanding. Textbooks provide in-depth explanations, diagrams, and references that online materials may lack. To strike a balance, consider using a mix of both.

Final Thoughts

Your NCLEX study schedule should be personalized to your strengths and weaknesses, incorporating a mix of study materials and resources. Whether you opt for a one-month or three-month plan, consistency and discipline are key. 

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach, so adapt your schedule to your learning style and pace. Regular self-assessment and practice tests will pinpoint areas needing improvement. With dedication and a strategic study plan, you can confidently approach the NCLEX and take the first step towards a fulfilling nursing career.

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