How to Study for the NCLEX in 4 Weeks

  • 16 May, 2022

Every new nurse has a different timeline to work with: from graduation, to sitting for the NCLEX, to starting his or her first nursing job. If your timeline includes studying for the NCLEX in a short amount of time, keep reading for tips and suggestions to make it happen in just 4 weeks!

Is studying for the NCLEX and testing in just 4 weeks even possible? Yes! How do I know? I did it! In fact, I graduated April 15th, and my NCLEX test date was May 15th - 30 days, exactly. I'm excited to share the plan that helped me study and test in just 4 weeks, so you can decide if it will work for you too!

For some, it is important to test quickly and start working as a nurse shortly after graduating, but studying for the NCLEX (and passing!) in such a short period is a big undertaking. Therefore, the first part of this plan is to treat studying as your full-time job. If you only have 4 weeks to study, it's a good idea to schedule your study time similarly to a Monday through Friday, 9-5 work week. The more you can focus on studying for the NCLEX, the higher your chances of success. Don't forget to plan rest days! Studying 7 days a week is a sure path to burn out, so be sure to give yourself 1 or 2 days to rest and recharge every week.

How to Study for the NCLEX in 4 Weeks

Studying for the NCLEX in just 4 Weeks


As you progress through your 4-week study plan, it's important to pay attention to your resiliency. Spending hours studying every day can start to wear you out and even make you less efficient at learning and retention. For this reason, consider a taper-down study schedule. What does this mean? Check out the example below:

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat
Week 1 Rest 10 hours 10 hours 10 hours 10 hours 10 hours Rest
Week 2 Rest 8 hours 8 hours 8 hours 8 hours 8 hours Rest
Week 3 Rest 6 hours 6 hours 6 hours 6 hours 6 hours Rest
Week 4 Rest 5 hours 5 hours 5 hours 5 hours 5 hours Rest

The benefit of a taper-down study schedule is that as you progress through your study plan, you'll reward yourself for becoming more efficient and prevent burnout by studying for fewer hours each day. This method is uniquely beneficial for those studying for the NCLEX, since as you move through your study plan, you reduce the amount of time-intensive content study and increase time spent on practice questions (see more on this below); you should find that practice questions and remediation covers plenty of ground in less time, so a tapered schedule will serve you well.

Never underestimate the power of rest days! You may be surprised at how much stress, anxiety, and anticipation contribute to difficulty testing, especially for a pinnacle moment like a board exam. Sometimes maintaining a positive mental state, not the actual test, is the most challenging part of this process. Keeping your mental state healthy and positive will make a big difference to your overall experience and success. Plan not only for rest days each week, but also for study breaks. Instead of powering through 8 hours of studying at a time, give yourself 15-, 30-, and 60-minute breaks throughout the day. Set a timer on your phone to keep yourself accountable to your study schedule. When you take a break, instead of scrolling or TV-binging, choose an activity that's good for both your body and mind, like spending time outside!

Don't forget to consider your sleep hygiene. Studying for the NCLEX in only 4 weeks is mentally taxing; ensuring a full and restful night of sleep is the best interval you can have to recharge between study sessions.

Finally, make sure you take the day off before exam day. When you've finally reached your last couple days, don't trick yourself into thinking one more day of studying will make or break your test day. It's much better to walk into the testing center feeling relaxed and prepared for your exam than physically and mentally exhausted. Taking a day off before test day gives your mind and body the chance recharge, reset, and solidify all the learning you did! If you can, it's a good idea to spend this day doing a dress rehearsal-wake up at the same time you will on test day, eat a healthy breakfast, and drive to the testing center. Plan where you're going to park and walk to the entrance. After that, treat yourself to something fun, and relax for the rest of the day!


Once you've blocked out your weekly study time, the next step is to plan your study content. You'll be most efficient if you have a plan for what to study when you sit down each day. Some of the elements you should include in your study plan are

  • Content Review
  • Practice Questions & Remediation
  • Practice Tests & Remediation
  • Review of Problem Subjects

Start with a broad review in Week 1 to identify your content strengths and weaknesses. Move onto practice questions, and remember to remediate every question, even the ones you get right! Use an analysis of your practice questions to identify which NCLEX categories you need to practice the most, and focus your studying there. Finally, simulate test day at least once, or as often as weekly, with a full-length test. After sitting for a full test, you'll probably feel exhausted mentally. This is a great time to take a mental break and get your body moving. When you're ready, come back and plan to remediate the entire test, but remember, it's okay to take it in chunks!

If you deal with test anxiety, it can be a good idea to build up your test-taking skills. This can be done with many different methods, and maybe you already have a method that works best for you. If you're looking for ideas, I'll share two here. The first is to simulate a test environment many times in increasing degrees of time. For example, in Week 1, start with taking one 10-question test. Plan for about 2 minutes per question, so for a 10-question test set, a 20-minute timer. Increase the length of your test by 10-20 questions per day or at a pace you feel comfortable with (as long as it fits in your 4-week schedule!), and adjust your timer accordingly. The idea is that by the time you sit for the NCLEX, you've built up your endurance, so you'll feel prepared and be prepared even if you take every question!

The next method to deal with test anxiety is to simulate a test environment in increasing degrees of reality, where "reality" refers to the test environment we already know the NCLEX will be given in. In this method, you start your tests open-book & open-note. You might start with a stopwatch instead of a timer, and you can take your test in any environment. For example, let's say in Week 1, you're sitting for a practice test of 25 questions in a coffee shop. You'll turn on a stopwatch and take your test, referring to your notes or textbook as often as you want. At the end of your exam, check to see if you finished in 50 minutes or less and remediate your questions. When you're ready to advance, choose one way to make the test more life-like; maybe take the next test in a quiet environment instead of the coffee shop, set a timer instead of a stopwatch, or take away the textbook but leave your notes. Continue making your practice tests more and more like the NCLEX so that by Week 4, you should have worked up to at least one full test in full NCLEX environment-no notes, no distractions, no overtime.

The increasing degrees methods can also be combined! They can not only help with test anxiety but prevent mental fatigue as well. If one or both of these methods appeals to you, incorporate it into your study plan.

Do you study best alone or with a buddy? Do you prefer your home office or a coffee shop with background noise? Whatever your preferences, ask yourself these questions, and consider the best way to incorporate them into your studying, but the most important thing is to be intentional. If you plan to study and sit for the NCLEX in just 4 weeks, you should realize that every hour counts; now is not the time to let the current take you but to steer your own boat! Studying with a friend might benefit you in content review, but when it comes to practice tests, you want to rely on your own abilities. Studying at home may feel most comfortable, but if there are too many distractions from studying, you could be better off in a library; you know best, so trust yourself, and make the right decision for YOU!


To reiterate, studying for the NCLEX in 4 weeks is possible so long as you plan ahead and make the best choices for your unique situation. I hope these tips and tricks helped you! Here's a condensed version of the plan laid out above to help you on your journey to the NCLEX-good luck!!

  1. Treat studying like your full-time job.
  2. Make a Study Schedule.
    1. Consider a taper-down study schedule.
    2. Plan for daily study breaks in 15-, 30-, and 60-minute increments.
      1. Have a variety of rest activities that rest your mind and engage your body.
    3. Plan for weekly rest days.
    4. Sleep well.
    5. Plan to take the day off before your test.
    6. Plan a "dress rehearsal" the day before your test.
  3. Make a Study Plan.
    1. Before you start, have a plan for what you will study each week.
    2. Let your plan be dynamic and adaptive to the problem areas you identify as you move forward.
    3. Plan time to remediate every practice question, even those you answer correctly.
    4. Consider using one or both "increasing degrees" methods for practice tests.
      1. Increasing degrees of time: start with short practice tests and work your way up to full length tests, aiming for 2 minutes or less per question.
      2. Increasing degrees of reality: start with a loose and comfortable test environment, working towards a fully life-like NCLEX test environment for your full-length practice test.
  4. Throughout the entire process, be intentional about your goals, strengths, and weaknesses to make the perfect study plan that will work for you!
About the Author: Tyler Barmore

I graduated with my BSN in 2020 from MSU in Bozeman MT. In school I wanted to be a labor nurse, but after graduating found myself in a combined pediatric/PICU unit and fell in love with the pediatric population. In addition to patient care, rewarding aspects of my job include educating families and precepting new nurses and students. Outside of work you can find me enjoying the outdoors with friends, reading prose, and playing with my dog!

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