5 Best NCLEX Test Prep Books (2020)
The NCLX (National Council Licensure Examination) RN exam is an essential step for those pursuing nursing and medical careers. The test aims to assess your skill and knowledge, and it covers a wide range of topics. As is the case with many other standardized tests, though, your strategies and understanding of the exam itself are just as critical for performing to the best of your ability.
When preparing to take your NCLEX exam, having a guidebook can provide helpful information to review topics, plan strategies, and practice the type of questions you’ll likely need to answer. However, there are many NCLEX test prep books out there, which can make finding a suitable pick difficult.
Rather than leaving you to determine the best NCLEX test prep book options on your own, we’ve brought together the best of the best into one comprehensive guide. We cover each of the pros and cons, so you can pick one that fits your unique study needs. With that said, let’s begin!
The Best Books to Prepare for the NCLEX Exam
Table of Contents
- NCLEX Prep Book Reviews
NCLEX Prep Book Reviews
1. Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination
A thorough and well-organized prep book that provides extensive knowledge in both print and online formats.
Number of pages: 1152
Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination is undoubtedly a contender for its name. This volume has a substantial amount of information packed inside, and that’s only the start of what you can access. In addition to the book, Saunders provides a multitude of online resources, extending into practice questions.
All questions have detailed explanations on why the right answers are right and wrong answers are wrong. This information is incredibly helpful in learning more about the material, as you can understand the reasoning behind it rather than just facts. The book itself presents all of its material in an intuitive order that helps with comprehension. The layout of graphs and other images is easy to follow, helping to enhance the content.
For all that this prep guide does well, the questions and their answers are on the same page, limiting their effectiveness in assessing your knowledge. As the online materials don’t have this issue, it balances out, but it’s still a flaw in the structure.
- Provides both online and offline material, including answer information
- Use graphs, tables, and images well to enhance the content
- The order of subjects in the book is intuitive to follow
- Answers and questions are on the same page
2. HESI Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination
A well-structured guide for efficiently reviewing core concepts and understanding the reasons behind question answers.
Number of pages: 352
While having a plethora of available information can ensure you know all the topics that can show up on the NCLEX-RN exam, it can also feel overwhelming to study. HESI’s prep book strikes an excellent balance on this front, providing easily accessible summaries and more in-depth explanations to help you review your knowledge.
The green summary boxes boil the major testing areas down to their essential points. You can review these quickly, and if you need more information, you can read the more in-depth sections to help. HESI has made a well-structured book that guides you through the topics, and the consistent structure means that you know what to expect. All the included practice questions have thorough explanations as well.
While 700 practice questions may seem like a lot, having more would help this book be an even greater resource than it already is.
- Book has a consistent structure and flow that makes transitioning between topics easy
- Green summary boxes give core points to know
- Contains straightforward rationale of question answers
- Could use more practice questions
3. Lippincott Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN
A guidebook with a vast array of practice questions to familiarize yourself with the structure of the exam, all in one book.
Number of pages: 1152
Lippincott has another reliable guide that has both an extensive array of questions and content reviews to help prep you for your exam. They’ve created a well-organized structure that makes it simple to find the areas you need and effectively review content. There’s also an accompanying set of online resources that can give you more to study.
Aside from the content review, this test prep guide’s strongest selling point is in its vast collection of practice questions. There are over six-thousand, which gives you close to six practice tests inside. As you work your way through these questions, you can use the included grid to track your scoring progress, giving you a better idea of how to continue studying.
That said, the included answer rationales aren’t as detailed as some other guides. If you can’t learn what makes a response right or wrong in more detail, it’ll be harder to understand how to not make the same mistake in the future.
- Has an extensive collection of practice questions, including alternative types
- Give you a grid to help track your progress
- The careful organization helps guide you through sections
- Answer explanations are too bare-bones
4. Illustrated Study Guide for the NCLEX-RN
An illustrated prep guide most suitable for visual learners with excellent supplementary content online.
Number of pages: 704
Not everyone learns their best by reading through chunks of text, and the Illustrated Study Guide for the NCLEX-RN understands that. As the name suggests, this prep guide emphasizes presenting information in a visual format, which can be exceptionally useful for people with this learning type. You’ll find charts, images, and mnemonics that make learning and absorbing information easier.
Publisher Mosby has done well with keeping the information in this book up to date, which is relevant to the current version of the exam. Purchasing this book also gives you an access code to the available online resources, further adding to the multimedia draw of this book. You can use this resource to learn more concepts, try practice questions, and read their detailed rationales.
While the visual aspect of this prep guide does enhance its capability, it does heavily summarize the included information as a result. You’ll need to use an additional NCLEX test prep book to learn about concepts in more detail.
- Presents information in a format best for visual learners
- Includes access to online material and practice questions
- The latest edition is up to date with crucial exam concepts
- Can’t serve as your only test prep book
5. KAPLAN NCLEX Prep Plus (Twenty-Fourth Edition)
A core guide to provide you with essential strategies and a quicker review of the major sections of the NCLEX with practical questions.
Publisher: Kaplan Publishing
Number of pages: 540
One of the reasons that the NCLEX is a tricky exam is because you’ll be answering questions in a different way than you may think about them during nursing school. Because of that, understanding how the exam works can be a core aspect of performing well. KAPLAN’s guide gives some of the best information on how to strategize while taking the exam.
Aside from those strategies, you’ll also find several sections covering the major topics covered on the NCLEX—and KAPLAN has made sure to match their chapters to the official NCSBN lists. All the explanations inside are easy to follow, letting you more effectively understand concepts. The included practice questions are accurate to the level of difficulty you’ll receive on the NCLEX itself.
While the strategies included in this volume are helpful, they do end up stealing a lot of the show. If you want a more in-depth explanation of topics, you’ll want to invest in a different guide.
- Provides strong testing strategy suggestions
- Explanations are simple to follow
- Practice questions are accurate to NCLEX quality
- Heavy focus on test strategy means less detailed subject information
What Should I Look for in an NCLEX-RN Prep Book?
With so many books out there, you’ll need a comprehensive criterion if you want to find the best fit for your learning style and situation. Here are some of the aspects that we emphasized whenever determining our choices for the best NCLEX exam prep books:
Date of Publication
The medical field is one where new information cycles in—and keeping up with these changes is essential. When it comes to the NCLEX, you want to ensure that the prep book you’ve chosen to study is up to date with the test information. Even if you don’t get the most recent editions, your study guide should have at least a publication date after the most recent exam update.
The NCLEX has a vast pool of questions that can show up, so you want to stay familiar with as many of them as possible. As such, having a prep book with many questions, whether it’s in the book itself or online, is something you want.
Learning that you’ve gotten a question wrong can only do so much to help you improve in the future. As such, you should be able to use your prep book to check your answers and learn the rationale behind them. The more detailed explanations, the better.
Strategies and Test Structure
Standardized exams of any kind can be challenging even for learned test-takers, and the NCLEX is no exception. Because of this, it’s also nice for your guide to include strategy suggestions and the facts you need to learn. Prep books should also help you understand the structure of the exam as well, so there are no surprises come test time.
For some, a physical prep book is all they’ll need to feel comfortable studying. For others, having additional options is much better. Many exam prep books also give you access to their online resources, which helps study on the go. You may even be able to purchase your chosen prep guide as an eBook for extra convenience.
Should I Purchase More Than One Exam Prep Guide?
This decision is ultimately a personal one to make depending on your budget, learning preferences, and studying timeframe. After all, there’s no sense in purchasing multiple books if you can’t read through them all before your test date. Even so, there are some situations where it can be helpful to have various guides.
For example, you may want an additional book to cover the weaknesses that another has. You may even have a greater interest in having more printed practice questions or access to supplemental materials. It can also be helpful to purchase specific guides focusing on your weak points to cover your bases.
Is It Worth Buying an NCLEX Prep Guide?
The short answer to this question is that it is worth buying a quality NCLEX prep guide.
Only purchasing any available exam guidebook won’t help you if it’s in poor quality. If you know you study well with reading through handbooks and self-administered practice questions, then having a prep guide to review can be a critical part of getting you ready for your NCLEX test.
That said, if you know reading isn’t your best learning type, you may want to look into other multimedia options, such as online resources. Of course, using practice questions is an effective way to familiarize yourself with the content of the exam, so a prep book can serve you well.
While there are plenty of quality contenders out there, Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination gets our vote for the best NCLEX prep guide currently available.
Between the thorough explanations, reliable organization, strong use of visual aids, and its accompanying online material, you’ll have no shortage of resources to prepare for exam day. If you have to pick only one book, this the prep guide we recommend.