5 Best NCLEX Review Books for 2021

Does the thought of the NCLEX make you break into a cold sweat? You’re not alone — every nursing student has heard the stories about the exam’s infamous curve balls and intentionally confusing answers. Don’t panic; when you study with the best NCLEX review books, you can crush it on test day. (And get the good PVT popup!)

Which NCLEX Review Book Is the Best?

When you start studying, the first thing you’ll realize is that not all NCLEX books are created equal. Some of them are a total waste of time! 

To help you study, we’ve collected the top-rated NCLEX review books. They come highly recommended by nurses who have passed the test on the first try. When you’re shopping, remember that most nursing students end up with a few different study guides for the NCLEX. Just pick one to start; after that, you can move on to another comprehensive NCLEX review if you need more preparation.

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1. Best NCLEX RN Study Guide: Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination (8th Edition)

The Saunders NCLEX RN 8th edition is one of the best nursing study guides you can buy; your nursing school professors may even require it for class. This review comes with access to more than 5,000 nursing questions — all you need to do is log into the Evolve website and pick the type of practice test you want to take. 

If you’ve been preparing for the NCLEX for a while, you know that rationale is a big part of the test. That’s why we love the Saunders review book — for every question, it includes a rationale and a test-taking strategy. This alone makes it the best NCLEX study guide on Amazon or anywhere else. Want to find out what the NCLEX experience feels like? The Saunders book comes with a 75-question comprehensive exam. The question types are distributed in the same percentages as the actual test, so you can get a feel for the process.

Need more help? Check out the Saunders NCLEX RN flashcards and the Saunders Q & A Review. If you need the best LPN NCLEX review book, check out the Saunders NCLEX-PN guide.

Benefits of the Saunders NCLEX Review Book

  • Access to 5,000+ practice questions
  • Rationale included for every question
  • Includes access to online audio summaries for nursing topics
  • Covers all NCLEX question types

2. Best Affordable NCLEX Study Guide: Lippincott Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN

When you’re on a nursing-student budget, every penny counts. The Lippincott NCLEX review book is one of the best — and cheapest — nursing Q&A books on the market. In fact, it comes with more than 6,000 questions. You can log into PassPoint to access the questions, which is a good way to prepare for the computer-based style of the real NCLEX.

We like the Lippincott NCLEX comprehensive review because it’s super-organized. You can pick one of the key pre-licensure topic areas, such as pediatrics or med-surg, to make studying more efficient. If you’re nearing the end of nursing school, this makes it easier to review some of the topics you haven’t seen in a few semesters!

If you want a challenge, check out the Lippincott NCLEX-RN Alternate-Format Questions. Do you need to brush up on your pharmacology? Try the Lippincott NCLEX-RN Pharmacology Review.

Why is Lippincott one of the best nursing study guides?

  • Tons of NCLEX review questions
  • Organized for easy studying
  • Includes access to PassPoint

3. Best Comprehensive NCLEX Study Guide System: Kaplan NCLEX-RN Prep Plus

The Kaplan NCLEX review book is notorious among nursing students for its challenging question bank. This book is a great choice if you want to push yourself and arrive at the exam feeling confident and seriously prepared. Every page gets right to the point, so you don’t waste any time. When you’re juggling studying with nursing classes, that efficiency is a big benefit.

There’s a reason Kaplan gets some of the best NCLEX review books ratings — it helps you figure out how to approach each question. For students who tend to panic during tests, these critical-thinking strategies can be a lifesaver. Like the other nursing study guides, this one comes with paper and online practice tests to help you monitor your progress.

Why We Like the Kaplan NCLEX Review

  • Includes 10 critical-thinking strategies
  • Lays out rationale in detail
  • Straightforward 
  • Money-back guarantee if you don’t pass the NCLEX

4. Best NCLEX Prep Book if You Want a Challenge: Mosby’s Comprehensive Review of Nursing for the NCLEX-RN Examination

The Mosby NCLEX review is one of the most polarizing options for nursing students. Most people either love it or hate it. There’s no question — this is one of the hardest study guides to get through. If you can manage it, however, you’ll arrive feeling more confident and prepared on test day.

Mosby’s review program comes with more than 4,000 questions, including hundreds in alternate formats. You’ll also get the NCLEX review CD, which is useful if you have a desktop computer but not particularly helpful if you prefer to use a tablet for nursing school or a lightweight laptop. That’s okay, though; the review questions are hard, and the included practice exams go a long way toward getting you ready for the licensure exam.

Pros of Mosby’s NCLEX Review Book

  • Challenging questions
  • Thousands of standard and alternate-format options
  • Includes NCLEX review CD
  • Organized by topic: med-surg, maternity/women’s health, mental health, pediatric

5. Best Backup NCLEX Review Book: HESI Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination 6th Edition

Do you have one or two NCLEX books? The HESI NCLEX-RN examination book makes a great supplemental study guide. As you go through the book, make sure to pay attention to all of the “HESI Hints” — they contain so much great information! It’s also a good idea to take note of the study questions at the end of each section to use for a quick review later on. Keep in mind that if you’ve ever used another HESI book, the layout has changed a bit.

We recommend the HESI NCLEX-RN review when you need to beef up your skills in a specific area. It’s especially good for maternity and women’s health, which is convenient if you feel like you’ve forgotten everything you learned in class. (We’ve all been there!)

Why Buy the HESI NCLEX Review Book?

  • HESI Hints are super helpful for the NCLEX
  • Great for students who like a physical book
  • Comes with access to Evolve online learning
Nursing student carrying a stack of NCLEX review books and guides

FAQs About NCLEX Review Books

Do I need to buy an NCLEX review book?

Technically, no. If you want to study using textbooks and the resources provided by your nursing school, you can. However, these books aren’t always organized in a way that mimics the NCLEX question format and testing style. More importantly, they don’t necessarily address the rationale to help you answer questions correctly. When it comes to the SATA (select all that apply) questions, you’ll be so glad you studied with a review book.

How long should you study for the NCLEX?

At a minimum, you should allow one month to study for the NCSBN NCLEX. Of course, everyone is different. If you want to take the exam as soon as possible, start studying during your last semester of nursing school. Allowing 2-3 months for studying can help you conquer test anxiety — by the time you sit down for the actual exam, it’ll feel like another practice test. Many nursing students have families and jobs, which makes it hard to study for months at a time; in that case, you might condense your NCLEX studying to an intensive 2-4 weeks.

Is the NCLEX really that hard?

Chances are, you’ve been hearing about the NCLEX since day one of nursing school. The answer is yes: the NCLEX is extremely hard. That’s because it uses a technology called Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT). Each time you answer a question, the test assesses your ability. Then, it gives you questions that are progressively harder. That means that every question on the test feels challenging. What’s more, the NCLEX is designed to be confusing — it mirrors the grey areas that nurses face every day on the job. When you’re in healthcare, there’s not always just one right treatment method. These factors are why so many student nurses leave the NCLEX feeling like they failed! They’re also why it’s so helpful to study with an NCLEX review book.

Can you pass the NCLEX without studying?

It is extremely rare for nursing students to pass the NCLEX without studying. Whether you’re going to be an LPN or an RN, you take at least four semesters of classes. By the third semester, the information you learned in your first semester can start to fade. During a four-year nursing program, the problem is even worse! Studying for the NCLEX is crucial to brush up on key topics and make sure that you understand every topic area.