An NCLEX Cram Sheet to Help You Pass the Exam

nursing student using an nclex cram sheet

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Real-world nursing requires on-your-feet thinking and quick decision-making skills. There’s a lot of information to remember in the nursing field, and cram sheets are great when you’re about to take the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN.

The most important thing to remember about the NCLEX is that it’s equally a test of memorization and the ability to put together nursing concepts and skills. And the NCLEX tests that by measuring how quickly you can answer questions correctly.

But sometimes nursing students need last-minute study resources, like cram sheets, to retain as much information as possible.

How Do I Cram for the NCLEX?

Going over every single textbook chapter, lecture note, and PowerPoint is ideal – but not all of us have the time or energy to memorize every possible answer to the NCLEX.

But cramming for the NCLEX is a little different than cramming for other exams – it’s an adaptive test. Instead, you need to practice answering questions correctly as quickly as possible. This means learning which questions are more thought-provoking, so you know where to spend your time.

This is where cram sheets come in handy. So get ready for the big exam with a good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast, and a cram sheet.

Why Cram Sheets are Great for NCLEX Prep

You can’t just memorize everything and expect to pass, because there are so many questions that you won’t have time to answer them all. 

Cram sheets make it super easy for students who are already familiar with the material but still need extra help understanding each question. And they help break down your study time into manageable chunks. 

You can use them anywhere, any time (except on exam days), and they’re portable (on paper sheet or mobile device).

nursing students cramming for the NCLEX

The SimpleNursing Cram Sheet

We’ve put together this sheet covering some of the most important information in the NCLEX exam.

Click the button to download the PDF version:

OR keep scrolling down to view the web version of our NCLEX cram sheet.


Lab Values

Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP) Panel & Electrolytes

Sodium (Na+) – Normal range = 135-145 mEq/L

  • LOW Sodium – Low & Slow
  • HIGH sodium = Big & Bloated

Potassium (K+) – Normal range = 3.5-5.0 mEq/L, pumps the heart muscles

Chloride (Cl-) – Normal range = 97-107, helps to maintain acid base balance

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)Helps to maintain acid base pH balance (too much can put the body in Acidosis) 

  • Normal range = 23-29 (mEq/L)Memory trick: Carbon DiACID

Bicarbonate (HCO3)Pushes the body into an alkalotic state 

  • Normal range = 23-30 mEq/L
  • Memory trick: Bicarb Base

BUN & Creatinine – 2 labs for 2 kidneys 

  • BUN Normal range = 10-20, over 20 usually means dehydration. 
  • Creatinine over 1.3 = Bad Kidney (kidney injury)

Glucose – Normal range = 70-110

  • Hyperglycemia (over 120) usually clients with uncontrolled diabetes,
  • Hypoglycemia (60 or less) brain will DIE! Very deadly

Calcium (Ca) – Normal range = 9.0-10.5 mEq/L

  • Memory trick: Calcium Contracts Muscles

Magnesium (Mg+) – Normal range = 1.3 – 2.1 mEq/L

  • Memory trick: Magnesium Mellows Muscles

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

Hemoglobin – Normal = 12-18

  • Risky = 8-11
  • Heaven or blood transfusion = 0-7 

Hematocrit – Normal = 36-54%

  • Elevated Hct = Dehydration
  • Decreased Hct = Bleeding, Anemia, Malnutrition

Red blood cell count (RBC) – 4-6 million

  • Low = Anemia, Renal Failure
  • High = Dehydration

White Blood Cells (WBC) & Coagulation Panel

WBC Total Count Normal = 5,000-10,000

  • Higher = Leukocytosis
  • Low = “Leukopenia”

CD4 Count – Normal = Over 200

  • Below = AIDS

Platelets – Normal range = 150k – 400k 

PTT – Normal range = 30-40

INR – Normal range = 0.9-1.2

Health Assessments

Head to Toe Assessment

Normal Range Vitals:

Vital SignNormal RangeLocationClassification
Pulse60-100bpmRadial, carotid, brachial, femoral, popliteal, dorsalis pedis, posterior tibialis, temporal pulse.Absent, weak, normal, increased, bounding.
Respirations  (RR)12-20bpmAnterior (chest) and posterior (back)Normal, adventitious, absent, diminished. 
BP120/70-139/89Brachial, radial, popliteal, posterior tibialis.Systole: Max contraction of the left ventricle.
Diastole: Pressure of resting ventricles.
Temperature98.6/37*CTemporal, rectal, oral, tympanic, axillaryFebrile, afebrile

Circulation

Capillary Refill

Skin Turgor

Head & Neck

  • Hair, Eyes, Nares, Mouth, Jaw & Neck

Chest

  • Heart: All Pigs Eat Too Much

A – Aortic

P – Pulmonic

E – Erb’s Point

T – Tricuspid

M – Mitral

  • Lungs
  • Breast

Abdomen

  • Bowel Sounds, Shape

Pain Assessment

Types of Pain – Chronic: Persistent, malignant pain that lasts more than six months.

  • Acute: Sudden onset of pain, specific to injury. Lasts from seconds to six months

Effects of Pain – Chronic: Immune suppression, depression, disability, fatigue, anger, inability to perform ADLs

  • Acute: Increased cardiac output, impaired insulin response, immune suppression, increased cortisol production, increased fluid retention.

Factors that Influence Pain – Past Experience, Anxiety, Depression, Age, Gender, Culture

Patho – Nociceptors, Nociception, Cox 1, Cox 2, Decrease pain sensation

Pharmacologic Treatments – Non opioids: NSAIDS, Acetaminophen, Ofirmev

  • Opioids: Tramadol, Tylenol 3, Meperidine, Propoxyphene (with tylenol), Oxycodone, Fetanyl, Morphine, Dilaudid
  • Other: PCA pump, PRN medications, Multi modal (use of one or more drugs), Routine admin (admin around the clock), Topical, Local anesthesia, Intraspinal

Non-pharmacologic Treatments – Cutaneous stimulation (TENS machine), Massage, Thermal therapies (heat and cold), Distraction, Relaxation, Guided imagery, Hypnosis, Music therapy, Alternative therapy (Acupuncture)

Focused Pain Assessment – Scale (0-10), Timing, Location, Duration, Quality, Aggravating and Alleviating factors

Mother Assessment

Admission – Birth imminence, Fetal status, Maternal status, Risk assessment 

Assessment Components – Obstetric History, Current Labor Status, Medical–Surgical History, Social History, Desires/Plans for Labor and Birth

GTPAL – Gravida, Term, Preterm, Abortion, Living

Ambulation: Body Mechanics & Mobility

General ease of movement – Normal finding = voluntary, controlled, purposeful, fluid, and  coordinated movements

  • Abnormal finding = involuntary movements, tremors, tics, chorea, dystonia, fasciculations, oral or facial dyskinesias

Gait – Normal finding = head erect with vertebral straight, knees and feet forward, arms at side with elbows flexed, arms wing freely in alternation with leg swings

  • Abnormal finding = spastic hemiparesis, scissor gait, steppage gait, sensor ataxia, cerebellar ataxia, parkinsonian gait, use of assistive devices

Alignment – Normal finding = when standing or sitting, a line can be drawn from the ear to shoulder and hip.

  • Abnormal finding = spinal curvatures as seen in scoliosis, inability to maintain normal alignment

Joint structure – Normal finding = absence of joint deformities and full range of motion.

  • Abnormal finding = limitation of full range of motion, swelling, heat, tenderness, crepitation, deformities

Muscles mass and tone – Normal finding = adequate mass, tone and strength to complete ADLs.

  • Abnormal finding = atrophy, hypertrophy, flaccidity, spasticity, paralysis.

Endurance – Normal finding = turning in bed, maintaining correct alignment, ambulating, performing self-care activities

  • Abnormal finding = increased pulse, respirations, BP, SOB, dyspnea, weakness, pallor, confusion, vertigo, pain.

Positioning

Fowler’s Position – The head and trunk are raised 30-90 degrees.

  • For cardiac issues, SOB, or NG tube.

Lateral – Right lateral = The right side of the patient touches the bed.

  • Left lateral = The left side of the patient touches the bed.
  • For GI issues and rectal surgery.

Lithotomy – Most common in OB; patient lies flat on their back with knees elevated and hips level (often supported by stirrups).

  • For gynecological procedures and childbirth.

Sim’s Position – Prone/lateral; Patient lies on their side with upper leg flexed and drawn towards the chest, and upper arm flexed at the elbow.

  • For administering enemas, perineal examination, and comfort in pregnancy.

Prone – Patient lies on their stomach with back up, and head turned to one side.

  • For drainage of the mouth after oral or neck surgery. It allows for full flexion of knee and hip joints.

Supine – On patient’s spine; Considered the most natural “at rest” position.

  • For abdominal, facial, and extremity procedures.

Trendelenburg – “Upside Down”; Patient is in supine position and has their head sharply lowered and raised feet.

  • For hypotension, gynecological and abdominal hernia surgeries, and placement and removal of central lines.

Reverse Trendelenburg – Patient is in supine position with head of the bed elevated and the foot of the bed down.

  • For types of surgery to help promote perfusion in obese patients. Also helpful in treating venous air embolism and preventing pulmonary aspiration. 

Maternity & Pediatric

Maternal Pharmacology

Pediatric –

DrugMode of ActionIndicationContraindication/Adverse Effects Dose/Route
PhytonadioneVit KHelps prevent bleeding by activating clotting factors.Prevention and treatment of hypoprothrombinemia.Pain, swelling, flushing, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, sweating.IM Subcut, IV (Children 1mo): 1– 2 mg single dose.
ErythromycinErythrocinSuppresses protein synthesis at the level of the 50S bacterial ribosome.Administered immediately after birth along with Vitamin K shot. Infections caused by susceptible organisms.Infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis, pancreatitis, interstitial nephritis rash. Benzyl alcohol should be avoided in neonates.Eye drops/cream.IV/ P.OPO (Neonates ):Ethylsuccinate—20– 50mg/kg/day divided q 6– 12hr.IV (Children 1 mo): 15–50 mg/kg/day divided q 6hr, maximum 4 g/day.
HEp B vaccine Causes a primary immune response.Provides immunity against HEP B.Do not give if baby is already+.5 mcg/0.5 mL ; 5 mcg/mL; 10 mcg/0.5 mL
HEP B IGBayHep B, Nabi-HBConfers passive immunity to hepatitis B infection postexposure.Hepatitis b infection in neonates born to HBsAg-+ women, provides passive immunity.Erythema at IM site, pain, swelling, tenderness.Hypersensitivity to immune globulins, glycine, or thimerosal.IM: 0.5 mL within 12 hr of birth.

Postpartum –

DrugMode of ActionIndications Contraindications/Side EffectsDose/Route 
PhytonadionBind to opiate receptors in the CNS.Management of moderate to severe pain.Avoid chronic use. Dizziness, sedation, respiratory depression, hypotension.ROUTE PO—2.5– 10 mg q 3– 6 hr as needed.
Simethicone Gas-XPassage of gas through the GI tract by belching or passing flatus.Relief of painful symptoms of excess gas in the GI tract that may occur postoperatively.Not recommended for infant colicROUTE PO40– 120 mg qid, after meals and at bedtime (up to 500mg/day).
DocusatePeri-ColacePromotes incorporation of water into stool, resulting in softer fecal mass.Prevention of constipation (inpatients who should avoid straining, such as after MI or rectal surgery).Hypersensitivity; Abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting.ROUTE PO2 tablets once daily at bedtime; maximum 4 tablets twice daily.

Pregnancy

Signs of Pregnancy – Presumptive: subjective data the woman reports to the HCP.

  • Probable: objective data, such as cervical changes.
  • Positive: diagnostic confirmation such as, fetal heartbeat & ultrasound

Weight Gain – A pregnant patient should increase their caloric intake by 300 kcal/day during 2nd & 3rd trimesters.

  • First Trimester: 3-4 lb total
  • Remainder of Pregnancy: 1 lb per week
  • Total weight gain: 25-35 lb for a patient with a normal BMI

Nutritional Requirements – Proteins, Minerals, Iron, Calcium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Iodine

Vitamin requirements – Folic acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12

Hematologic Changes – Blood volume increases by 45-50%.

  • Red blood cell count increases up to 30%.
  • Plasma increases up to 50%
  • Hemoglobin decreases
  • Hematocrit decreases

Cardiac changes – Blood pressure slightly decreases

  • Heart rate increases by 10-15 BPM
  • Cardiac output increases

Integumentary changes – Chloasma, Linea nigra, Striae

Musculoskeletal changes – Lordosis, Diastasis rectus abdominis

Respiratory changes – Nasal mucosa edematous due to vasocongestion.

  • Nasal congestion and voice changes are possible.
  • Accommodations to maintain lung capacity.
  • May feel short of breath when eupneic.
  • Third-trimester diaphragm pressure.

GI changes – Intestines are displaced upwards & to the side.

  • Pressure changes in the esophagus & stomach, which leads to heartburn
  • Constipation

Pharmacology

Analgesics – Opioid; Increases pain threshold by altering pain perception

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
DemerolMeperidine HCL
DilaudidHydromorphone
Duragesic, SublimazeFentanyl
Morphine SulfateMorphine Sulfate
Vicodin, NorcoHydrocodone

Anticoagulants – Interferes with blood clotting processes.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
CoumadinWarfarin
LovenoxEnoxaparin
HeparinHeparin Sodium-from beef/pork

Anticonvulsants – Increases interval between seizures.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
DilantinPhenytoin
NeurontinGabapentin
TegretolCarbamazepine
DepakoteValproic Acid

Antidepressants – SSRIs; Inhibits serotonin reuptake in CNS.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
CelexaCitalopram
EffexorVenlafaxine
LexaproEscitalopram Oxalate
PaxilParoxetine
ProzacFluoxetine
ZoloftSertraline

Anti-Diabetics – Sulfonylureas; Promotes insulin secretion by the pancreas; Increases tissue response to insulin.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
AmarylGlimepiride
Diabeta, Glynase, MicronaseGlyburide
Glucotrol (XL)Glipizide

Antiemetics – Decreases/prevents nausea & vomiting.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
PhenerganPromethazine
ZofranOndansetron

Antihypertensives–(PRIL) – ACE Inhibitors; Blocks the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II (potent vasoconstrictor).

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
AltaceRamipril
CapotenCaptopril
Prinivil, Zestril Lisinopril
VasotecEnalapril

Antilipidemics – Inhibits HMG-CoA reductase, an early step in cholesterol production.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
CrestorRosuvastatin
LipitorAtorvastatin
ZocorSimvastatin

Antiplatelets – Interferes with the 1ST step in the clotting process: platelet aggregation.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
ASA – aspirinAcetylsalicylic Acid
PlavixClopidogrel

Anxiolytics – Azaspirodecanedione derivatives; Decreases anxiety. 

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
BusparBuspirone Hydrochloride

Arbs-(SARTAN) – Blocks binding of angiotensin II at the receptor site.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
AtacandCandesartan
CozaarLosartan
DiovanValsartan

Benzodiazepines (Pam & Lam) – Enhances/facilitates GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
XanaxAlprazolam
ValiumDiazepam
AtivanLorazepam
VersedMidazolam

Beta Blockers-(OLOL) – Prevents sympathetic heart stimulation, thus Decreases HR and contractility.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
InderalPropranolol
LopressorMetoprolol Tartrate
Toprol-XLMetoprolol Succinate
TenorminAtenolol

Biguanides –  Decreases hepatic glucose production & intestinal absorption of glucose.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
GlucophageMetformin

Calcium Channel Blockers – Blocks Na+ influx into the beta-receptors.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
CardizemDiltiazem
NorvascAmlodipine
ProcardiaNifedipine
Verelan, Isoptin, Calan Verapamil

Cardiac Glycosides – Positive inotropes (improve contractility and cardiac output).

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
LanoxinDigoxin

Corticosteroids – Inflammation, produces intentional immunosuppression, and treats adrenocortical insufficiency.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
CelestoneBetamethasone
DecadronDexamethasone
DeltasonePrednisone
Solu-CortefHydrocortisone
Solu-Medrol Methylprednisolone

Diuretics – Decreases fluid volume in the body.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
BumexBumetanide
DemadexTorsemide
LasixFurosemide

Glitazones – Decreases insulin resistance.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
ActosPioglitazone
AvandiaRosiglitazone

H2-Histamine Receptor Antagonists – Inhibit histamine at histamine H2-receptor sites, gastric acid secretion.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
PepcidFamotidine
ZantacRanitidine

Nitrates – Peripheral and coronary vasodilators.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
Nitro BID, Tridil, Transderm Nitro, NitrostatNitroglycerin
ImdurIsosorbide Mononitrate
Isorbid, Isordil, SorbitrateIsosorbide Dinitrate

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) – Blocks final step of gastric acid production; Ulcer-reducing.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
NexiumEsomeprazole
PrilosecOmeprazole
ProtonixPantoprazole

Tricyclics – Blocks reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin at nerve endings.

Common BrandsGeneric Brands
ElavilAmitriptyline

Need More Than an NCLEX Cram Sheet?

Cram sheets are great for last-minute studying. But using tools like study guides, flashcards, video series, and practice quizzes can get you further. 

Pass the NCLEX and unlock more study tools here.