10 Tips and Facts to Know About the NCLEX Examination

Posted on 10/22/2018

NCLEX Exam

The NCLEX - National Council Licensure Examination - is a nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States and Canada. These ten basic must-know things about the NCLEX examination will help you get a clearer picture of the process and the purpose:

  1. What is the NCLEX Exam? The NCLEX examination is designed to assess the knowledge, skills and abilities of the applicant to practice safe and effective entry-level nursing. It is a standardized exam that is used by the board of nursing in each state to determine if a candidate is prepared to practice entry-level nursing.

    NCLEX examinations are developed and owned by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. (NCSBN).
  2. How to Apply for the NCLEX - Eligibility & Registration
    You can register to take the exam after you apply for a nursing licence from your state board of nursing. This state board will determine whether or not you are eligible to take the exam. It is important to note that each state has different requirements and guidelines for eligibility. Once your state board has verified your eligibility, you will receive an Authorization to Take the Test (ATT), along with a list of testing centers and instructions on how to schedule an appointment to take the examination. After an NCLEX registration is created, it stays open for 365 days waiting for candidate eligibility and you are required to take the test within the valid dates of the ATT.
  3. NCLEX RN
    The National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) - is for those who have completed an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN). The exam uses the five-step nursing process, where each of the questions will fall into one of the five steps: assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation and evaluation.
  4. NCLEX PN
    The National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN) - is for those who have obtained a diploma in licensed practical nursing (LPN) or licensed vocational nursing (LVN). Exams for RNs and LPNs test the basic understanding and knowledge of nursing practice, and also include similar topics; however, there is a different level of emphasis on each of these sections to reflect the varying scope of work between the two designations.
  5. NCLEX Question Type and Pattern

    NCLEX examinations are designed in the Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) format and are presently administered by Pearson VUE in their network of Pearson Professional Centers (PPC),

    The NCLEX exam is around 90 percent multiple-choice questions. The remaining questions could be: fill in the blank, select all of the correct answers from a list of options, put a number of steps in the correct sequence, or identify a correct area on a picture. Some of these alternative format questions ask information about a chart, graph, or audio clip, or use pictures as the answer choices instead of words. The questions will appear one at a time on the computer screen. Questions will not be repeated; however, questions based on a similar situation could be asked.

    You will have 6 hours to take the RN exam, while the PN exam is 5 hours.

  6. NCLEX Examination Scoring
    Covering a wide range of material, the scoring of the NCLEX is based on critical thinking - testing decisions involving nursing care. The exam’s computational algorithm evaluates correct answers within the context of their difficulty and variety of topic knowledge. Graded by comparing the responses to a pre-established standard, those individuals who meet or exceed the standard, pass the exam; those who do not, fail.
    There is no specific number or percentage of questions that you need to answer correctly to pass the NCLEX. Each question depends on how the previous question is answered, so an individual can be given anywhere between 75 to 265 questions. RN candidates can be given a maximum of 265 questions, while LPN candidates can have a maximum of 205. The computer continuously and randomly generates questions from a category until the individual has met the requirements of the test plan.
  7. NCLEX Exam Day Planning
    Besides preparing yourself for the exam, it would be beneficial to keep the following in mind for the exam day:
    • Dress comfortably and carry a jacket to keep warm – it could be a long test.
    • Prior to taking the exam, practice a few mock tests by setting a timer for the duration of the actual exam, i.e. 6 hours. It might take a few tries to get your technique and timing correct.
    • Arrive for the exam at least 30 minutes earlier to avoid any unforeseen delays. If you arrive more than 30 minutes later than the scheduled time, you will have to re-register and pay for another exam.
  8. Preparing For the Exam
    Earning straight A’s or 4.0 GPA in nursing school does not predict success on the NCLEX. Spend a minimum of 1-2 months of focused studying. Each exam attempt costs $200 and it is possible to retake it after a 45-day waiting period. Make it worth your time and money by passing the exam the first time you take it.
    • Stress management– Prepare in advance
    • Make a study plan–The NCLEX is a test model that aims to test knowledge gained over the course of years, not days. Planning is vital because the question, “How to study for the NCLEX” has just one answer - quality preparation over time.
    • Test-taking skills - Utilize test-taking strategies to eliminate wrong answers as the NCLEX is just as much about knowing how the test is written as it is about the knowledge it tests.
    • Investing in NCLEX preparation - Get practice exam books or enroll in a classroom review course. Many exam resource companies produce exceptional guides to prepare you for the NCLEX exam, so spend some time browsing reviews to see which guidebook style fits you best.
    • Practice with mock exams – Computer-based testing is something that can throw off the best, so do it a few times to get comfortable.
  9. The NCLEX Results
    Official results are available through the board of nursing/regulatory body and are sent to you by mail and/or posted on their website. If your board of nursing participates in the Quick Results Service, you can receive your unofficial results 2 business days after the exam for $7.95.
    If you did not pass, your state board of nursing will mail you an analytical profile to help you be better prepared for your next NCLEX attempt.
  10. What Happens if You Fail the NCLEX
    If you fail the exam, your Candidate Performance Report shows individualized performance by content area, so you are aware of which should be your focus areas. The National Council’s policy requires that you wait at least 91 days before taking the test again. Since individual state boards may impose other, stricter requirements, please check with your state board.

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