Note: The NCLEX exam is expected to change in 2023.To know moreabout what this means for nursing students.
Developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), theNational Board Licensing Examination (NCLEX)it is the last step people take before obtaining a nursing license. State regulatory boards use the exam to determine whether candidates qualify for nursing licensure.
Candidates take either the NCLEX-PN or the NCLEX-RN depending on their career ambitions. Each state requires prospective nurses to first pass the exam. Among all candidates, including those with different levels of education,about 89.11%passed the RN exam in 2019, and approximately 74.59% of people who took the PN exam passed.
Most candidates take the test about a month after graduating from nursing school. However, employers in some states hire graduates who have not yet taken the test, on the condition that they pass the test by a certain date.
This NCLEX study guide provides future nurses with step-by-step instructions on how to pass the NCLEX, including details on the exam material and format, the scoring system, and what to do after passing.
NCLEX-PN frente a NCLEX-RN
More than six million candidates have taken the NCLEX since 1994, and the exam continues to serve as a standard tool for evaluating nursing candidates. Future nurses take one of two standardized exams to prepare for licensure in their state: the NCLEX-PN or the NCLEX-RN. The two exams feature similar themes and formats, with a few exceptions.
The NCLEX-PN is tailored for candidates who have earned a Diploma in Licensed Practical Nursing or Licensed Vocational Nursing and prepares candidates to become practical or vocational nurses. The NCLEX-RN prepares candidates to become a Registered Nurse. Candidates who take the RN exam have an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in nursing.
Both exams have a maximum of 205 questions. However, based on their performance, candidates can only complete the minimum number of questions. The RN test focuses on supervision and management of care, while the PN exam covers coordination of nursing care under the supervision of registered nurses.
The tests differ because the roles of registered nurses and licensed practical nurses vary.Licensed practical and professional nursesperform basic care for patients while working under the supervision of doctors and nurses.registered nursesenjoy more autonomy, working alongside doctors to provide care and manage treatment.
NCLEX Category Division
The test covers four categories of "customer needs". These four areas address the essential competency levels that nurses need to perform their roles in a variety of different clinical settings.
The NCLEX categories are divided as follows: safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity. Candidates who master these areas not only pass the exam, but also excel as licensed nurses.
These NCLEX categories also contain subcategories, which we will explore in more depth later in this NCLEX study guide. We also look at the percentage of exam questions that appear in each section.
Changes to NCLEX during COVID-19
COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of life, including NCLEX preparation. NCSBN reopened Pearson VUE testing centers, adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. While the exam standards and formats remain the same, candidates must adhere to the new security rules.
All examinees are now required to wear a mask and may wear gloves. Testing centers have also instituted social distancing and sanitizing measures to keep everyone safe. The number of people allowed into test centers has been restricted and test centers have increased bookings through September 30, 2020.
How to Study for the NCLEX
Preparing for the NCLEX starts with knowing what to expect on the test. We collect and describe essential information on how to prepare for the NCLEX. The following section describes the exam content, format, time limits, and grading rubric.
Candidates can also takethe nurseyhe is PNPractice tests to better prepare for the real test. Practice exams are similar in content and format to the actual exam. Questions that appear on practice tests come from old tests that are no longer used.
The practice tests contain two parts of 125 questions. The RN exam takes six hours to complete and the PN exam takes up to five hours. Candidates don't always need the allotted full time.
Candidates receive a percentage score upon completion of the test.
Exam content and distribution
The NCLEX covers a variety of topics, including fundamental nursing principles and practices. The exam assesses a candidate's knowledge in areas such as safe and effective care environments, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.
The test also covers a variety of "customer needs" categories and subcategories. Examples of questions in the psychosocial integrity category include substance use disorders and behavioral interventions. Questions in the safe and effective care environment category address confidentiality and legal rights and responsibilities.
Care management makes up most of the questions (about 20%), according to theNCLEX Review Board.
The remaining questions cover drug and parenteral therapies (15%); physiological adaptation (14%); potential risk reduction (12%); security and infection control (12%); basic care and comfort (9%); psychosocial integrity (9%); and health promotion and maintenance (9%). Actual percentages will vary as the test is tailored to the candidate's performance.
NCLEX Test Format
The NCLEX uses a computer adaptive test (CAT) format that measures a candidate's performance in determining each subsequent question. If the candidate answers a question incorrectly, the computer will provide an easier question. On the other hand, the better a person performs, the more difficult the following questions become. Both exams usually ask multiple choice questions. Candidates also answer "fill in the blank", "drag and drop" and "hot spots" questions.
Heexame nclexthe duration depends on the applicant's performance. The PN exam gives candidates up to five hours and requires candidates to answer a minimum of 85 questions, with a maximum of 205. The RN exam, a much more in-depth test that takes up to six hours, requires candidates to answer a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265.
While candidates are not limited in time to answer each question, they must not spend more than two minutes on any one question.
The NCLEX scoring system identifies a candidate's skill level by customizing the questions. This differs from a fixed test which presents the same questions to all candidates regardless of ability.
The questions specifically focus on a candidate's ability, taking into account the overall passing standard. According to the NCSBN, this format creates accurate results that are used to measure a candidate's readiness for licensure.
No questions receive partial credit. The exam follows a pass or fail rate that follows three scenarios. At one point in the test, the computer stops when it is certain that a candidate has passed or failed. This is called the 95% confidence interval rule.
In the second scenario, when the candidate's performance approaches the passing standard, the computer offers the maximum number of questions. In the third scenario, candidates continue until time runs out.
Candidates may retake the NCLEX up to eight times per year. They must wait at least 45 days between each repeat.
How to prepare for the NCLEX
Preparing for the NCLEX involves more than just studying and taking the practice test. Continue reading this NCLEX guide to learn the steps to prepare for the exam, including completing the application and registration forms, paying the registration fee, and preparing for exam day.
Application and Registration
Registering with NCLEX is atwo stepsprocess. First, the candidate must apply for the license through the local nursing regulatory agency. This ensures that the candidate meets the eligibility requirements to register with NCLEX.
Applicants must then register on the Pearson VUE website or by phone. This generates a test authorization email that provides the dates candidates can take the test.
For specific licensure eligibility requirements, contact your local nursing regulatory agency.
How much does NCLEX cost?
Applicants must pay a registration fee by credit, debit or prepaid card to take the NCLEX. Fees apply when candidates change to or from the PN or RN exams.
In the United States, candidates pay a license registration fee of $200. Test takers in Canada pay $360 and test takers in Australia pay $200.
Other fees include a $50 nursing regulatory agency change fee and a $50 exam type change fee. Changing the exam language also costs $50.
Preparation for exam day
Candidates can schedule appointments by phone or online. Visit the NCSBN website to find international and national information.test sites.
Test centers maintain strict guidelines on test day. Candidates must check in 30 minutes before the test time and store their electronic devices and personal items such as coats and large jewelry. Only during breaks (scheduled at the second and third hour) can students leave and collect their belongings. Subjects may take up to two breaks, with time outside the allotted testing time.
Tips for Passing the NCLEX in One Try
Every exam experience is different and requires unique preparation. Understanding how to prepare for and take the NCLEX exam can make your study sessions more effective.reduce exam anxietyand increase your chances of success. The following sections offer some test-study tips as well as strategies you can use when taking the test.
Tips on how to study for the test
- Take the test in advance. If you schedule the exam right after finishing your nursing program, the information will be fresher in your mind. This can help cut down on the time you would need to relearn forgotten material.
- Critical thinking and memorization are crucial test-taking skills. The NCLEX test asks students to recall memorized information such as symptoms, side effects andnormal laboratory values. Other questions require critical thinking to choose the most correct answer among several that seem correct.
- Familiarize yourself with the exam format. Knowing how the test is structured helps improve the effectiveness of your study strategies.
- Take practice tests. Practice tests help you learn how to avoid common mistakes. This is a good strategy to avoid feeling confused or overwhelmed on test day.
- Study effectively instead of over-studying. Due to the vast amount of information covered in a nursing program, it is extremely difficult to try to review or relearn all of this material in a short period of time before the test. Instead, give yourself enough time to absorb and retain the information.
Tips for taking the test
- Come prepared for the exam. Dress comfortably and make sure you've had enough sleep and enough food; Being distracted by hunger or drowsiness can negatively affect your ability to roll.
- View the scenarios presented in the exam questions. Take advantage of the knowledge you gained throughout your nursing program by imagining the situations presented by the quiz questions. This visualization exercise can help you activate your memory.
- Eliminate false answers first. If you can immediately identify incorrect multiple-choice answers, eliminate them and focus on the remaining options.
FAQs after taking the NCLEX exam
How are NCLEX results processed?
Exams undergo two reviews to ensure accuracy. First, a computer in the testing center scores the exam and sends it to Pearson VUE, where it is reviewed again. The results are then sent electronically to the selected nursing regulatory body. Candidates receive results within six weeks.
What does the number of questions I answered on the NCLEX tell me about my score?
Chunk. The number of questions each candidate answers does not determine whether or not they pass. The computerized adaptive test format gives candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, whether in the minimum or maximum number of questions assigned.
What if I run out of time on the NCLEX?
Candidates may run out of time before completing the maximum number of questions and still pass. It is more important that applicants demonstrate skills above the passing standard. If a person has answered the minimum number of required questions when time runs out and meets the passing standard on the last 60 questions, they will pass the test.
Candidates who fail the test must wait a minimum of 45 days before retaking the exam. In the meantime, they can review the candidate performance report, which shows which content areas they excelled in and which they didn't. However, applicants may register through their nursing regulatory body at any time after failing.
The nursing regulatory body selected by the candidate provides the results approximately six weeks after taking the exam. Candidates whose nursing regulatory body participates in the Rapid Results Service can sometimes obtain their unofficial results for a nominal fee.
Nursing license and renewal
After passing the NCLEX, prospective nurses can begin the licensing process. Candidates must first meet the requirements outlined by their state's nursing regulatory agency, which validates their educational credentials and NCLEX scores. Nurses generally must complete continuing education requirements to renew their licenses. Renewal requirements vary by state.
Covenant participating states include Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky , Tennessee , Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia,Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire and Maine.
Jenneh Rishe, RN
Jenneh Rishe, RN, has been a registered nurse for 12 years and has worked in a variety of specialty areas including internal medicine, trauma, kidney transplantation, oncology, and leukemia/bone marrow transplantation. She is the founder of The Endometriosis Coalition, a non-profit organization focused on spreading awareness and promoting authoritative education about endometriosis. Rische received her BSN from La Salle University and is currently enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing Education program at Drexel University.
Written by noted NCLEX expert JoAnn Zerwekh, this study guide provides a visual, unintimidating way to prepare for success on the NCLEX-RN exam.How do I start preparing for the NCLEX exam? ›
- Know What to Expect.
- Create a Study Plan.
- Form a Study Group.
- Use Available Resources.
- Answer Practice Questions.
- Take Study Breaks.
- Maintain a Routine.
- Take Care of Yourself.
While it's possible to pass the NCLEX after answering all 135, it's also possible to pass the test with a minimum of 70 questions or any number in between. Keep in mind NCLEX has a time limit of five hours. If you haven't answered enough questions correctly when the clock runs out, you will fail the test.How can I study for the NCLEX for free? ›
Study.com offers comprehensive study guides for the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN exams, with video lessons, full-length practice tests, thousands of practice questions, and more. To start, most people begin with a free 15-question practice test for either the RN or PN exam.
- Second-Guessing Your Abilities. ...
- Changing Answers Repeatedly. ...
- Reading Questions Too Fast. ...
- Cramming Before the Test. ...
- Not Using the Right Study Tools. ...
- Not Getting Enough Rest Before the Test. ...
- Reading Too Much into a Question.
Practice tests (preferably realistic Computer Adaptive Tests) are great to get a “feel” for where you are in your study plan. Your test results can be used as an indicator for areas of further study, and as a checkpoint to measure your progress. Spend time remediating test results.How many times can you take NCLEX? ›
If you happen not to pass the exam, you can retake it after 45 days. And if you are wondering how often you can take the NCLEX, the NCSBN retake policy allows for a retake eight times a year, ensuring 45 exam-free days between each test.What is the root rule for NCLEX? ›
Run-out-of-time (R.O.O.T.) Rule: If a candidate runs out of time before reaching the maximum number of items and the computer has not determined with 95% certainty whether the candidate has passed or failed, alternate criteria are used.Is 3 months enough to study for NCLEX? ›
If, however, you failed the NCLEX the first time around, it can take you anywhere from six weeks to six MONTHS to adequately prepare to take it again. Two to three months is the average amount of time it takes repeat test-takers.How many nurses pass NCLEX on first try? ›
The number of unsuccessful test-takers is low compared to the more than 86% who pass the exam on their first try. Candidates who fail the NCLEX-RN can retest forty-five days after their most recent attempt. Being alert for signs you failed the NCLEX-RN will help you prepare before receiving official results.
To pass the NCLEX RN or PN, test takers must correctly answer at least 75 questions (the minimum amount). Unfortunately, that means you can also fail the exam within those 75 questions or items.Do you need 50% on NCLEX to pass? ›
The NCLEX is scored using dichotomous scoring, so you can either pass or fail the exam. Currently, to pass the NCLEX-RN, the standard is 0.00 logits–or answer questions correctly at least 50% of the time. The NCLEX-PN standard is -0.18 logits.What kind of questions are on NCLEX? ›
The NCLEX-RN® is composed of primarily multiple-choice, four-option, text-based questions written at the application/analysis level of difficulty. These questions may include charts, tables, or graphic images.What are considered difficult questions on NCLEX? ›
Each category of questions requires an increasing level of critical thinking skills. Analysis, synthesis and evaluation questions would be considered higher-level NCLEX questions. Synthesis questions are based on creating or proposing solutions, such as a plan of care.How many months to study for NCLEX? ›
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STUDY FOR THE NCLEX? To pass the NCLEX, students should plan to spend a minimum of 1-2 months studying.What is the most NCLEX questions? ›
75/265—the minimum number of questions you can answer is 75 and a maximum of 265.Is there a lot of math on the NCLEX? ›
The NCLEX Doesn't Focus on Math
While there is a small math section, it only covers basic arithmetic and some pharmacology calculations. The good news is that you don't need to be a math whiz to pass NCLEX math questions.
Take as many practice tests as possible. Keep track of questions and topics that you need to review. Refer to your nursing books and notes to find out more about subjects you're not familiar with. Use flashcards, mnemonics, diagrams, or other learning tools to help you remember.How many questions should I study before NCLEX? ›
We recommend that you complete about 2,800 practice questions before your exam. If you are giving yourself a month to study, that means that you would be doing about 100 NCLEX practice questions per day.How many hours a day should I study for my NCLEX? ›
How long should I study each day? The amount of time that you choose to schedule in your NCLEX study plan can be highly subjective from person to person — but on average, it is recommended that a nursing student aims to study at least 3-5 hours a day (excluding days off) while they prepare for the exam.
None. There is no “easy” state to take the NCLEX. The NCLEX is a national exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Because it's national, the NCLEX will be the same regardless of what state you choose to take it in.How much does it cost to retake NCLEX? ›
How much does it cost to retake the NCLEX? The registration fee for NCLEX retesting is $200 with Pearson VUE, and there's a $75 reapplication fee. Before paying any registration fees, though, contact your local nursing board and determine your state guidelines and requirements for retesting.What to do after failing NCLEX 3 times? ›
- Try to Understand Why You Might Have Failed. I think so many nursing students jump back to retaking the NCLEX without actually thinking about why they keep failing. ...
- Get a New NCLEX Prep Course. ...
- Get a Tutor. ...
- Know Your Repeat Options.
always, never, all, and only. These words do not allow for the possibility of an exception, and therefore the answers that contain these words can be automatically eliminated. Never choose an answer that describes the nurse's actions as "vigorous."Why did I get all 145 questions on the NCLEX? ›
Does 145 questions on NCLEX mean you failed? No, if you answer all 145 questions on the NCLEX, that does not mean you fail. In fact, if you answered 145 questions and each question was progressively more challenging, then that is a good sign that you passed.Has anyone failed NCLEX at 145 questions? ›
While you can fail the NCLEX PN or NCLEX RN exam in 145 questions, it's unlikely. Most students are more prepared than they think, hence why most students pass the NCLEX exams.How long does it take to get the results of NCLEX? ›
Official results will be sent to you by your nursing regulatory body approximately six weeks after your NCLEX exam date.How many hours is the NCLEX exam? ›
SET YOUR PACE: Candidates have five hours to complete the NCLEX, including breaks. Take time to analyze each question carefully—once a response is submitted candidates cannot return to that question.How many questions are on the NCLEX? ›
The NCLEX-RN consists of 74-145 questions. This includes 15 pre-test questions that do not count toward test takers' scores. The NCLEX-PN consists of 85-205 questions, including 25 non-scored questions.Which state has the lowest NCLEX pass rate? ›
2 and Dec. 9, 2022. Last year, 63.88 percent of registered nursing students passed the NCLEX, down from 64.79 percent in 2021 and 68.92 percent in 2020. Florida has had the lowest NCLEX pass rates in the country since 2017, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
Candidates who do not pass the NCLEX, will receive an NCLEX Candidate Performance Report (CPR), which serves as a guide to prepare them to retake the exam.Does the last question on NCLEX matter? ›
If the last question is below the level of difficulty needed to pass, the candidate fails. If the last question is above the level of difficulty needed to pass, the candidate passes.Can you get 75 questions on the NCLEX and still fail? ›
While it is certainly possible to fail the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN evaluation in only 75 questions, this rarely happens because most nursing students are far more prepared than they believe they are.Is 90% chance of passing NCLEX good? ›
Depending on the time of year tested and the year, the NCLEX pass rates for first- time, US-educated test takers are usually between 80-90% +/1. So ATI says they predict that 59.9% of students will pass the NCLEX (with a 90-100% probability) when usually around 90% pass.What does it mean if NCLEX stops at 75? ›
When the NCLEX-RN shuts off at 75 questions, it means you either did very well or very poorly—enough so that the CAT model is 95% confident in your success or failure after only one-third of the possible 265 exam questions. Further, in a 75-question test only 60 questions are counted toward your passing score.How hard is the NCLEX exam? ›
NCLEX Pass Rates
The second-attempt pass rate for domestically-educated students taking the test was 45.56%. These results demonstrate that it is a pretty difficult test. The questions are designed to test your critical thinking, knowledge of the nursing process, and assessment skills.
If the last question on the NCLEX was easy, it means you got a question that was easy or a topic you knew very well. While that could be a sign you passed, you won't know for sure until the official results are available.Does the NCLEX start with easy questions? ›
The test starts easy and, as you answer questions correctly, gradually increases in difficulty. The NCLEX will ramp up the difficulty until you get a question wrong.How many questions a day for NCLEX? ›
Plan to study no more than 4 – 5 hours per day, and to complete between 50 – 150 questions per day.Can you skip questions in NCLEX? ›
Can a candidate skip questions? No. Candidates have to answer a question in order to move onto the next question. For more information, visit the Computerized Adaptive Testing section.
What are NCLEX Priority Questions? Priority questions are designed to test your conceptual comprehension. They are generally written at the analysis level, meaning you'll need to analyze the choices and apply your knowledge in order to answer the question correctly.How many easy questions can you miss on NCLEX? ›
You can successfully answer the first 59 questions, but if you don't get to question 60, you will automatically fail the exam. Another method to fail the exam is to not answer enough questions properly within the allocated time or to not answer enough questions correctly out of the maximum of 145 or 265 questions.When should I start preparing for NCLEX? ›
In order to allow enough time to review the extensive amount of information that will be covered on the NCLEX, successful candidates usually start studying about 5 or 6 months before they are scheduled to take the test, which is probably around the beginning of your final semester in nursing school.Can you study for NCLEX in 2 weeks? ›
Each day of the last 2 weeks should be intentionally planned out in detail. Devote 4 hours to test taking practice and 2 hours to review of the test results, including content remediation. Have rest or no-prep days scheduled to make sure you are taking care of yourself and not burning out.What percentage do you need to pass NCLEX? ›
To pass the NCLEX, you must answer at least 60% of the questions correctly. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing uses a minimum standard score of at least 0. 00 to pass the exam, which equates to a passing score of approximately 55 to 60%.How long should you study for the NCLEX before taking it? ›
It is commonly recommended that you spend at least six weeks studying for the NCLEX. However, you can take a couple of practice quizzes and tests to evaluate how prepared you are. If you feel prepared and do well on the practice tests, then two weeks may be enough time to study and refresh your knowledge.How far in advance should you study for the NCLEX? ›
Starting to study at least six months before taking the NCLEX is a great way to pace your studies so you don't experience burnout.Is Kaplan or UWorld better for NCLEX? ›
In terms of straight practice material, the difference between Kaplan and UWorld is somewhat negligible, with perhaps Kaplan getting the slight advantage. We found Kaplan's practice questions to be more realistic of actual NCLEX questions, while also rating UWorld's problems explanations out higher.How do I organize my study plan for the NCLEX? ›
- Start Preparing for NCLEX in Advance. ...
- Focus on Your Weak Areas. ...
- Prioritize Your Weak Areas. ...
- Practice NCLEX Practice Questions Often. ...
- How to Review NCLEX Questions You Missed. ...
- Use Other Study Methods When You Get Fatigued. ...
- Final NCLEX Test-Taking Tips. ...
- My NCLEX and HESI Study Log.
If they fail, they'll need to wait 45 days before retesting. After failing three times, though, they'll need to complete a board-approved remediation program before the next retake. test-takers have six attempts to pass in total.
Can I Fail the NCLEX at 75 Questions? To pass the NCLEX RN or PN, test takers must correctly answer at least 75 questions (the minimum amount). Unfortunately, that means you can also fail the exam within those 75 questions or items.What are considered hard questions on NCLEX? ›
Analysis, synthesis and evaluation questions would be considered higher-level NCLEX questions. Synthesis questions are based on creating or proposing solutions, such as a plan of care.Does NCLEX get harder when you fail? ›
Does NCLEX-RN Get Harder with Every Retake After Failing? Some candidates mistakenly believe that the NCLEX is harder each time. Questions become more challenging with each correct answer you provide on the NCLEX. However, subsequent tests are not easier or more difficult than previous exams.What percentage do I need on UWorld to pass NCLEX? ›
Learners with an average QBank score of 56% pass the NCLEX at a 92% rate. While your average UWorld QBank score gives you important information, studying each question's explanation is the most valuable way to spend your time.What NCLEX Prep has the highest pass rate? ›
- Kaplan — Top Pick.
- NurseAchieve — Most Advanced Practice Exam Technology.
- Hurst Review — Best First-Attempt Pass Rate.
- NCLEX Mastery — Most Affordable.
- Mometrix University — Best Free Resources.
- ATI — Best Product Offerings.
- Achieve Test Prep — Best In-Person Experience.
1. UWorld NCLEX Prep. UWorld is one of the highest-rated prep courses by both experts and student users. This course offers an extensive bank of sample questions that mirror the style and difficulty of questions on the actual NCLEX-RN exam.How many questions do you need to pass NCLEX? ›
A test-taker must have answered the minimum number of required test questions to be eligible to pass. For examinees taking the NCLEX-RN, at least 75 questions must be answered. A minimum of 85 questions must be completed on the NCLEX-PN exam.How do you answer NCLEX questions you don't know? ›
- Read the whole question. ...
- Ask yourself first. ...
- Think about the types. ...
- Focus on each question answer. ...
- Decide if the answers are wrong, right, and possible. ...
- Rank your correct and possible options. ...
- Reread the question after choosing “finalists” ...
- Make a decision and don't look back.