5 Things You Need to Know Before Taking the NCLEX

The NCLEX is very different from the other exams you will take as a nursing student, it is also important that you know what to expect on exam day.

Taking the NCLEX is one of the most important milestones you will reach as a nursing student, as it is the final step in obtaining your nursing licensure. Passing the NCLEX is not only a huge accomplishment, but it also means you are officially ready to begin your nursing career!

The NCLEX has been a rite of passage for nursing students for decades. It was originally known as “the boards,” or the State Board Test Pool Examination, until The National Council of Nurses took ownership of the exam in 1982 and renamed it the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX). Another significant change in the exam’s history was the switch to a computerized test format in 1994, which is how it is administered today.

The majority of first-time takers pass the NCLEX, but it takes a lot of preparation to be successful. Because the NCLEX is very different from the other exams you will take as a nursing student, it is also important that you know what to expect on exam day.

Here are five things you need to know before taking the NCLEX:

1) There are two different exam types

There are two versions of the NCLEX, and your nursing degree will determine which version you need to take. One is the NCLEX-PN, which is specific to LPNs or those who have obtained a diploma in practical or vocational nursing. The other is the NCLEX-RN, which is for registered nurses or those who hold an associate (ASN) or bachelor’s degree (BSN) in nursing.

2) You will need an authorization to take the exam

In order to take the NCLEX, you will need an Authorization To Test, also known as an ATT letter. To receive this authorization, you need to contact your nursing regulatory body (NRB) and apply. They will review your application an award you an ATT through your email. This authorization will expire after about 90 days; if you don’t take the test within that timeframe, you will have to reapply.

3) You have several hours to complete the exam

On test day, you will go to your designated testing center, where you will be assigned a computer. The test ranges from 75 to 265 questions, but the number of questions you are required to complete depends on how you answer each previous question. As a result, no two tests are exactly the same. Additionally, 15 questions are considered “trial questions” and will not be counted in your final score. You will have up to six hours to complete the RN exam and up to five hours to complete the PN exam, including two optional break periods.

4) The exam focuses on four key subject areas

The NCLEX is split up into four major subject areas. These areas include:

  • Safe and effective care management
  • Health promotion and maintenance
  • Psychological integrity
  • Physiological integrity (the largest section)

In 2016, questions pertaining to culture and spirituality were added to the exam and up-to-date study materials include this theme. You will need to be very knowledgeable in each of these areas to successfully complete the exam.

5) Expect a variety of question types

The NCLEX includes three different levels of questions, which are meant to challenge students and make them apply their critical thinking skills to nursing practice. The first are general knowledge questions, which are typically delivered in multiple-choice format. Then, there are a number of analysis and application questions, which may include charts, tables or graphic images. Level three questions are the most difficult and require students to apply facts, processes, and rules to find the answers. They are often delivered in an open-ended format. You can expect the majority of your questions to fall in categories two and three.

After successfully passing the exam, you will receive your nursing license, which is only valid only in the state you took the exam. If you happen to become employed in another state, there is a process by which you can transfer your license. Find more information on transferring your license here.

To register for the NCLEX and for more information about authorization, eligibility, and to find a testing center near you, visit https://portal.ncsbn.org/. You can also find more information on obtaining your ATT and get the testing process started.

Lastly, if you are planning on taking the NCLEX soon, be sure to check out these NCLEX study tips. We wish you the best of luck, and don’t worry – you’ve got this!