NCLEX: 7 Essential Facts You Need to Know About the Exam

Javiera Vega

Javiera Vega

Study Consultant at Gradehacker

So you have decided to go for an ADN or a BSN degree since you already know the difference between these two nursing programs, or maybe you decided to go for an LPN degree. Everything sounds like it is falling into place, but you hear a new term that pops out all the time while you do more research: the NCLEX. You are probably wondering if this is a new acronym you should have been aware of before signing for your classes.

Before you start to freak out, you have to know the basics. The NCLEX is an exam process you need to become a nurse in the US. There is a lot of information about this exam, so much that it becomes overwhelming for someone who is just starting their journey through a nursing degree. Also, the fact that you might depend entirely on the result of a single exam can be a frightening possibility that you never asked for in the first place.

However, since many of Gradehacker’s clients follow a path in healthcare, we have developed this guide to understand 7 Essential Things You Should Know About The NCLEX.

Hopefully, once you’re done reading, you will realize that this exam is a logical step you have to take once you finish your initial academic journey into nursing. Instead of looking like a Goliath that will wait for you in the finish line, the NCLEX is more like the last leap before you receive the prize you have been working so hard to get.

So with that clear, let’s start with the basics:

1) What does NCLEX mean? Why is it so Important?

NCLEX stands for National Council Licensure Examination. This is a standardized test that every state regulatory board uses to identify which candidates are ready to become a practical (LPN) or registered nurse (RN). It is designed to measure the nurse’s competency and skills and, most importantly, allows you to work as a nurse in the US.

NCLEX 7 Essential Questions You Need to Know About the Exam

2)What are the Prerequisites to take the NCLEX?

In order to be eligible to take the NCLEX-PN, you need a licensed practical nursing (LPN) degree or licensed vocational nursing (LVN). To make the NCLEX-RN, you need an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).

Once you graduate, the nursing regulatory body (NRB) will declare you ready. You will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) by email that will allow you to make an appointment to take your exam in any authorized testing center nearby you. 

3) Are NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN the same thing?

No. They are not. Anyone who wants to work as a nurse is required to take and pass the NCLEX exam. However, there are two variants of the test, depending on your educational level.

Those who hold a practical nursing diploma to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) must pass the NCLEX-PN. Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree holders who wish to become a registered nurse (RN) must pass the NCLEX-RN.

Among the main differences between these exams are the number of questions. For the NCLEX-RN, you get between 75 to 265 and for the NCLEX-PN from 85 to 205. Another difference is that the NCLEX-RN focuses more on the management of care while the NCLEX-PN in coordination. 

NCLEX 7 Essential Questions You Need to Know About the Exam

4) How is the NCLEX set up?

The NCLEX is a computer-adaptive test. This means that you will first take the exam on the computer set in a testing center of your choice. Second, according to your initial performance in the exam, the difficulty of the following questions will be determined.

For example, if you miss the previous question, the next one will be a bit easier. On the other hand, if you get one question right, the next one will be slightly more challenging. This format is created to get a more accurate result in which areas you are better or need improvement.

Adaptive testing also affects the length of the exam. Depending on your performance, you get between 75 to 265 questions. However, you will always have 6 hours to complete the process with breaks included. About 90% of the questions are multiple-choice while the rest is divided between fill in the blank, chart reading, audio listening, or similar types of questions.

5) What Topics are covered in the NCLEX? Is it Difficult?

The NCLEX is divided into four areas of practice no matter which variant you decide to take which are the following:

Even though 90% of the exam is made of level 2 and 3 questions, you will be happy to know that, based on the results from 2017, the total percentage of first-time test candidates in the US to pass was 87.11%.

With the right preparation through study, practice exams, and stress-management practices, you will ace the test without any doubt!

6) How Can You Register to Take the NCLEX Test?

The registration process depends if you take the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN, but the main difference will be which one you select as an option while filling the online registration.

About six to eight weeks before you graduate, you will receive two applications: one for licensure and one to take the NCLEX exam. After you complete these applications and submit them to your nursing school, you will receive the ATT (Authorization to Test). Once you get the authorization and only after you get the authorization, you can register to take the exam at the  NCLEX candidate website and create an account.

The test has a cost of $200, and you can schedule an appointment to take it whether online through the NCLEX candidate website or calling directly to the Pearson VUE Testing Centers.

7) How Will the Day of Your NCLEX Exam Be?

As you can see in this video, after you make your appointment, you will arrive at the Pearson VUE Testing Center of your choice. Once you’re there, you will be greeted by a receptionist, and you will have to fill the check-in paperwork. It is advised to arrive earlier so you can do this process calmly.

You will then be asked which variant of the test you will be taking, and you will get a sheet with information. Once you are done with that, you will be asked to provide a Government Issued ID that includes a photo, a signature in a digital pad, fingerprint, and palm vein scanning, which sounds threatening but it is just a way to check that you are, in fact, you. Then a digital photo will be taken, and you are ready to go!

You can put your personal items in a locker (since phones and other devices are not allowed). You will meet your test administrator and undergo another quick identification process; they’ll give you a calculator if you need it, and an erasable note board. You will be escorted to your testing station with a computer and your exam available. Remember that these tests are proctored so your audio and video will be recorded.

When you need breaks, or you are done, you can signal to the administrator by raising your hand so they can go to help you. All centers are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, so whatever assistance you need will be provided.

NCLEX Exam highlights and tips

Just in case you forgot something, let’s review once more the main aspects of the NCLEX

  • NCLEX stands for National Council Licensure Examination.

    It is a test that will allow you to work as a nurse in the USA.

  • The NCLEX has two variants

    The NCLEX-RN, which you can access after completing an ADN or BSN degree, and the NCLEX-PN, which you can take after completing a licensed practical nurse or vocational nurse degree

  • The NCLEX is a computer-adaptive test.

    Meaning that you will get slightly easier or difficult questions according to your performance.

  • The most common question types in the NCLEX are multiple-choice, but other formats are involved, such as audio listening, chart interpretation, etc.

    The questions have three levels of difficulty: Level 1, general knowledge, Level 2 analysis and application, and Level 3, academic knowledge.

  • The total percentage of approval for this exam was 87.11%

    In 2017 for first-time candidates.

  • The topics involved in the NCLEX are four:

    Effective care, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.

  • To register to take the exam, you have to fill an ATT (Authorization to Test).

    Once you get that, you can register to take the exam at the NCLEX candidate website, create an account, and make an appointment at your closest Pearson VUE Testing Centers.

  • On the day of the exam, you will have to bring a Government Issued ID that includes a photo, sign digitally, register your fingerprint, do a palm vein scan and take a picture of you.

    An administrator will show you the way to your computer with the exam ready to be started. No phones, watches, purses, or wallets are allowed in this room.

NCLEX 7 Essential Questions You Need to Know About the Exam

Usually, people think the NCLEX exams are quite stressful because they have to prepare themselves to take it and feel overwhelmed with all the information they find online about the exam itself and the online comments from other test-takers. However, always think about this like a culmination of your career.

You won’t just be thrown to the lions, your classes and experiences along with studying will be your best tools for overcoming this stage.

We hope that this guide provided you with better insight into how this last step into your future is nothing to be afraid of if you have the right information. While you are going through the academic journey that will lead you eventually to take the NCLEX, you can check today how Gradehacker can help you  better understand your nursing academic journey through this article about what BSN and ADN degrees are.  Good luck with your test in advance! 

Javiera Vega

Javiera Vega

Javiera Vega is a Study Consultant and Content Creator for Gradehacker. She has a degree in Education and Literature and is currently working on getting a master’s degree in Linguistics. Even though words, languages, and books are her thing, science and psychology were her hidden passion for many years. Luckily, Gradehacker has allowed her to use all that knowledge by helping many clients with everything they need. Javiera considers herself a proud nerd who likes to learn and read about everything she can find. From movies and comics to microbiology and genetics, every topic is interesting for her. Her curiosity has no limits. Find her on LinkedIn

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