What's on the NCLEX-RN Exam? What to Expect and Tips to Survive

4 Min Read Published February 24, 2023
What's on the NCLEX-RN Exam? What to Expect and Tips to Survive

If you're preparing to take the NCLEX-RN, you're probably wondering what to expect. What will the test consist of? How long does it take to get your results? How should you prepare for the NCLEX? Keep reading for everything you need to know about the NCLEX and how to get ready for it. 

What to Expect on the NCLEX-RN

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), here's what you can expect on the NCLEX:

1. The first thing you'll need to do to take the NCLEX (after completing an accredited nursing program) is apply for licensure/registration with your nursing regulatory body (NRB)

2. Next, you'll need to register and pay the exam fee to Pearson VUE via the Internet or telephone.

3. Then, you'll receive an Acknowledgement of Receipt of Registration from Pearson VUE by email. BON/RB makes you eligible in the Pearson VUE system.

4. After that, you'll receive Authorization to Test (ATT) through an email from Pearson VUE. You must test within the validity dates (an average of 90 days) on the ATT. There are no extensions.

5. Now you can go ahead and schedule your exam appointment online or by phone.

6. When your exam date arrives, you'll show up for the exam appointment and present your acceptable identification.

7. After the test is over, you'll receive your official results from your BON/RB up to six weeks after your exam (this time period varies amongst BONs/RBs).

>> Related: Watch Nurse Alice's Free Webinar on How to Prepare for the NCLEX, exclusively available in the Nurse.org Nurse Network

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What Does the NCLEX RN Consist of?

The NCBSN recommends prospective NCLEX test-takers download the NCLEX Candidate Bulletin to get the full picture of what to expect before, during, and after the NCLEX RN. We reviewed it for you and outlined the main takeaways:

1. How Much Does the NCLEX Cost?

For U.S. candidates, the NCLEX-RN will cost $200 in 2021. 

2. How Long is the NCLEX RN?

The minimum number of questions on the NCLEX is 75, and the maximum number of questions is 145. The max amount of time you can take on the exam is 5 hours, including all breaks.

3. What Subjects are on the NCLEX RN?

The NCLEX RN covers the following subjects:

Safe and Effective Care Environment

  • Management of Care - 17-23%
  • Safety and Infection Control - 9-15%

Health Promotion and Maintenance - 6-12%

Psychosocial Integrity - 6-12%

Physiological Integrity

  • Basic Care and Comfort - 6-12%
  • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies - 12-18%
  • Reduction of Risk Potential - 9-15%
  • Physiological Adaptation - 11-17%

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4. What Format is the NCLEX Test In?

The NCLE is taken in a computerized adaptive testing (CAT) format. Essentially, the test will recalibrate itself based on your answers to questions. According to the NCBSN, "The computer’s goal during the NCLEX is to determine the ability of the candidate in relation to the passing standard. Every time the candidate answers an item, the computer re-estimates the candidate’s ability. With each additional answered item, the ability estimate becomes more precise." 

5. How Will You Know If You Passed or Failed the NCLEX?

As we mentioned above, you'll receive your official results up to 6 weeks after you take the test. There are 3 different scenarios the CAT testing format uses to determine whether or not a candidate has passed the test according to the NCBSN:

1. 95% Confidence Interval Rule

This is the most common rule. Essentially, when the computer has determined with 95% confidence that you've either passed or not passed the test, it will stop giving you questions. 

2. Maximum-length Exam Rule

This is when the computer keeps giving you questions until you've reached the full number of possible questions. It will do this when you're really close to the passing standard. Then it will look at your final ability estimate to determine if you've passed.

3. Run-Out-Of-Time-Rule (R.O.O.T.)

If you run out of time before reaching the maximum number of items, one of two things can happen. If you answered the minimum number of questions, then the computer will score you based on your final ability estimate. If you don't answer the minimum number of questions, you'll fail the exam.

4. Pearson VUE TRick

The Pearson VUE NCLEX Trick is a method aspiring nurses use to gauge whether they passed the NCLEX before receiving their results. In theory, a nurse with a passing score should not be able to re-register for the NCLEX on the Pearson VUE website. 

However, this unofficial trick is not reliable, and waiting for your official results will help you avoid undue stress.

NCLEX Resources

Want more NCLEX tips and tricks? Check out these other articles and guides:

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