Your Guide to the NCLEX Exam
Steps for Taking the NCLEX Exam
Earn your degree in nursing through a program approved by your state's licensing agency.
Study for the exam. In addition to resources provided by your nursing program, the NCSBN offers computerized practice tests that provide a realistic testing experience.
Register for the exam that corresponds to your degree and career path, either the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN.
Pass the exam. You should receive your official results from your state's board about six weeks after taking the NCLEX exam.
Fulfill any additional requirements as designated by the regulatory board in your state.
Apply for your nursing license through the board of the state in which you intend to practice.
Whichever version of the test you're taking, the NCLEX exam covers four main subjects.
- Providing a Safe and Effective Care Environment
This is the most comprehensive category on the NCLEX exam. It includes the following topics:
Managing Care (RN)/Coordinating Care (LPN). This subject encapsulates topics such as ethical practice, confidentiality, client rights, advocacy, informed consent, performance improvement, legal responsibilities, continuity of care, and information technology.
Basic Care/Comfort. These topics cover the basics of physical patient care, such as hygiene, sleep, nutrition, hydration, assistive devices, mobility, and elimination.
Safety/Infection Control. This subject includes accident and injury prevention, home safety, safe equipment uses, emergency response, safe handling of hazardous materials, and ergonomic ideals.
Reducing Risk Potential. This section is focused on ways to reduce the chance of the patient's condition worsening, including therapeutic procedures, diagnostic tests, changes/abnormalities in vitals, judging the potential for complications, and interpreting laboratory values.
Health Promotion and Maintenance
The NCLEX exam tests prospective RNs and LPNs on their knowledge of ways to encourage patients to maintain and improve their health at every stage of life. This subject covers human developmental stages, aging, health screening, lifestyle choices, high-risk behavior, preventing disease, and self-care practices.
This section of the exam tests your understanding of mental and social conditioning and adaptations. Topics include mental health, the effects of cultural background, stress management, neglect/abuse, crisis intervention, substance abuse, coping mechanisms, and awareness of family dynamics.
This category covers adaptive processes within the body, including illness management, unexpected responses to various therapies, electrolyte/fluid imbalances, pathophysiology, and medical emergencies.
NCLEX-PN vs. NCLEX-RN
Aspiring licensed practical nurses will take the NCLEX-PN, while degree-holding prospective registered nurses will take the NCLEX-RN exam. Although the two versions of the NCLEX exam are similar in style, they differ in content.
In addition to patient care, the NCLEX-PN focuses on providing assistance to RNs and effectively following directions. It can contain anywhere from 75 to 145 questions.
The NCLEX-RN exam reflects the greater responsibilities RNs have by covering topics like managing patients and supervising other nurses, as well as the administration of blood to patients. It usually contains 85 to 150 questions.
You will have five hours to complete either exam. Breaks are optional, and they count against your exam time.
Preparing for the Exam
In-Class Test Prep:
Preparation for the NCLEX is an integral part of the Jersey College nursing curriculum. Instructors and course materials throughout your education incorporate NCLEX preparation into daily lessons, lectures, and projects to build your knowledge as you continue in your nursing program.
Jersey College exams are computerized and designed to prepare students for an NCLEX-style testing environment.
Test Prep Guides:
Certain courses in the nursing curriculum have required or optional NCLEX-review guides, which are incorporated into class lessons.
Jersey College maintains an open door policy throughout a student’s enrollment. Faculty are available for additional tutoring and counseling to discuss their performance, study strategies, and general questions.
Example Exam Questions
To better understand the types of questions you will encounter during the NCLEX exam, here is an example question from a previous iteration:
The nurse is helping a client back to bed following a fall. The client has been evaluated by the nurse and the healthcare provider, and it was determined they were not injured. After completing the incident report, what should the nurse do next?
A. Reassess the client.
B. Conduct a staff meeting to describe the fall.
C. Document in the nurse's notes that an incident report was completed.
D. Contact the nursing supervisor to update information regarding the fall.
After a client's fall, the nurse must frequently reassess the client because potential complications do not always appear immediately after the fall. The client's fall should be treated as private information and shared on a "need to know" basis. Communication regarding the event should involve only the individuals participating in the client's care. An incident report is a problem-solving document; however, its completion is not documented in the nurse's notes. If the nursing supervisor has been made aware of the incident, the supervisor will contact the nurse if status update is necessary.
Cognitive Ability: Applying
Client Needs: Safe and Effective Care Environment
Integrated Process: Nursing Process: Implementation
Content Area: Fundamentals of Care: Safety
Strategy(ies): Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory, Steps of the Nursing Process, Strategic Words
Priority Concepts: Communication, Safety
Frequently Asked Questions
- When should I begin the registration process?
The exam registration process is discussed during students’ final course of enrollment in their nursing program.
- How does the scoring work on the NCLEX exam?
The NCLEX uses a unique scoring system called computerized adaptive testing. The system establishes a threshold that defines the minimum ability level requirement. Students passing the exam have demonstrated minimum ability above this level requirement.
- When can I take the NCLEX exam?
In order to sit for the NCLEX exam, students must meet the requirements established by their nursing regulatory body (generally the Board of Nursing). Usually, these include such items as (i) graduating from an approved nursing education program, (ii) completing background checks, and (iii) registering with the test administration provider.
- How much does the NCLEX exam cost?
In 2022, The NCLEX exam costs approximately $200, which does not include the license fee in the applicable state in which you seek to become licensed.
- How much time does it take to complete the NCLEX exam?
Individuals taking the NCLEX have up to five hours to complete the exam.
- What happens if I don't pass the exam?
You'll receive a Candidate Performance Report (CPR) if you fail the NCLEX exam. This document details your performance in each category on the test, allowing you to focus your studies on the problem areas. You'll be able to take the exam again in 45 days.
If you fail the exam, you may need to complete a remedial program or follow other requirements as established by your Board of Nursing.