All About the NCLEX: Exams For Nursing Candidates

April 14, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

Click here for 2021 shadowing opportunities

As a nurse-in-training, you’re busy with coursework and clinical experiences.  Once you’ve completed your education and training, there is one last step to becoming a Registered Nurse.  You need to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.  Here is a quick guide to preparing for the big test!

What the NCLEX Covers

The NCLEX cover the basic knowledge that entry level novice nurses need to know to be successful in their first year of practice.  Because the field of nursing is always changing, the content of the NCLEX is updated every three years.  You should download the latest content study plan at the official NCLEX website.  It is free of cost. The NCLEX has four broad categories of nursing knowledge that aspiring nurses need to know.  This includes: Safe and Effective Care Environment, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Psychological Integrity, and Physiological Integrity.  Within these broad categories, the following subcategories are the most covered content on the NCLEX: Management of Care, Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies, and Physiological Adaptation. 

How To Prepare for the NCLEX

Before you take the NCLEX, you must attain your Authorization To Test (ATT). You can do this by applying to your state board and then registering for the exam through Pearson.  The NCLEX-RN is a six hour, computer adaptive exam which you take at one of Pearson’s testing centers.  A computer adaptive exam gets harder the more your answer questions correctly. The more difficult the Nursing newborns on the neonatal ward!questions, the better you are doing on the exam.  In addition, the amount of questions you answer ranges between 75-265 questions.  Within these questions, up to 15 of them will not count towards your score because they are field testing questions.

If you have received high scores in your nursing coursework, much of the information covered in the NCLEX will be second nature to you.  If you have mastered the language and skill sets required of today’s nurses, then you have done all the preparation you need for this exam.  Accredited nursing programs have it as their goal to have the majority of their nursing students pass the NCLEX on the first attempt.

How the NCLEX is scored

Students who receive a BSN in the USA have the highest pass rate on the NCLEX.  85% of nursing students earning a Bachelor degree in the US pass the NCLEX on the first attempt.  Nursing students trained internationally have a much lower, first time pass rate of 30%.  Because it is required that you pass this exam to become a certified nurse, you will want to consider where you get your formal nursing education.

You can be sure that your score is accurate because it is scored two times, once at the Pearson testing center and once by an actual person at Pearson.  Your results are sent to your state’s board of nursing, which then sends those results to you. If you are anxious to get your score, you can access an unofficial report after 48 hours on Pearson’s website.  If you fail to achieve a passing score on the first try, you may retake the NCLEX after a 45-90 day waiting period. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.