Registered Nurses and the NCLEX Exam

If you are looking into a career as a registered nurse, there are a few things you need to know. First, there are different types of nurses and nursing jobs. Second, in order to become a nurse, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), to become a licensed nurse, who can practice nursing in the United States.

A registered nurse; for example, is that who has graduated from a nursing program and has passed a national licensing exam to obtain a nursing license. In order to get the nursing license, these candidates must take the NCLEX-RN examination.

The NCLEX-RN examination is designed specifically for candidates who wish to become registered nurses. This exam will determine whether or not a candidate is ready to go out there and practice nursing as an entry-level nurse. This test is an application and analysis test, in which you use your nursing knowledge to make critical nursing judgments.

According to the NCSBN, this test is organized in four major Client Needs categories:

  • Safe and Effective Care Environment – This category covers safety issues in patient care, to prevent further injuries and infection, safety for pediatric and psychiatric patients, and others.
    • Coordinated Care (16-22% of items)
    • Safety and Infection Control (10-16% of items)
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance (7-13% of items)- Questions in this category deal with pregnancy, labor and delivery; newborn infants; sexually transmitted infections, and many others.
  • Psychosocial Integrity (8-14% of items) – This category deals with patients with psychiatric problems and their issues.
  • Physiological Integrity – In this category you will get questions regarding adult medical and surgical care, pediatric and gerontology.
    • Basic Care and Comfort (7-13% of items)
    • Pharmacological Therapies (11-17% of items)
    • Reduction of Risk Potential (10-16% of items)
    • Physiological Adaptation (7-13% of items)

Exam candidates need to consider that many schools have their nursing programs teach medical, surgical, pediatric, psychiatric, and obstetric in separate classes. In the exam; however, all content will be integrated.

The NCLEX-RN exam includes 265 questions, of which you will only have to answer 75. Once you answer 75 questions, the computer will calculate your score. If you demonstrate competency with the minimum of 75 questions answered, you pass your test. If you don’t answer enough questions correctly to prove competency, the test will continue until you choose to stop, reach your limit of questions, or use all the time allowed. Once you finish the test, the computer will calculate your scores again, and will determine whether you pass or fail.

You have a maximum of six hours to complete the exam. There are no mandatory breaks, but you are allowed to take a break after 2.5 hours of testing, and another one after 3.5 hours. Many testing review companies, and the NCBSN, will advise you not to think about the length of the test, as you have six hours to answer 265 questions, and are able to pass your test answering less than that.

Remember, as long as the computer continues on giving you questions to answer, there is still a good chance to still do good on your exam. Concentrate on answering every question given. Even though it is a pass or fail exam, you can retake it as many times as you want.

Once you take your exam, if your board of nursing participates in the Quick Results Service, you could get your unofficial results 48 business hours after you take the exam. Six weeks after you take the exam, you will receive the official results through your board of nursing and through the mail.


As for any test you would be taking, it is advice for the candidate to rest and sleep well the night before, to dress comfortably and arrive at least 30 minutes before your test is scheduled.

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