What are the NCLEX Exams?

Many professions require all graduated students to take an exam to get licensed in their profession. Nursing is not the exception. If you are planning on becoming a nurse, or are already studying to become one, you will have to take a series of exams to get the permission to practice nursing. What are the NCLEX Exams? Here you will learn all you need to know about the exams.



The CNLEX or National Council Licensure Examination is an examination made as part of the process for the licensing of nurses in the United States and Canada. If you want to be a practicing nurse, you must take one of the examinations offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. (NCSBN). These exams are designed to test your knowledge, skills and essential abilities needed for the safe and effective practice of nursing at entry level.

There are two types of exams; the NCLEX-RN and the NCLEX-PN. After graduating from your nursing program, you must take the corresponding exam to your nursing career plan.

The NCLEX-RN exam is required for those nursing graduates who are looking to become registered nurses. This exam is made to determine whether or not you are prepared to begin practicing as an entry level nurse. This exam will test how you apply and analyze the nursing knowledge you acquired in school. You will be tested on how you use critical thinking to make nursing judgments.

The NCLEX-PN; on the other hand, is offered to those who are looking to become vocational or practical nurses. This test is commonly known as “The Boards” or “State Boards” and is made to determine if you are prepared to begin practicing as a vocational or practical nurse.

NCLEX Eligibility and Registration

In order to take the exams, you must apply for the nursing license from your state board of nursing. The board will determine whether or not you meet the criteria to take the NCLEX examinations. Once you get the approval, you can register to take the exam.

As soon as you apply for the license and it is determined that you meet the criteria to take the exams, you will receive a NCLEX Examination Candidate Bulletin in the mail. This bulleting will include the Authorization to Take the Test (ATT), along with a list of possible centers to take the exam, and instructions for how to schedule an appointment to take the examination.

What is included in the exams?

According to the NCSBN, the NCLEX examinations cover the following client needs:

  1. Safe, Effective Care Environment: management of care; and safety and infection control.
  2. Psychosocial Integrity: coping and adaptation and psychological adaptation
  3. Health Promotion and Maintenance: growth and development through the life span; and prevention and early detection of disease.
  4. Physiological Integrity: basic care and comfort; pharmacological and parenteral therapies; reduction of risk potential; and physiological adaptation.

How to prepare for the exams

Many companies offer online teste preparation, there are many sample test books available for you to study from, and the NCSBN offers webinars and documents on how to plan for you to follow.

The examinations are multiple choice exams testing your level of competence. They are taken in the interactive system, Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT). RN candidates will have to answer a minimum of 75 questions. PN candidates; on the other hand, will answer a minimum of 85 questions. Once you answer the minimum questions, the computer will determine whether you pass or fail. If you fail, you will continue on answering questions until you reach your limit and a decision can be made. RN candidates have maximum of 265 questions to take, and PN candidates a maximum of 205 questions to answer.

If you fail the test, you can retake it as many times as you would like. The NCSBN does have a policy of waiting at least 91 days before retaking the test.




Sources: National Council of State Board of Nursing; allnursingschools.com, and Pearson Vue.

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