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The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is the official exam required to become a licensed nurse in the United States. It is designed to determine whether a nurse has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to practice nursing safely and effectively. It is an important milestone for all nursing students; they need to understand the exam requirements and prepare for it. This guide provides an overview of the NCLEX, from the eligibility requirements to the exam format, as well as a list of resources and strategies for success.
Pass Rates on the NCLEX
According to the NCSBN, the national first-time pass rate for the NCLEX-RN exam was 85.6% in 2020. The pass rate for the NCLEX-PN exam was 84.2% in 2020.
In the first six months of 2021, the NCLEX pass rate for all RN candidates was 72.94 percent, with the greatest success rate for RNs with bachelor’s degrees. The pass rate for practical nurses on the NCLEX was 66.3 percent, with the highest pass rate of 79.33 percent for first-time examinees educated in the United States. Certain colleges tout high pass rates as a possible indicator of the program’s usefulness.
Application and Registration for the NCLEX
To sit for the NCLEX, you must file an application for licensure/registration with the state’s nursing regulatory body, register for the NCLEX, and pay the necessary price. To advance with the examination, NCLEX must obtain notification of eligibility from your state’s nursing regulatory body within 365 days. Registration for the NCLEX is available online or by phone.
Before attempting the NCLEX, certain requirements must be met. These include:
• An active, unrestricted RN license in the state or jurisdiction where the test-taker plans to practice.
• A completed application form, including a copy of your official transcripts, a valid photo ID, and the appropriate fees.
• A minimum of an Associate’s degree in nursing or a Bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited program.
• Completion of an approved nursing program. For more information on the eligibility requirements, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website.
Fees & Payments for the NCLEX
When you register for the NCLEX, you will additionally pay a registration fee of $200 for licensure in the United States, $360 CAD for licensure in Canada, or $200 for licensure in Australia.
There are additional fees for overseas scheduling, changing your nurse regulatory board after registration, changing your examination type (RN/PN) after registration, and changing your exam language after registration, in addition to the fees charged by your state’s nursing regulatory board.
Examining for the NCLEX
The NCLEX is administered at test sites located throughout the United States and overseas. After receiving authorization to test, you must arrange an appointment online or by phone with Pearson VUE (ATT).
The NCLEX is a computer-adaptive test (CAT) that adapts the difficulty of the questions based on the test taker’s responses. The exam consists of four sections:
• Safe and Effective Care Environment (25% of the exam)
• Health Promotion and Maintenance (17% of the exam)
• Psychosocial Integrity (13% of the exam)
• Physiological Integrity (45% of the exam)
The NCLEX-RN examination consists of 75 to 265 items. Fifteen of these are ungraded pretest items. The NCLEX-RN requires a total of six hours to complete, which includes the instruction, sample items, and optional breaks.
The NCLEX-PN consists of questions (PDF, 590KB) on the following topics:
- Adaptation on a Physiological Level
- Care Coordination
- Security and Infection Prevention
- Promotion and Maintenance of Health
- Integrity on a psychosocial level
- Basic Comfort and Care
- Pharmaceutical Treatments
- Potential for Risk Mitigation
Candidates for the NCLEX-PN must correctly answer a minimum of 85 out of 205 questions during the given five hours. The duration of the instruction, sample questions, and any breaks is included in the time.
How to Prepare for the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination)
Various resources and strategies are available to help nursing students prepare for the NCLEX. It is important to understand the exam format, the content areas tested, and the strategies for success.
• Study Guides: A variety of study guides are available that provide an overview of the exam content, as well as tips and strategies for success.
• Practice Tests: Taking practice tests is a great way to familiarize yourself with the exam format and practice test-taking strategies. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) offers NCLEX practice exams (NPEs) for both the Registered Nurse (RN) and Practical Nurse (PN) examinations.
• Online Resources: A variety of online resources are available, such as NCLEX review courses and practice questions.
• Review Books: Many review books are available that provide an overview of the exam content, as well as practice questions and test-taking tips.
• NCLEX Tutoring: Private tutoring is available to help prepare for the NCLEX. For more information on preparing for the NCLEX, visit the NCSBN website
The NCLEX is an important milestone for all nursing students, and it is essential for them to understand the exam requirements and prepare for it. With the right preparation, nursing students can increase their chances of success on the NCLEX. This guide provides an overview of the NCLEX, from the eligibility requirements to the exam format, as well as a list of resources and strategies for success. It is important to understand the exam format, the content areas tested, and the strategies for success. For more information on the NCLEX, visit the NCSBN website.
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). (n.d.). NCLEX Examination. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/nclex.htm
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). (n.d.). Eligibility for Examination. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/index.htm
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). (n.d.). NCLEX Examination Test Plan. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/NCLEX_RN_Test_Plan.pdf
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). (n.d.). NCLEX PN Test Plan. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/NCLEX_PN_Test_Plan.pdf
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). (2021). NCLEX Examination Results 2020. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/NCLEX_2020_Report.pdf
This page’s information on NCLEX fees, questions, and other topics was last obtained in September 2021. Please go to the NCLEX website for the most up-to-date information.