NCLEX Examination Prep

You've studied hard, finished most of your clinical experience and now you're ready for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX examination), often referred to as the "State Boards." The State Boards exam is the culmination of all the hard work you completed in nursing school. The purpose of the exam is to test and ensure the knowledge, skills and abilities for safe, competent practice in the field of nursing.

NCLEX Exam Prep

Who needs to take the NCLEX examination?

All nursing school graduates are required to take the NCLEX examination in order to practice as an entry-level licensed RN or LPN in the United States. The registration process begins near the end of your final year in nursing school. At that time you will receive an application to take the NCLEX examination. It must be filled out and returned to the Board of Nursing in the state in which you expect to practice as a nurse.

Preparing for the NCLEX Examination

If you've graduated from nursing school, you possess all of the knowledge you need in order to pass the NCLEX examination. It's easier than you think; all you have to do is review the material you haven't seen in a while. The trick to passing is starting the review process immediately following your final exams when the information is fresh in your mind. Learn all you can about the test particulars and ways to assure a passing score on the Exam Details tab.  You can also read up on NurseZone's "NCLEX Test-taking Tips."

Getting test results

You will be notified of your NCLEX examination results by mail within two to four weeks, depending on the distribution procedures for the state in which you applied. If you are successful, expect to receive a sheet of paper notifying you of your passing score. If you did not pass the exam, expect to receive a diagnostic profile that describes overall performance in each section of the exam. Keep in mind that you must wait three months before applying to retake the NCLEX examination. If you want faster results, you can use the NCLEX Quick Results service. Results are available by phone three days after taking the NCLEX examination. Call (900) 328-8378 and follow the prompts. There is an extra charge for this service.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing operates the NCLEX examination Quick Results service. This service is currently available in 38 states: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia-PN, Georgia-RN, Illinois, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas (VN only), Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia (PN only), Wisconsin and Wyoming.

If you did not take the test in one of these states, you cannot get your unofficial results using the Quick Results service. If you have questions about this service, call the National Council of State Boards of Nursing at (866) 293-9600.

NCLEX Exam Prep Details

Practice Makes Perfect

If you're going to do well on the NCLEX examination, you need to have a strong understanding of each area of the exam. The first step is to assess your strengths and weaknesses by taking a practice NCLEX examination. Next, you will need to design a reasonable study schedule that you will stick with. As your exam date approaches, you should be able to sit down and take a practice exam (within the time allowed) and pass with an acceptable score. If you are able to do this at home, chances are you will be able to do the same on exam day.

NCLEX Examination Prep Resources

There are many study resources-review books, CD-ROMs, exam courses-to help you prepare for the NCLEX examination. Below are just a few resources to get you started. (NCLEX Examination Prep Resources link)

NSNA NCLEX Excel 
The NSNA NCLEX examination Excel is the official NCLEX examination course and study program endorsed by the National Student Nurses Association. It is the only accredited university-based NCLEX examination program that offers courses nationally.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing
The primary responsibility of the Testing Services Department of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing is the development and support of the NCLEX examinations.

Test Details
Testing by Computer

The NCLEX examination, like many standardized tests today, is administered by computer. The only skills you need to possess are basic knowledge of a keyboard and competency using a mouse. The mouse will be used to select answers and move you through the exam. The computer screen displays one question at a time along with four possible answers to choose the correct answer from.

Test Content

The NCLEX examination is organized into four areas of client needs: Safe Effective Care Environment; Health Promotion and Maintenance; Psychosocial Integrity and Physiological Integrity. Each of these categories is further subdivided and presented in a multiple-choice format with four possible answers for each question.

There are a minimum of 75 questions (15 of which are trial questions and will not count toward your score) and a maximum of 265 questions. When the computer has determined whether you have passed or failed, the screen will go blank. At that time, you will not know if you have passed or failed, just that you have completed the test. The results from the testing centers are wired directly to the State Boards of Nursing. Within one to three weeks of taking the exam, the Board will send your results to you by mail.

Test Days

The candidate is given a maximum of five hours, giving most students plenty of time to complete the test. This includes 10 minute breaks that are required after two hours of testing, and another optional 10 minute break after an additional one and one-half hours of testing.

Exam: When and Where

The NCLEX examination is available year-round in all the 50 states as well as in the United States territories. Most test centers are open six days a week, 15 hours a day and schedule five-hour test-taking time slots. It is important to know that you may take the exam in one state and have the results forwarded to the state where you will work. Doing it this way will not only cut back on the paperwork, it will enable you to get hired sooner.