3 Things You Might Not Know About the NCLEX-RN

Those attending nursing school to become registered nurses aren’t qualified to practice nursing the moment they graduate. Nursing graduates must pass a licensing exam called the NCLEX-RN before they can work as an RN.

2 min read

NCLEX stands for “National Council Licensure Examination.” It is a standardized test helps measure the competency of entry-level nurses. After you complete a nursing program, you are qualified to sit for the exam. Here are a few things you might not know about the NCLEX-RN:

1. The exam isn’t the same for each person.

You can (and should) talk to registered nurses about what their NCLEX-RN experience was like, but that won’t necessarily be indicative of what your experience will be like. The exam looks slightly different for everyone because it is computer adaptive, meaning it adjusts its questions based on the answers it receives. What stays the same for everyone is that you must complete a minimum of 75 questions and won’t complete more than 265 questions.

2. You won’t know exactly when the exam will end.

Since the NCLEX-RN is computer-adaptive, the exam ends when one of the following happens:

  • You have shown competency and answered at least 75 questions.
  • You have shown lack of competency and answered at least 75 questions.
  • You have answered 265 questions
  • You have been taking the exam for six hours.

It is best to plan to spend six hours taking the exam, so you don’t feel rushed. The six hours allotted includes breaks. Don’t spend your time trying to figure out why you’re still taking the exam when others aren’t or the worrying about why your exam ended before others. Instead, focus on the questions and do the best you can.

3. If you don’t pass, your nursing career isn’t over.

This is the hardest fact for most graduates to grasp. The exam is pass/fail, and you can expect get your results within two to four weeks of taking the exam. While many nursing school graduates know the joy of finding out they passed, many also know how it feels to receive a notice that they’ve failed.

If you fail, you can take the exam again 45 days after you first sat for it. You will even receive a diagnostic profile to help you determine what to study to prepare for your next attempt. Review the diagnostic profile carefully. Not passing the exam does not mean you are not prepared to be a nurse, just that you failed to demonstrate your ability during the exam. Research exam preparation to help you study for your next try.

If you’re ready to become a registered nurse, research programs that can prepare you to sit for the NCLEX-RN today.