what is nclex rn exam

What Is NCLEX RN Exam: Everything You Need to Know 2024

NCLEX-RN exam is an entry-level examination for people seeking to become Registered Nurses because it requires nurses’ skills. So, what is the NCLEX RN exam?

Updated at May 15, 2022

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN test) has only one purpose: to assess if you are qualified to work as an entry-level nurse. It is very different from any test you had in nursing school. While nursing school examinations are information-based, the NCLEX-RN assesses the application and analysis of nursing knowledge. You will be tested on your ability to employ critical thinking abilities to make nursing decisions. To get all information about this exam, let’s continue to read the article about what is NCLEX RN Exam.

Let’s get started with our free NCLEX RN practice test to pass the actual exam on your first attempt.

What exactly is the NCLEX?

NCLEX, which stands for National Council Licensure Examination, refers to one of the two standardized examinations that nurses must pass in order to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN) (RN).

Nursing candidates must obtain an accredited nursing degree and pass either the NCLEX-RN (for RNs) or the NCLEX-PN (for PNs) to become licensed (for LPNs). This phase is critical because it allows states to independently verify their nursing knowledge and assess their competence to practice safely as a nurse. Consider this: would you want to be treated by a nurse who hasn’t demonstrated that they’ve reached these standards? Most likely not!

Difference Between The NCLEX-RN And The NCLEX-PN

what is nclex rn exam

The NCLEX-RN is the test to become a licensed Registered Nurse, whereas the NCLEX-PN is the test to become a Licensed Practical Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse. While both nurses will operate in comparable environments, their scope of practice will differ. One distinction is that RNs will assess patients and circumstances, whereas LPNs will gather data. For further information, please refer to each Nursing Regulatory Body in the state of licensing for The Nurse Practice Act, which specifies the laws and related guidelines.

What Is NCLEX RN Exam?

What is the NCLEX-RN exam? The NCLEX-RN, or National Council Licensure Examination [for] Registered Nurses (RN), is a computer adaptive exam that nursing graduates must pass in order to be certified as a Registered Nurse in the United States and Canada. In other words, everyone interested in becoming a Registered Nurse in the United States or Canada must pass the NCLEX-RN.

Eligibility and Licensing The specific State Board of Nursing where the candidate will practice determines the requirements.

The NCLEX-RN exams are given in a computer-adaptive format. As a result, the length format may vary depending on the abilities of the candidate. Client Need Categories (Subjects) distributions of the individual exam may fluctuate by up to 3% due to probable differences in exam durations. To know what is the NCLEX RN exam, you must know the subjects and questions include in this exam. Questions on the NCLEX-RN are grouped into four key Client Needs Categories. Consider the following:

The NLCEX-RN test has between 75 and 265 questions. The exam will continue until the test taker has proven proficiency as an RN. In simply, the more correct answers you receive, the faster you’ll finish the exam.

If you don’t do well at the start of the exam, it will take longer to offer you more chances to answer questions properly. However, if you successfully answer more questions at the start of the exam, your test will take less time and you will need to answer fewer questions.

Safe And Effective Care Environment

Safe and Effective Care Environment is the first Client Needs Category, and it covers two concepts:

Management of Care accounts for 17-23 percent of NCLEX-RN test questions. Advanced Directives, Advocacy, Case Management, Client Rights, Concepts of Management, Confidentiality, Continuity of Care, Quality Improvement, Delegation, Establishing Priorities, Ethical Practice, Informed Consent, Legal Responsibilities, Referrals, and Supervision are some of the nursing actions included in this subcategory.

9-15 percent of test questions are about Safety and Infection Control. Accident prevention, error prevention, hazardous materials, surgical asepsis, standard precautions, and restraint use are all nursing acts.

Health Promotion And Maintenance

Health Promotion and Maintenance is the second Client Needs Category. These questions make up about 6 to 12 percent of the exam. The Aging Process, Ante/Intra/Postpartum and Newborn Care, Developmental Stages and Transitions, Disease Prevention, Health Screening, Lifestyle Choices, Physical Assessment Techniques, Health Promotion Programs, High-Risk Behaviors, and Self-Care were all tested nursing activities.

Psychosocial Integrity

Psychosocial Integrity is the third Client Needs Category. Coping Mechanisms, Grief and Loss, Mental Health Concepts, Spiritual Influence on Health, Sensory/Perceptual Alterations, Stress Management, Support Systems, Therapeutic Communication, Chemical Dependency, Behavioral Interventions, Crisis Intervention, Coping Mechanisms, End of Life Care, and Family Dynamics are among the tested nursing actions.

Physiological Integrity

Physiological Integrity is the last Client Needs Category. It has four concepts:

Basic Care and Comfort account for 6-12 percent of NCLEX-RN test questions. This section includes nursing actions such as Assistive Devices, Elimination, Mobility, Nonpharmacological Comfort Interventions, Nutrition, and Oral Hydration, Personal Hygiene, and Rest and Sleep.

Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies make up 12-18% of the test. Adverse Effects, Contraindications, Blood and Blood Products, Central Venous Access Devices, Chemotherapy, Expected Effects, Intravenous Therapy, Medication Administration, Pharmacological Pain Management, Total Parenteral Nutrition, and Dosage Calculation are all tested nursing actions.

Reduction of Risk Potential contributes to 9-15 percent of the test. Diagnostic tests, laboratory values, the potential for complications from surgical procedures and health changes, as well as therapeutic procedures, are among the tested nursing acts.

Physiological Adaptation makes up 11-17% of the test. Its clinically proven nursing activities include Body System Alterations, Fluid and Electrolyte Imbalances, Hemodynamics, Medical Emergencies, Pathophysiology, and Unexpected Response to Therapies.

NCLEX RN Test Format

what is nclex rn exam

To know what is NCLEX RN examination, let us give you the information about the NCLEX RN Test Format.


The NCLEX-RN test is structured on the framework “Meeting Client Needs.” There are four primary groups and eight subgroups. Many nursing programs follow the medical paradigm, with students taking distinct coursework in medicine, surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry, and obstetrics. On the NCLEX-RN test, however, all of the information is incorporated.

Types of Questions

Questions are mostly multiple-choice with four potential answers; however, there are some other forms of questions as well. Multiple-response, fill-in-the-blank, hot spots, chart/exhibit, and drag-and-drop questions are examples of alternative question kinds. All of the questions have integrated nursing information.

How to Take The NCLEX-RN Test

CAT stands for “computer adaptive test,” a type of assessment that is interactively depending on your responses to questions. The CAT guarantees that the questions are not “too hard” or “too easy” for you based on your ability level.

Your first question will be quite simple—below the required level of ability. If you properly answer it, the machine chooses a little more challenging question. If a question is improperly answered, the machine picks a somewhat easier question.

The computer can estimate your degree of proficiency by doing this throughout the exam.

Ways to Register for The NCLEX-RN Exam

Your nursing school will send you two applications around 6 weeks before graduation: one for licensure and one for the NCLEX-RN Exam.

You will be needed to submit the completed documents and licensure payments to your nursing school on a specific date. You will be able to plan your test day and time once you have received an ATT (permission to test). Year-round testing is provided in 6-hour time periods, 15 hours a day, six days a week.

Application for The NCLEX-RN Test

The initial step is to apply to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). You must follow the processes outlined by the various State Boards of Nursing. Some states have merged registration for the NCLEX-RN test with licensing applications. In all other states, you must apply for licensure via the State Board of Nursing in the state where you want to practice. After you apply, you will get a Candidate Bulletin with instructions on how to register for the NCLEX-RN test.

Licensure Fees of NCLEX-RN Test

The NCLEX-RN® test costs $200 to take. Individual State Boards of Nursing establish additional licensure costs. Send the National Council of State Boards of Nursing your completed test application and money. Call 1-866-496-2539 in the United States (1-952-681-3815 outside the United States) between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Eastern), Monday through Friday. Phone registrants must pay with a VISA or Master Card. The service price for phone registration is $9.50. You may also send a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing if you like.

You will get a postcard confirming receipt of your registration. You will not be able to plan a test appointment unless your State Board of Nursing certifies you eligible and sends you an Authorization to Test (ATT).

Frequently Asked Questions About What Is NCLEX RN Test

what is nclex rn exam

How many questions do you have on the test?

Everyone answers a minimum of 75 questions to a maximum of 265 questions. Regardless of how many you answer, you will be given 15 experimental questions that do not count for or against you. The exam administrators use them to test for future questions on the exam.

How much time will you have to take the test?

Each individual question has no time restriction. You’ll have up to 6 hours to finish the test, which includes a tutorial at the start. There are no required breaks. There is, however, an optional break after 2 hours of testing and another after 3.5 hours of testing.

When to know that the exam ends?

Your exam will terminate when one of the following events occurs:

  • You have shown the bare minimum of proficiency and answered the bare minimum of questions (75).
  • You have shown a lack of minimal proficiency and answered the bare minimum of questions (75).
  • You have completed all of the questions (265).
  • You have used all of the available time (6 hours).

HELPFUL TIP: Avoid focusing on the length of your exam. You should only expect to test for 6 hours and answer 265 questions. And, if you have a lengthy exam, keep in mind that you are still in the game as long as the computer keeps asking you questions, so focus on answering them all to the best of your abilities.

What if you fail the test?

First, don’t give up. You are not alone yourself. Many students fail the NCLEX-RN® test on their first try. Failing the test implies you did not answer questions correctly at or above the degree of difficulty required to pass. You were unable to demonstrate your competence to deliver safe and effective treatment on this exam.

If you fail, you will be given a diagnostic profile that examines your performance on the test. Take your time reading it. You’ll be able to check how many questions you answered correctly on the exam. The more questions you answered correctly, the closer you were to pass the test.

Only if you answer questions near to the degree of difficulty required to pass will you continue to get questions beyond the first 75. Determine your issue areas with the diagnostic profile. You can then prioritize your preparedness.

Should you retake the test?

Absolutely. Retaking the NCLEX-RN® exam is possible 45 days after the original administration (unless you live in Georgia or Guam—contact SBON for further information).

If this is your first time preparing on your own, you may want to select a formal preparation option to help you focus your study time more successfully.

Whatever strategy you pick, remember to utilize the diagnostic profile to guide your preparation.


The National Council Licensure Examination, generally known as the NCLEX, is a national exam that all nursing students in the United States must pass in order to become a licensed registered nurses. The “Big One” has arrived. The test decides whether or not you are a registered nurse. But don’t worry; your chosen nursing school will prepare you to pass this nursing exam from the start. Our article about what is NCLEX RN exam may help you to provide plenty of information about the NCLEX RN test. So, good luck on your journey