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Exam information

What you need to know about the NCLEX-RN Exam

Note: The currently-administered version of the NCLEX-RN® test is dated 2019, the year some minor revisions were made. To be appropriately prepared, be sure you are using up-to-date materials when you study for this test. The 2016 version was discontinued in April 2019 and the 2019 version is currently the only one being given. There are not major content differences between the two tests, but there are a few added items that the new test will cover. All Union Test Prep materials have been revised to meet the standards of the new 2019 test.

The NCLEX-RN® is given to determine a candidate’s ability to work as an entry-level nurse. It is a computer-adaptive test (CAT), which means each person’s testing experience is different. The computer administers each question based on your performance on previous questions. Your questions will be appropriately challenging and at a level that the computer determines you have a 50% chance of answering correctly.

You will continue to receive questions until the computer establishes that you have a 95% chance of achieving a passing score on the test, or until the time limit or the maximum number of questions is reached. The minimum number of questions is 75 and the maximum is 265. Of the items you are given, 15 of them are experimental questions that do not count toward the final score, but you will not know which ones these are.

Most of the test items are multiple-choice type, but there may be some other types, such as:

  • multiple-choice with more than one answer
  • fill-in-the-blank calculation
  • ordered response
  • hot spots (you must “click” on a place on the screen to answer)

These are the categories and subcategories of NCLEX-RN® test questions. To ensure adequate coverage of the broad first and last categories on this list, we provide preparation materials for each of the subcategories listed under them. Our study sections are the topics shown in italics, here:

Safe and Effective Care Environment

  • Management of Care
  • Safety and Infection Control

Health Promotion and Maintenance

Psychosocial Integrity

Physiological Integrity

  • Basic Care and Comfort
  • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
  • Reduction of Risk Potential
  • Physiological Adaptation

A tutorial will be available at the beginning of the test session to help you become familiar with the actual testing procedure. You can find more general information about this test in this candidate bulletin.

In July 2017, a special “research section” was added to this test. It is administered after the test is complete and your answers do not count toward your score. They will be used to help nursing boards direct the future of nurse testing and the nursing profession.

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Exam facts

Answers to all your questions about the NCLEX-RN Exam

Table of Contents

What are the costs?

The basic fee for taking the NCLEX-RN® is $200.00, which is non-refundable. Additional fees may be charged for NCLEX-RN® registration irregularities or changes and your licensing by the nursing board. You can find more information about these topics here.

What should I bring?

To sit for the NCLEX -RN®, you must present a government-issued, non-expired photo ID that has your name in Roman letters and also has your signature. The name on the ID must exactly match the name you used to register.

A small lockable storage space will be available for personal items. Any study materials and electronic devices must be stored there throughout the testing period, including during breaks. You will not have access to any electronic devices that are stored.

During the test, you will have access to an on-screen calculator and you may request both earplugs and a “scratch” board with writing instrument.

For complete regulations about non-allowable items, see pages 8 and 9 of this resource.

How is it scored?

Scoring will be done by the computer as you complete the questions. It will determine if you receive a passing score or not. It will not be possible to achieve a passing score if you run out of either time or available questions (265 questions available), so you should work carefully on each question but not waste time on any of them. There is more information about computer-assisted testing (CAT) at this location.

What kind of job can I get?

The overall goal of the nursing profession is care of clients, meeting their needs, and enabling them to achieve the best possible state of health. In doing this, a nurse has many duties, such as promoting client safety, providing wellness education, using medical technology, preventing illness, and providing dignity in dying. Nurses may work in a wide variety of settings—hospitals, clinics, private offices, corporations, military bases, schools, and many more. Nursing is considered both an art and a science. One must have knowledge and skills, but must also be able to apply those in a way that is most effective for the client.

Am I eligible?

Registration for the NCLEX-RN ® is an eight-step process and involves meeting a number of requirements for eligibility. Details about the procedure can be found here.

Why does it matter?

Your score on the NCLEX-RN ® is one element the nursing board will use to determine your licensure as a registered nurse. It will take a passing score to qualify for your nursing license, which is the first step in securing the job for which you have just spent much time and money training. In spite of all of your previous efforts, solid preparation for the test is vital if you are to do your absolute best and get a passing score.

What salary can I expect?

A registered nurse’s average annual pay for full-time work is currently about $71,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An entry-level nurse’s salary would be lower and nurses with advanced degrees, such as nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, would certainly earn more. Salaries only differ slightly with differences in job location—nurses for the government and in hospitals tend to earn a bit more and those in offices, home healthcare, and residential facilities slightly less.

When is it available?

The NCLEX-RN® is administered at Pearson VUE testing centers and at international locations. There is an additional scheduling fee for international testing. It is recommended that test sessions be scheduled online.

How much time is allowed?

Total testing time allowed is 6 hours, which includes all breaks and the tutorial and sample questions at the beginning. All breaks are optional.

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