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What you need to know about the NCLEX-RN Exam
The NCLEX-RN is given to determine a candidate’s ability to work as an entry-level nurse. It was most recently revamped in April 2023 and given the name Next Generation NCLEX (NGN). While similar to previous versions, the Next Generation NCLEX differs in a few important ways, including updated scoring, formatting, and a greater emphasis on clinical judgement.
NGN Test Format
Like previous versions of the exam, most of the Next Generation NCLEX test questions are in multiple-choice format. Additional alternative-style questions include the following:
- ordered response
- hot spots (you must “click” on a place on the screen to answer)
- drop-down (cloze, rationale, table)
- drag-and-drop (cloze and rationale)
- multiple-response (select all that apply, select a certain number, grouping)
- highlight (text and table)
- matrix (multiple-choice, response)
Twelve of these alternative-format questions will be used with case study questions, and two will be used as standalone questions. These updated question types hope to better capture a nursing candidate’s clinical judgement skills to make sure they have the critical thinking required to become a practicing nurse. They are based on the NCSBN Clinical Judgment Measurement Model (NCJMM) and include the following skills:
- recognizing patient cues
- analyzing patient cues
- developing and prioritizing a hypotheses
- generating solutions
- taking action
- evaluating patient outcomes
With the exception of case study questions, the NGN is 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 85 and the maximum is 150. 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.
NGN Test Categories
The categories and subcategories of Next Generation NCLEX test questions remain largely unchanged. 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 here:
Safe and Effective Care Environment
- Basic Care and Comfort
- Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
- Reduction of Risk Potential
- Physiological Adaptation
A tutorial will be available at the beginning of your test session to help you become familiar with the actual testing procedure. You can find more general information about this and other test guidelines in the NGN test plan.
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 in the United States is $200.00, which is non-refundable. Additional fees are charged for NCLEX-RN registration irregularities or changes in your licensing request.
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. If your name has changed since receiving your ATT, you must bring in a legal name-change document that proves the change, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree.
A small lockable storage space will be available for personal items. Any study materials and electronic devices must be stored in the locker throughout the testing period, including during breaks. You will not have access to any electronic devices or study notes that are stored, but you will be able to access personal items such as food, purses, medical aids, etc. during break.
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.
How is it scored?
The NCLEX-RN is adaptive, meaning questions will become progressively harder or easier depending on if your responses are correct or incorrect. Once the computer is 95% certain you are above or below the passing standard, the test will shut off.
On the Next Generation NCLEX the minimum amount of questions is 85 and the maximum is 150, with 15 questions being pretest questions that are not counted in the final score.
If a candidate receives the minimum 85 questions, the test breakdown would look like this:
- 52 questions based on the 8 content areas
- 18 questions based on 3 clinical judgement case studies
- 15 questions that are for research and not counted in scoring
Unlike previous versions of the NCLEX-RN, the Next Generation NCLEX allows for partial credit on some questions. Scoring is done three ways:
+/- scoring: One point is given for correct answers and one point is deducted for incorrect answers. If the final score is negative, no credit will be given.
0/1 scoring: One point is given for correct answers, but there are no deductions given for incorrect responses.
all-or-nothing scoring: The question is either correct or incorrect.
Fill-in-the-blank, ordered response, hot spot, multiple choice and select all that apply questions will continue to be worth one point. More complicated multiple response questions, clinical judgement questions, and other alternative format questions may receive partial credit. You will not be alerted to how many points are available per question when you are taking the exam.
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 a six-step process and involves meeting a number of requirements for eligibility. Before you take the exam, you must:
Apply for your license
Register with the test provider, Pearson-Vue
Pay your testing fees
Receive your Authorization to Test (ATT) email. This will be delivered to the email you used at registration.
Select a testing center near you
Schedule your exam
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 $81,220, 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?
You may not schedule your NCLEX-RN exam until you’ve received an Authorization to Test (ATT) from the Nursing Regulatory Body (NRB) in your state. Once you have received your ATT it is important that you schedule an exam date right away, as an ATT typically expires within 90 days.
The NCLEX-RN is administered at Pearson VUE testing centers and at international locations. Those taking the exam for the first time will typically be offered a test date within 30 days, while those who have previously attempted the exam will need to wait 45 days. There is an additional scheduling fee for international testing. It is recommended that test sessions be scheduled online, but you may also schedule your appointment over the phone.
How much time is allowed?
Total testing time allowed is 5 hours, which includes all breaks and the tutorial and sample questions at the beginning. All breaks are optional.
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