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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 145. 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 here:

Safe and Effective Care Environment

Health Promotion and Maintenance

Psychosocial Integrity

Physiological Integrity

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

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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. The minimum amount of questions 75 and the maximum is 145, with 15 questions being pretest questions that are not counted in the final score.

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:

  1. Apply for your license

  2. Register with the test provider, Pearson-Vue

  3. Pay your testing fees

  4. Receive your Authorization to Test (ATT) email. This will be delivered to the email you used at registration.

  5. Select a testing center near you

  6. 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 $77,600, 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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