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NCLEX® Exam Guidance

Taking the NCLEX-RN Exam

We know that taking an exam is stressful, so we are here to ensure that you are as prepared as possible for test day. Here is some guidance about the NCLEX Exam and the need-to-know information! 

What do you have to know?

Questions on the NCLEX-RN exam are primarily multiple-choice with four possible answer choices. However there are alternate question types including:

  • multiple-response
  • fill-in-the-blank
  • hot spots
  • chart/exhibit
  • drag-and-drop

Any necessary background information will appear with the question. Some questions will appear without background information.

All of the questions you will face on the exam entail the use of integrated nursing content. You will be expected to integrate medical, surgical, pediatric, psychiatric and obstetric nursing content learnt as separate entities during your nursing program.

NCLEX-RN sample question:

A 23-year-old woman with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) is returned to the recovery room one hour after an uneventful delivery of a 9 lb., 8 oz., baby boy. The nurse would expect the woman's blood sugar to

  1. rise
  2. fall
  3. remain stationary
  4. fluctuate

Is this an obstetrical question or a medical/surgical question? In order to select the correct answer, (2), you must consider the pathophysiology of diabetes along with the principles of labor and delivery. This is an example of an integrated question.

Answering the questions

Individual questions DO NOT have a time limit. You will have a total of 6 hours to complete the exam, including a tutorial in the beginning, but no mandatory breaks. There is an optional break after 2½ hours of testing, and another optional break after 3½ hours of testing.

You will answer 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.

Your exam will end when one of the following occurs:

  1. You have demonstrated minimum competency and answered the minimum number of questions (75).
  2. You have demonstrated a lack of minimum competency and answered the minimum number of questions (75).
  3. You have answered the maximum number of questions (265).
  4. You have used the maximum time allowed (6 hours).

Do not focus on the length of your exam. Instead, walk into the exam planning on testing for six hours and completing 265 questions.

Your results

Once you have taken your NCLEX-RN exam you will receive a pass/fail. You will not receive a numerical result.

2-4 weeks after you have taken the exam you will be notified by your individual state board of nursing of your result.

What if I fail?

Don’t despair if you fail, you are not alone. Many students do not pass the NCLEX-RN® exam on their first attempt.

If you fail, you will receive a diagnostic profile that evaluates your test performance.

Read it carefully. In it, you will be told how many questions you answered on the exam. The more questions you answered, the closer you came to passing. The only way you will continue to get questions after you answer the first 75 is if you are answering questions close to the level of difficulty need to pass. Use the diagnostic profile to determine your problem areas. You can then focus your preparation accordingly.

Should I test again?

Absolutely! You will be permitted to re-test for the NCLEX-RN® exam 45 days after the initial administration. If you prepared on your own for the first time you took the exam, you may want to consider a preparation option to help you focus your study time more effectively.

Regardless of the method you choose, don't forget to use the diagnostic profile to guide your preparation.

Free NCLEX Quizzes

  • NCLEX Safe and Effective Care Environment Quiz
  • NCLEX Health Promotion & Maintenance Quiz

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