How Many Questions Are on the NCLEX?


The Number of Questions on NCLEX Exams

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers two National Council Licensure Examinations (NCLEX) that are used to determine if individuals are qualified to become registered nurses (RNs) or practical nurses (PNs).

The NCLEX-RN can have a maximum of 265 questions, while the NCLEX-PN contains up to 205 questions. Not all individuals taking the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN exams will answer all possible questions, but there is a minimum number of test questions that all examinees must answer during their testing period. NCLEX-RN test-takers are required to answer at least 75 questions. A minimum of 85 questions must be completed by those taking the NCLEX-PN.

The number of questions a test-taker might have to answer varies because of the way the test is designed.

How the Computerized Testing System Works

The testing process is customized to each individual. When a test-taker answers a question, the computer program used for NCLEX tests will determine if she answered correctly or incorrectly. If she answered correctly, the next question the test-taker is asked will be a little bit harder. If she answered incorrectly, then she will be asked a question that's a little bit easier.

As a test-taker progresses through a test, the computer system evaluates her answers. Once she answers enough questions for the system to determine within 95% certainty that she has met or fallen short of the passing standard, the test will end. An individual who answers a high number of questions correctly early on, or who answers a high number of questions incorrectly, will have a shorter testing period than someone who is close to the passing standard and needs to answer more questions in order for the system to determine if she or he passes or fails.

NCLEX Test Content

The NCLEX tests determine if an individual is able to apply medical knowledge in practical situations when caring for patients. It is not enough that an individual has mastered medical definitions and knows the name of every bone in the human body; these tests determine if a person can use this knowledge to effectively do the types of tasks that nurses regularly perform.

NCLEX tests are comprised of 8 areas that test an individual's relevant knowledge and skills. The number of questions from each area may vary, depending on how successfully an individual answers other questions in that content area. These charts highlight the content areas and how much of the exam typically focuses on each one.

NCLEX-RN Content Areas % of Test NCLEX-PN Content Areas % of Test
Management of Care 17-23% Coordinated Care 18-24%
Safety and Infection Control 9-15% Safety and Infection Control 10-16%
Basic Care and Comfort 6-12% Basic Care and Comfort 7-13%
Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies 12-18% Pharmacological Therapies 10-16%
Reduction of Risk Potential 9-15% Reduction of Risk Potential 9-15%
Physiological Adaptation 11-17% Physiological Adaptation 7-13%
Health Promotion and Maintenance 6-12% Health Promotion and Maintenance 6-12%
Psychosocial Integrity 6-12% Psychosocial Integrity 9-15%

Time Allotted for Tests

Individuals taking the NCLEX-RN have up to 6 hours to complete their exam, while those taking the NCLEX-PN will receive up to 5 hours. These time allotments include instruction time prior to answering questions and the time given for any breaks during the testing period. It is possible to complete the test in as little as 2 hours; the amount of time needed will depend, in part, on how many questions individuals answer and whether they had a high success rate with their answers.

Since test-takers do not know how many questions they will need to answer to complete the test, they should budget their time on the assumption they will need to answer all questions. This will ensure that if they do need to complete the full number of possible questions, they do not run out of time.

NCLEX Test Resources

It is important to thoroughly review the right material before taking the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN test. Using study guides that are designed for these tests is one way to ensure that you're prepared for your exam. Before scheduling your NCLEX testing appointment, take advantage of the study materials linked to here.

The NCLEX is an exam for aspiring nurses looking to prove their skills and knowledge. Students must pass this standardized exam in order to receive their nursing license.

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