What is the NCLEX?
The NCLEX exam, also known as the National Council Licensure Examination, is used by state boards of nursing to decide whether or not a candidate is ready to begin practicing as an entry-level nurse. This comprehensive exam touches on a number of nursing concepts, and is only open to students who have already completed an accredited nursing program. There are two variations of the NCLEX, one for registered nurses (RNs) and one for practical nurses (PNs), although the registration process and exam content of these two exams is extremely similar.
How to Register for the NCLEX
If you'd like to sit for the NCLEX, you must first complete the registration process. First, you'll need to apply for a nursing license from your state board of nursing. That board will review your application and, if you satisfy all requirements, will authorize you to register.
Once you've been authorized, expect to receive an NCLEX Examination Candidate Bulletin. This will arrive in the mail, and once you have this, you may register with Pearson VUE, the testing service. As soon as your eligibility is confirmed, you will receive an ATT, or Authorization to Test. The board also provides helpful information concerning the location of testing centers and instructions on how to make an appointment. You'll also need to pay the registration fee, which is $200.
What is the Test Format?
The NCLEX consists of four major categories, along with six subcategories. The majority of questions are multiple-choice, although other potential formats include fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, and chart/exhibit questions. Regardless of format, all questions will relate to nursing concepts and topics.
The number of questions varies depending on which version of the test you're taking. The RN test has a maximum of 265 questions and a minimum of 75, while the PN has a maximum of 205 and a minimum of 85. For both exams, you'll also be asked 15 experimental questions, which will not count towards your final score. These questions are used by administrators as they plan for future exams.
What is on the Test?
Both the PN and RN tests feature the same four content categories, which are detailed below:
- Safe and Effective Care Environment: This area tests a nurses's ability to create a welcoming and functional setting for patients. Topics of study can include accident prevention, ethics, client rights, and home safety.
- Health Promotion and Maintenance: In addition to curing illnesses, contemporary nursing practice focuses on the prevention of future health problems. This section will challenge students' knowledge of growth and development principles, with topics including the aging process, newborn care, lifestyle choices, and developmental stages.
- Psychosocial Integrity: The NCLEX also tests a student's knowledge of mental illness, and this category focuses on emotional, social, and mental factors (such as abuse, chemical dependencies, and stress) that can influence a patient's health.
- Physiological Integrity: Practicing nurses are expected to promote physical wellness by ensuring that patients remain calm and comfortable. Topics in this section include risk management, therapeutic procedures, and abnormal responses to therapy.
How Can I Prepare for the NCLEX?
Several institutions offer review materials for the exam, both free of charge and for a fee. Study guides review essential topics and re-introduce students to concepts that will be on the exam. Lectures, quizzes, and practice tests can all serve as useful materials. For example, these NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN review guides can help you prepare for the exams, and this nursing fundamentals course provides a review of basic nursing concepts.