What Is the NCLEX-RN Exam?

To become a registered nurse in the United States, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). The NCLEX-RN is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Read on to learn what you must do to prepare for this test. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

NCLEX-RN Exam Overview

To work as a registered nurse in any state in the U.S, you are first required to gain licensure by passing the NCLEX-RN. The exam tests your knowledge and skills in various areas of nursing to establish your ability to provide safe and effective care to patients. Each state's board of nursing gives the test via a computer adaptive testing (CAT) format. CAT format is where the computer gives you questions based upon your perceived abilities in relation to how you answered previous questions.

There are 75-265 questions on the test, and questions are scored on a pass/fail basis. You get six hours for the test, including scheduled break times, an instructional period on how the test works and pretesting. The test is developed by the NCSBN and is based upon studies of entry-level nurses. The questions are written by licensed nursing professionals.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2018) $71,730
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15%
Professional Certification Optional in specific areas, such as gerontology, pediatrics and ambulatory care
Continuing Education Required for license and certification renewal

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Test Content

The NCLEX-RN covers all aspects of nursing care. You'll answer questions pertaining to:

  • Safety
  • Patient management
  • Infection control
  • Injury prevention
  • Safe equipment use
  • High risk behavior analysis
  • Disease prevention
  • Health screening
  • Patient care

Eligibility

The eligibility requirements to take the NCLEX-RN are set by your state's board of nursing. You must meet all state requirements before you can register to take the exam. Requirements can vary, but many states have the same basic standards. You can expect to be required to have a nursing degree from a state-approved program (generally either an Associate of Science in Nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing). You must also pass a criminal background check, complete a written application and pay an application fee.

Taking the Exam

When you show up at the testing center to take the NCLEX-RN, you'll need to bring a form of picture identification and your Authorization to Test (ATT) form. Acceptable identification includes a valid U.S. driver's license, passport or military identification.

If you don't pass the exam, you may retake it within 45 days. You can only take the exam once in a 45-day period and no more than eight times a year. These requirements are subject to approval by each state's board of nursing. Some states may limit retakes or have additional conditions for retaking the exam.

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