What You Need to Know About the NCLEX Exam

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After all your hard work to earn a nursing degree, it’s time to make your title of registered nurse official by passing the NCLEX — National Council Licensure Exam — and getting licensed in your state. This is what you need to know to prepare for and take the test:

  1. Before you can even take the test, you need to apply for licensure/registration to the board of nursing in your state, and register and pay the NCLEX fee with Pearson VUE. Once you have been approved for both, you can set a test date.
  1. You will have up to six hours to take the test, including two breaks.
  1. You will need to answer a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265. The scoring algorithm may be able to determine whether you’ve passed or failed at the 75 mark but you may be required to answer more questions before a pass/fail registers.
  1. You will receive your results about six weeks after you take the exam, and they will come from your state’s nursing board. Most states participate in the Quick Results Service, which allows you to access your unofficial results 48 hours after taking the test for an additional fee.
  1. Most questions are multiple choice, but about 10 percent are open-ended. Questions focus on general knowledge, analysis and application, and facts, processes and rules that require your critical thinking skills.
  1. The NCLEX exam will most likely be the hardest exam you ever take — and you can’t change your answers — so trust your instincts, take your time and focus very closely on the questions and answers. Here are some good strategies:
  • If it seems like multiple answers are right, it might be because they are. Choose the BEST one. Right off the bat, think, “Are they asking me an assessment? Or intervention?” Think about whether you need to DO something, or assess and find out more information.
  • Rule out “absolute answers.” These are answers that include words like “never” and “always” because they imply that there are no exceptions to the rules.
  • Remember your ABCs: airway, breathing, and circulation. If there is an answer with an option involving airway, chances are that’s your answer— airway is usually the most important factor. If there’s not, but there is one regarding breathing, or circulation, and they are relevant to the question, one of those will most likely be it. Typically, you can rule out your answer by going in order of A-B-C.
  • Watch out for distractors and extra details that make an answer sound right or are long-winded but really have nothing to do with the question being asked.
  • Pay close attention to questions that include negatives and at first glance could seem to ask the opposite of what they actually do. For example, “Which one of these medications is typically not given with Nitro?”
  • At this point in your education, you know the information. It’s just a matter of understanding how to apply it to the questions you’ll find on the NCLEX, so when you study — whether online or using practice books — it’s smart to focus on this particular style of questions and answers. 

For more information about the NCLEX exam, visit NCSBN.org.

If you want to work in healthcare and a career in nursing sounds exciting, contact Charter College today to learn about the Nursing Program offered at our Anchorage campus. Find out how we can help your prepare when it’s time for you to take the NCLEX exam.