All the grueling hours spent studying treatments, medication dosages and patient care culminate in one test that will grant you the license you need to land a job at a hospital, clinic or care facility. 

The NCLEX exam.

The NCLEX grills you on everything you’ve learned and more, then makes you employ your critical thinking skills to apply this knowledge in various scenarios. But once you pass it, you’ll be a certified nurse ready to work in any modern healthcare environment.

We’re going to give you everything you need to register for the NCLEX and some inside info on what to expect on the exam.

Registering For The NCLEX

Before you can take NCLEX you need to have completed an accredited LPN certificate program or have at a minimum an associate’s degree in nursing (a bachelor’s degree is preferred). But you can still start the application process while you’re still in nursing school. 

Here’s the steps you’ll need to take to register:

  1. Submit your registration to your state’s Nursing Regulatory Body. Contact them to check requirements and your eligibility to take the NCLEX.
  2. Register for the NCLEX with Pearson VUE either online or via telephone.
  3. Pay the $200 registration fee.
  4. Receive eligibility from your Nursing Regulatory Body.
  5. Receive your Acknowledgement of Receipt of Registration and Authorization to Test (ATT) from Pearson VUE.
  6. Schedule your exam.

When your application is accepted, you’ll receive a Candidate Bulletin which gives you the details on how to register for your NCLEX exam.

Once your eligibility has been verified, you can schedule a test time. You’ll receive an Authorization To Test (ATT) via email containing your candidate number, validity dates (usually a 90-day window) and a list of local testing centers.

NCLEX exams are given throughout the year, 6 days a week, 15 hours a day in 6 hour blocks by Pearson VUE at one of their many locations across the country. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, you’ll need to make sure that there is an available test in your area. See more information by clicking this link.

What Material Does The NCLEX Cover?

Both tests for RNs and LVNs/LPNs largely cover the same material, the only difference being the NCLEX-RN focuses more on management of care and supervision of other nurses whereas the NCLEX-PN is tailored to supporting RNs and working under direction.

Aside from these two differences, both will test your knowledge in 4 main categories with sub-categories. Beside each we’ve listed the question distribution in each category for both tests.


Safe And Effective Care Environment

  • Management of Care (17 – 23%)
  • Safety And Infection Control (9 – 15%)

Health Promotion And Maintenance (6 – 12%)

Psychosocial Integrity (6 – 12%)

Physiological Integrity

  • Basic Care And Comfort (6 – 12%)
  • Pharmacological And Parenteral Therapies (12 – 18%)
  • Reduction Of Risk Potential (9 – 15%)
  • Physiological Adaptation (11 – 17%)

**source: NCSBN


Safe And Effective Care Environment

  • Coordinated Care (18 – 24%)
  • Safety And Infection Control (10 – 16%)

Health Promotion And Maintenance (6 – 12%)

Psychosocial Integrity (9 – 15%)

Physiological Integrity

  • Basic Care And Comfort (7 – 13%)
  • Pharmacological And Parenteral Therapies (10 – 16%)
  • Reduction Of Risk Potential (9 – 15%)
  • Physiological Adaptation (7 – 13%)

**source: NCSBN

The NCLEX Test Format

The NCLEX exam is a computer adaptive test (CAT), meaning the next question you get will depend on how you answered the previous question. If you answer incorrectly, the next question will be easier; answer correctly and the next question is more difficult. This is to judge your ability level.

Depending on how you do, you can expect to answer from 75 to 265 questions, with a majority of them (about 90%) being multiple choice. Other question formats include:

  • Drag and drop
  • Fill-in-the-blank
  • Multiple response
  • Steps in a sequence
  • Identifying the correct body part
  • Answering questions about a chart, graph or audio/video clip
  • Mathematical questions involving medication calculations

The questions have three levels of difficulty.

Level 1 – Includes basic knowledge of facts and information and your ability to recall them. Only about 10% of the questions will be this type.

Level 2 – For the next level, you’ll have to take the knowledge of specific information and apply it to interpret and analyze the question to choose the correct answer.

Level 3 – These are the most difficult and will require you to evaluate and integrate the information then apply the rules, facts and processes to arrive at a decision about what is best for the patient’s care based on the specific situation.

To complete the test, RNs will have 6 hours and LPNs/LVNs will have 5 hours.

Exam Scoring

The pass rate for the NCLEX is a very optimistic average of about 88%. 

Your results are scored using logits which measure your estimated ability against the difficulty of questions you answered.

The first standard evaluates your score using the 95% Confidence Interval Rule, meaning the computer calculates whether or not your ability with a 95% certainty is above or below the passing average. You will continue to answer questions until this has been determined.

If you have to answer the maximum number of questions, then you pass/fail on the final estimate of your abilities even if the computer is at 95% confidence.

Most importantly, if you run out of time and haven’t answered the minimum number of questions, you automatically fail.

Getting Your NCLEX Results

You will receive the official results of your exam in about 6 weeks from your state’s regulatory board. However, if you want to see your results sooner, you can purchase the unofficial results from the Pearson VUE website after a few days, but you won’t be able to practice as a nurse until the official results come in.

Share This