What is the NCLEX?

by Howard Gerber on August 10, 2010

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Anyone who wants to become a registered nurse will quickly become familiar with the NCLEX. NCLEX is short for the National Council Licensure Examination. There are actually two versions, the NCLEX-RN and the NCLEX-PN. The NCLEX-RN is the test that a candidate must past before becoming a registered nurse and the NCLEX-PN is for practical nurses. These tests are the culmination of years of study and are the final step a nursing student must take before being admitted into the world of nursing. As with any licensure test, they are extremely stressful. Before you can register for the test, you must first apply with your state nursing board for your nursing license. They will then determine if you are eligible for the examination.

What is the Test Like?

You are given five hours to take the NCLEX, which includes time to acclimate to the computer testing method as well as time for two 10-minute breaks. The RN test has a minimum of 75 questions and the PN test has a minimum of 85 questions. If during this minimum it is clear that you have mastered the information, or it is clear that you have not, the test will end. If the computer cannot make a determination, the test will continue. There are four basic categories of questions that include: safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and psychological integrity. Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories.

What to Do if You Fail

The bad news is that you have to pass this test if you want to become a nurse. The good news is that you can take either of the tests as many times as you need to pass it. The only caveat being that you have to wait a set time between tests. The testing authority requires you wait at least 91 days; however, some state boards require a candidate wait even longer. If you do fail the test you will be sent a testing profile that will let you know what parts of the test you did well on and what parts you need to continue working on. This is a very useful tool and will allow you to focus on the areas where you are weakest. There are several programs available for people who want additional help studying for the exam. You could find one online, in a traditional school setting, or you can purchase books to help you prepare.

While this test can be stressful, it doesn’t need to be. You have completed your course work and your state board feels you are ready for this test. Review the material in whichever method you are most comfortable with in the weeks leading up to the test. The night before, get plenty of sleep, and the day of the test, be sure to eat a good breakfast. Then go in and give it your best. Even if you fail, look at it as a learning experience. The next time you will know exactly what to expect! Are you nervous about the exam or have you already taken it? What was your experience like?


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