Female nurse using a laptop

NCLEX-PN Review & Study Guide

5 Test Prep Tips to Help You Pass the NCLEX-PN the First Time

Female nurse using a laptop

Once you complete your LPN nursing education, the next step in furthering your career and becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse is obtaining your PN license.

To get this license, all hopeful practical nurses must pass the NCLEX-PN exam.

The thought of an exam holding power over your future might make you feel nervous or anxious. But don’t worry!

We have all experienced the sense of dread associated with test-taking, whether it was for the SATs in high school or an important final exam during nursing school.

But, with adequate preparation and a little help from this guide, nothing should stop you from passing the PN exam with flying colors.

With the help of some of our amazing Eagle Gate College instructors and a few recent graduates who passed the exam, we created a comprehensive test-prep guide to help you pass the NCLEX-PN exam on your first attempt.

What Is the NCLEX-PN Exam?

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) is a national exam that determines your ability to practice nursing.

The NCLEX-PN is a test that measures your knowledge and expertise of the essential skills that are required to safely enter the field of practical nursing.

How Many Questions Are on the NCLEX-PN Exam?

The NCLEX-PN exam is a computerized adaptive exam that can consist of anywhere between 85 to 205 questions. You will also be given 25 “experimental” items that will not count towards your score.

The number of questions you receive is determined by evaluating your performance and by the number of questions you answer correctly. The better you perform, the fewer the questions you’ll be required to complete to pass the exam.

What Types of Questions Are on the NCLEX-PN Exam?

The NCLEX-PN exam covers five areas (or categories) of questions:

1. Safe and Effective Care Environment:

The LPN/VN provides nursing care that contributes to the enhancement of the health care delivery setting and protects clients and health care personnel.

Sample Question: The nurse in a long-term care facility is making client care assignments for unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP). Which of the following statements by the nurse would provide the UAP with the best directions about the assignment?”

A. “Encourage the client to increase daily fluid intake”

B. “Ambulate the client 20 ft (6.7 m) every 4 hours beginning at 0900”

C. “Assist the client to perform passive range-of-motion (ROM) exercises”

D. “Reinforce physical therapy instructions about the proper use of a walker”

2. Safety and Infection Control:

the LPN/VN contributes to the protection of clients and health care personnel from health and environmental hazards.

Sample Question: The nurse is reinforcing teaching with a client who is using a mechanical lift. Which of the following information should the nurse reinforce?

A. “Place your hands on the sling.”

B. “You should lie prone on the sling.”

C. “Place your arms across your chest.”

D. “You will need to rock to a standing position.”

3. Health Promotion and Maintenance:

The LPN/VN provides nursing care for clients that incorporates knowledge of expected stages of growth and development, and prevention and/or early detection of health problems.

Sample Question: The nurse is reinforcing teaching with a client about the signs of hunger in a newborn. Which of the following signs should the nurse reinforce?

(Select all that apply)

A. open hands

B. quivering bottom lip

C. rooting movements

D. sucking on the hands

E. hand to mouth movements

4. Psychosocial Integrity:

The LPN/VN provides care that assists with promotion and support of the emotional, mental, and social well-being of clients.

Sample Question: The nurse is assisting to evaluate the coping strategies of the spouse of a client who had a stroke 5 days ago. Which of the following statements by the spouse would indicate ineffective coping?

A. “I sleep only for short periods of time since my spouse became ill.”

B. “I feel frustrated when my spouse turns away and will not talk with me.”

C. “I eat meals in my spouse’s room so my spouse will not have to eat meals alone.”

D. “I have been performing a few household chores each day before visiting my spouse.”

5. Physiological Integrity:

The LPN/VN provides comfort to clients and assistance in the performance of activities of daily living.

Sample Question: The nurse is reinforcing teaching with a client about using crutches. Which of the following information should the nurse reinforce?

A. “The stairs should be avoided while using crutches.”

B. “The elbows must stay straight while ambulating with crutches.”

C. “Three finger widths should separate the axillae and the crutches.”

D. “Bearing weight on the affected leg should be avoided when using the four-point crutch gait.”

The majority of the questions on the NCLEX-PN exam are delivered in a multiple-choice format with four answer choices, however, there are other types of questions, such as multiple-response, fill-in-the-blank, hot spots, charts, and drag-and-drop.

(You can find the answer all sample questions at the bottom of this article.)

How Long Is the NCLEX-PN Exam?

You are allotted a total of five hours to complete the NCLEX-PN exam. These five hours include the instructional video before the exam, the 25 experimental questions, and two optional breaks.

Furthermore, the number of questions you receive on the NCLEX-PN exam is based on your performance. There is no set number of questions. The exam is administered using CAT, or computerized adaptive testing, which measures the difficulty level of each question and, based on your answer, will vary the difficulty of each subsequent question accordingly.

This means that the difficulty of each question may increase for every question you answer correctly. In the end, the computer will apply a pass/fail rule to determine whether you passed, failed, or need to be asked more questions.

During the exam you will be given two optional breaks:

  1. One break is available 2 hours into the exam.
  2. A second break can be taken after 3.5 hours into the exam.

The test will automatically stop on its own once you’ve answered the minimum number of questions required to pass the NCLEX-PN exam.

Is the NCLEX Exam Difficult?

As we mentioned previously, the difficulty of the NCLEX exam is based on your performance. The better you do on the exam, the more challenging your questions will be as you go. However, if the questions appear to remain simple, that could be an indication that you’re not performing well.

How Do You Pass the NCLEX-PN Exam?

There is no set number of questions you’re required to answer to pass the NCLEX-PN exam. As previously stated, however, the better you perform on the exam, the fewer questions you’ll be given. The computer will stop administering questions when it is 95% certain that your ability is either clearly above or clearly below the passing standard.

How Many People Pass the NCLEX-PN on Their First Try?

According to the NCSBN, around 85% of all candidates passed the NCLEX-PN exam on their first attempt in 2019.

Hopefully, this statistic can ease your nerves about the exam. This is proof that as long as you take the time to study and prepare for the NCLEX-PN, you’ll have no problem passing on your first attempt!

How Do I Register for the NCLEX-PN Exam?

Before you register for the NCLEX-PN, do yourself a favor and take a week or two to relax and enjoy your free time. It’s essential that you feel mentally and physically prepared to take on prepping for the exam.

Once you feel ready, you can schedule your exam by registering with Pearson VUE for an Authorization to Test (ATT). We recommend you schedule your test-date a couple of months out to give yourself enough prep-time before taking the exam.

7 Simple Steps to Register for the NCLEX-PN Exam

The official steps to register for the NCLEX-PN exam are as follows:

Step 1:

Submit an application for licensure/registration to the nursing regulatory body (NRB) where you wish to be licensed/registered.

Step 2:

Meet all of the NRB’s eligibility requirements to take the NCLEX exam.

Step 3:

Register for the NCLEX with Pearson VUE.

Step 4:

Receive NCLEX Registration Acknowledgement email from Pearson VUE.

Step 5:

Confirm NRB eligibility in the Pearson VUE system.

Step 6:

Receive Authorization to Test (ATT) email from Pearson VUE.

Step 7:

Schedule your exam with Pearson VUE.

How Much Does the NCLEX-PN Cost?

It costs $200 to take the NCLEX-PN exam.

There may be additional licensure fees that are determined by the individual State Board of Nursing. You can pay this fee online or over the phone using a credit, debit, or prepaid card.

How Do I Study for the NCLEX-PN Exam?

Stethoscope on a medical textbook

The studying techniques for the NCLEX-PN, as well as any standardized test (i.e. ACT, SAT, etc.) varies, depending on the exam.

The format of the NCLEX-PN exam differs from any of the standardized tests you may have taken before.

Fortunately, there is an abundance of online resources, practice questions, and study guides that can provide you the tools you need to pass the NCLEX-PN.

To make things easier, we created a list of the top five test prep tips that will help you pass the NCLEX-PN on your first attempt.

Tip #1: Understand the NCLEX-PN Exam Format

Before taking the exam, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the exam format to avoid being surprised when you show up.

We’ve provided you with an overview of the NCLEX format, but for more in-depth information, you can take a look at the 2020 NCLEX Examination Test Plan (2020 NCLEX Examination Test Plan).

Tip #2: Create Your Personalized Study Plan and Schedule

The best way to study really depends on your personal preferences and learning styles.

The best way to start creating your personalized study plan is to designate the days of the week you wish to study and the amount of time you plan to study on each of those days.

At a minimum, plan to study for at least two hours on those days. However, it can’t hurt to study longer (up to four hours) on some days of the week.

Tip #3: Take the NCLEX Practice Exams

You will want to schedule at least two NCLEX practice tests before sitting for the real exam.

You can register for the practice exams directly through the NCSBN website.

These practice exams familiarize you with the computer testing experience of the NCLEX-PN. Furthermore, by carefully examining the questions you get wrong, you’ll prepare for when these types of questions show up when you take the exam.

Tip #4: Develop a Plan to Help Manage Stress and Anxiety on Test Day

As with any standardized exam, you should follow a few simple tips and techniques to give you a better shot at passing the NCLEX-PN exam.

By understanding the format of the NCLEX-PN exam, you’ll know what to expect and feel more comfortable come testing day. You already know that the more questions you answer correctly, the more challenging they will become. You also know that the total number of questions ranges between 85 and 205.

With that being said, it’s important to remember that you’ll be running a marathon, not a sprint.

It’s essential to take your allotted breaks during the exam. Often taking a step away from the screen and getting a drink of water or some food can make all the difference in your testing results. Make sure to take the time to clear your mind during your break before you jump back into testing.

Tip #5: Be Ready for Exam Day

Remember to get your rest the night before and to eat breakfast on the morning of the exam. This will help you stay fresh and alert throughout the day.

For your convenience the NCSBN offer several NCLEX-PN tips for exam day:

Be Prepared.

When you arrive for your NCLEX, you’ll need an acceptable form of ID. You no longer need to bring a paper copy of the Authorization to Test (ATT) for admittance to the NCLEX. For further details, please visit Authorization to Test.

At the Risk of Sounding Repetitive, Don’t Forget Your ID.

Candidates without proper ID will not be allowed to take the NCLEX.

Know the NCLEX Candidate Rules!

These rules include policies specific to personal items, confidentiality, NCLEX administration, and break procedures.

Dress Comfortably.

You’re required to leave hats, scarves, gloves, and coats outside the testing room. However, provisions are made for religious and cultural attire.

Arrive Early.

Plan to arrive 30 minutes before your exam. If you are more than 30 minutes late, you may have to forfeit, re-register, and pay another exam fee.

Provide Your Biometrics.

In order to be tested, the following biometrics will be taken: signature, photograph, and palm vein scan.

Receive Materials.

You may not bring in paper or writing utensils. It is a computer-administered exam. However, you will be provided an on-screen calculator and erasable note board/marker for making notes will be provided.

Set Your Pace.

You’ll have up to 4 hours to complete the NCLEX-PN, including the short tutorial and the two optional breaks. Take time to analyze each question carefully—once you submit an answer you can’t return to that question. Learn more about computer adaptive testing (CAT) here.

Finishing Up.

At the end of the exam, you will receive a short computerized survey. Upon completion, you can raise your hand and wait for the TA to dismiss you.

What to Do After the NCLEX-PN Exam?

Exam results are available only from your nursing regulatory body (NRB) and will be sent to you approximately six weeks after taking the exam.

How to Retake the NCLEX-PN Exam?

Rest assured, if you don’t pass the NCLEX-PN exam on the first attempt, you can always retake it.

The NCSBN provides a performance report from the exam, allowing you to see where you need to improve before your next attempt.

To retake the exam, you’ll just contact your NRB and notify them you plan on retaking the exam. You will simply re-register with Pearson VUE, pay the $200 fee, and wait to receive your new ATT to schedule your exam.

How Many Times Can You Fail the NCLEX-PN?

According to NCSBN, candidates can take the NCLEX-PN up to eight times a year. There is a 45-day rule where you must wait for that period after each try. To be sure, contact your desired nursing regulatory body to learn more about their policy for NCLEX-PN retakes.

Advancing Your Career as a Licensed Practical Nurse

Smiling medical team

We hope you found this article helpful and that you’ll be able to use it to help you pass the NCLEX-PN.

Our objective is to instill confidence in all our students to achieve their career goals. Everyone deserves a chance to find their dream job.

If you’re ready to take the first step towards a future nursing career, you can enroll in the Practical Nursing Program at Eagle Gate College.

Sample Question Answers: 1)B  2)C 3)C,D,E 4)A 5)C