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NCLEX-RN Review & Study Guide

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

Nurse working at a computer

You’ve completed your nursing education, and you’re ready to get out of the classroom to begin your nursing career. There’s just one thing standing between you and your dream job; obtaining your Registered Nursing license.

All nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam in order to get this license.

If you’re stressed or worried, you shouldn’t be. With adequate prep time and a few helpful tips, you’ll have no problem passing the RN exam.

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

What Is the NCLEX-RN Exam?

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

To be more precise, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX-RN is designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities essential to the safe and competent practice of nursing at the entry-level.

How Many Questions Are on the NCLEX-RN Exam?

The NCLEX-RN exam is a computerized adaptive exam that can consist of anywhere between 75 to 256 questions, with 15 of these questions being pretest questions that are not scored.

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 Kind of Questions Are on the NCLEX-RN Exam?

The NCLEX exam covers four areas (or categories) of questions:

  1. Safe and Effective Care Environment: The nurse promotes achievement of client outcomes by providing and directing nursing care that enhances the care delivery setting in order to protect clients and health care personnel.

Sample Question: The nurse has been made aware of the following client situations. The nurse should first assess the client

    • with diverticulitis who is reporting left lower quadrant (LLQ) pain
    • with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who is reporting hemoptysis
    • who had an evacuation of a subdural hematoma 8 hours ago and has become agitated
    • who had a total knee replacement 8 hours ago and whose affected extremity is internally rotated
  1. Health Promotion and Maintenance: The nurse protects clients and health care personnel from health and environmental hazards.

Sample Question: The nurse is assigning unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP) to assist the following clients to ambulate. It would be most important for the nurse to review safety precautions with the UAP prior to ambulating the

    • 44-year-old client with Ménière’s disease
    • 59-year-old client with a unilateral cataract
    • 62-year-old client with presbycusis
    • 65-year-old client with sinusitis
  1. Psychosocial Integrity: The nurse provides and directs nursing care of the client that incorporates knowledge of expected growth and development; prevention and early detection of health problems, and strategies to achieve optimal health.

Sample Question: The nurse is teaching clients at a community health fair about risk factors for developing cancer. The nurse should recognize that at highest risk is the

    • 30-year-old client who consumes a diet high in selenium and has a history of an ovarian cyst
    • 49-year-old client who drinks 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily and has a family history of fibrocystic breast conditions
    • 51-year-old client who has hypertension and teaches an aerobic exercise program
    • 62-year-old client who consumes 5 to 6 alcoholic beverages daily and is an opera singer
  1. Physiological Integrity: The nurse provides and directs nursing care that promotes and supports the emotional, mental and social well-being of the client experiencing stressful events, as well as clients with acute or chronic mental illness.

Sample Question: The nurse is talking with a client who had a colostomy created 2 days ago. Which of the following statements by the client would indicate ineffective coping? Select all that apply.

    • “I am not touching that disgusting bag.”
    • “I am glad I can still go to the gym just as I used to.”
    • “I really like raw vegetables, and it will be hard for me to limit them.” 4. “I understand the need for the colostomy, but I am afraid that the bag will leak.”
    • “I do not understand why I cannot have a nurse perform the colostomy bag changes for me.”

Most of the questions are delivered in a multiple-choice format with four answer choices.

There are other question types, however, such as multiple-response, fill-in-the-blank, hot spots, charts, and drag-and-drop.

Answers: 1)C 2)A 3)D 4)A&D

Is the NCLEX Exam Hard?

The difficulty of the NCLEX exam is also based on your performance. By doing well on the exam, the questions will grow more challenging. If the questions do remain simple, it may indicate that you are not answering enough questions correctly.

How Long Is the NCLEX-RN Exam?

You are allotted a total of six hours to complete the NCLEX-RN exam, regardless of the number of questions you’re given.

Prior to taking the exam, you’ll be presented with a short instructional video.

During the exam itself, you will be granted 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

Once you’ve answered the minimum number of questions required to pass the NCLEX exam, the test will automatically stop on its own.

What Is the Passing Score for the NCLEX-RN Exam?

While there isn’t a set number of questions you must answer correctly to pass the NCLEX exam, you will pass the test if you answer enough questions to stay above the “pass” line with a 95% confidence interval.

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

According to the NCSBN, around 88% of all candidates passed the NCLEX-RN exam on their first attempt in 2019.

This high pass rate is proof that with enough preparation, you have a high chance of passing the NCLEX exam your first try.

How Do I Register for the NCLEX-RN Exam?

Once you’ve completed a nursing program, we recommend you take a week or two to relax and enjoy your free time before registering for the NCLEX exam.

Nursing school can take a lot out of you, and you’ll need recuperate both mentally and physically before studying 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 before taking the exam.

7 Simple Steps to Register for the NCLEX-RN Exam

The official steps to register for the NCLEX-RN 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-RN Cost?

It costs $200 to take the NCLEX-RN 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-RN Exam?

Books and laptops are placed on the library desk

Everyone has their unique study techniques when preparing for an exam.

It’s likely you have your own study habits and test-taking methods. How else could you have graduated from nursing school?

The NCLEX exam, however, is different than any other standardized test that you’ve taken, but you shouldn’t let that scare you.

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-RN.

To make your life easier, we consolidated much of this information by creating a list of the top five test prep tips that will help you pass the NCLEX-RN on your first shot.

Tip #1: Understand the NCLEX-RN Exam Format

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

We’ve provided you with an overview of the NCLEX format, but more in-depth information, you can take a look at the 2020 NCLEX Examination Candidate Bulletin.

Tip #2: Create a Personalized Study Plan

As mentioned earlier, everyone studies differently.

However, if you are a natural procrastinator or someone who prefers to cram the night before an exam, you’re going to want to rethink your strategy for the NCLEX.

Create a schedule to designate the days of the week you’ll 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 hurt to study longer (up to four hours) on some days of the week.

Tip #3: Take the NCLEX Practice Exams

You’ll 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 NXLEX-RN. Furthermore, by closely examining the questions you get wrong, you’ll feel more confident when running into similar questions during the real exam.

Tip #4: Have a Test Day Game Plan to Help Manage Stress

As with any standardized test, there are simple tips and techniques you should follow to give you a better shot at passing the NCLEX exam.

By familiarizing yourself with the NCLEX format, you won’t fell as much pressure on test day. For example, you will already know that if the question get harder, then it’s likely you’ve answered many of the previous questions correctly.

It’s also important to remember that the exam ranges between 75 and 265 questions, so you’ll be running a marathon, not a sprint. In other words, take your allotted breaks! It will help to pull your head away from the computer screen and get some food, water, or just some time to meditate and relax.

Tip #5: Prepare for Exam Day

Remember to get your rest the night before and to eat your 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-RN 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.

These 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.

  • Set Your Pace.

You’ll have up to 4 hours to complete the NCLEX-RN, including the short tutorial and 2 optional. 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 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-RN Exam?

If you don’t pass the NCLEX exam on the first try, you can always retake it.

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

In order 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-RN?

According to NCSBN, candidates can take the NCLEX up to eight times a year There is a 45-day rule in which you have to wait for that period of time after each try. To be certain, contact your desired nursing regulatory body to learn more about their policy for NCLEX-RN retakes.

Advancing Your Career as a Registered Nurse

Portrait Of Female Nurse Standing In Hospital Corridor

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

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

Nursing has always been a noble profession. Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) can open doors to lots off opportunity, including career specialization, high earning potential, and a great job outlook.

If you’re ready to take the first step towards a future nursing career, you can start by earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Eagle Gate College.