2023 Edition

NCLEX-RN Test Guide

NCLEX-RN Summary
Who: Candidates for licensure as a registered nurse
Where: PearsonVUE test centers nationwide
When: Year round
How: The exam uses multiple choice, fill in the blank and drag and drop answer formats.
Type: Computer-adaptive
Why: The exam is required by every state for nurses to become licensed and use the RN designation.
Time: Six hours
Language: English
Preparation: Many different study guides can be found in the NCLEX-RN directory.
Cost: $200 exam fee

To work as a registered nurse in any state in the US, licensure is required. The NCLEX-RN is the national licensure exam that each state uses to determine who is qualified to work as a registered nurse, or RN. More than 170,000 nursing candidates took the NCLEX-RN from January to September 2010.

Every state has its own set of eligibility requirements that must be met before one is eligible for the NCLEX-RN, but generally a nursing candidate must have successfully completed an approved nursing education program that leads to either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing (ADN or BSN). RN candidates can find their state’s requirements on their home state’s board of nursing website. The National Council of the State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the administrator of the NCLEX-RN, provides a database of each state’s nursing board’s contact information at https://www.ncsbn.org/.

The NCLEX-RN is comprised of 75 to 265 test items, 15 of which are not scored. Six hours are given to complete the exam. The exam is administered in a computer-adaptive format, which means that each question is chosen based on the answer given to the previous question. The test continues until a pass or fail determination can be made. The computerized exam may include questions that are multiple-choice, fill in the blank, or drag and drop.

The exam is divided into four topic sections:

    -    Safe and Effective Care Environment, including Management of Care and Safety   
          and Infection Control

    -     Health Promotion and Maintenance

    -     Psychosocial Integrity

    -     Physiological Integrity, including Basic Care and Comfort, Pharmacological and
          Parenteral Therapies, Reduction of Risk Potential, and Physiological Adaptation

To register for the NCLEX-RN, candidates must contact their state board of nursing to request an application for licensure. This application will determine if one is qualified to test for nursing licensure.

Additionally, all nursing candidates must register to test through Pearson VUE, the national testing vendor for the NCLEX-RN. Candidates can register online at pearsonvue.com, by phone or through the mail using a registration form from their board of nursing. The $200 exam fee must be paid during registration.

Once a candidate has been approved to test by both the state board of nursing and PearsonVUE, they will receive an Authorization to Test form in the mail. This document will include instructions on how to schedule the test, and it is also required for admission to the test center on test day. Tests can be scheduled any day of the week, year round. PearsonVUE has test centers in every US state and territory.

Test results will be made available by each state’s board of nursing approximately one month following the test date. Some states participate in the Quick Result Service and may make unofficial score reports available 48 hours after the test.

Test takers who do not pass the NCLEX-RN must wait 45 or 90 days to retest, depending on the rules of their state board of nursing. To retake the test, one must contact their state board of nursing and determine what paperwork is required, and then reregister with PearsonVUE and pay the $200 test fee again.

For more on the NCLEX-RN and to find materials to help you study, check out our NCLEX-RN Test Directory.

Sources: National Council of the State Boards of Nursing; PearsonVUE

NCLEX-RN Practice