Definitive Guide to Passing
the NCLEX-RN Exam

NCLEX-RN ExamThe NCLEX-RN Exam . . . that exam you've heard so much about from the very first day of nursing school. The one you must pass to make your countless, tiring hours of nursing school all worth it so you can begin changing lives. Yeah, that's it. Now that you graduated with your Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN), the time has finally come and it's your turn to take the NCLEX-RN examination in order to complete the final piece of the puzzle that is holding you back from starting your nursing career. The NCLEX-RN should not be taken lightly, it is a big deal. It covers a vast array of information, most of which you should be familiar with from all your time during clinical experiences and during class. You should do your best to strive to pass it on your first attempt because otherwise, it proves to be rather expensive if for some reason you have to take it more than once. It may be easier said than done, but the ultimate goal is to take your NCLEX-RN exam as soon as you graduate nursing school and pass it on your first try! Use this guide as your source for success

 

NCLEX Practice Exams with Rationales

  1. NCLEX-RN Exam with Rationales

Number of Candidates Taking NCLEX-RN Examination and Percent Passing, by Type of Candidate

NCLEX Pass Rates

* NCLEX is a Registered Trademark of the National Council of State Board of Nursing (NCSBN)

NCLEX-RN: How to Prepare During Nursing School

From the very beginning of nursing school, you should get into the habit of taking NCLEX-RN Practice Test Questions each and every day. Even if it is only 5 questions a day…you will notice a difference on the day you sit for your NCLEX-RN exam. You'll be happy to know that there is no one specific study plan that leads to success on the NCLEX; everyone approaches it differently in their own way. The NCLEX is a one-of-a-kind exam that encompasses a huge amount of information related to the nursing profession. Knowing the basics, being able to put pieces of information together while thinking outside the box and prioritizing will never mean so much as it will on the day of your exam.

Practicing questions on a daily basis is important because you can familiarize yourself with the different types of questions that may be presented to you on your exam so you aren't taken by surprise. The biggest mistake some students make is waiting until they graduate to begin practicing NCLEX questions and seriously preparing for their exam. This can create more stress than it's worth and cause you to become very overwhelmed. In addition, if you procrastinate in preparing for your NCLEX you could lose sight of your main goal and possibly even put off taking your NCLEX until a later date. You will know what study habits work best for you soon after you take your first exams during nursing school…so once you figure out what works best for you, stick with it to ensure the best chances for success.

Resources in this day and age that you can use to study for your NCLEX are pretty much endless. Resources range from textbooks, videos on YouTube, to participating in NCLEX review seminars, and much more. The review opportunities and resources are endless, so really you should have no problem finding something that works for you…and you should have no excuses for NCLEX failure.

It is understandable too that some students are just not good test takers. When presented with an exam they experience a great deal of anxiety and become easily stressed, which in turn, greatly affects their results. Throughout nursing school, you will have many, many tests and you will learn things about yourself you probably never would have otherwise. You should do your best to find out what works best for you to alleviate your stress and reduce your anxiety when faced with an exam because the NCLEX will have no mercy…you either pass or fail.

Overall, preparing for the NCLEX while still in nursing school is a great habit to get into. Early preparation will significantly increase your chances of passing on the first attempt. Coming to terms with how to handle your stress and what study habits work best for you will result in increased confidence with a greater chance of success on the day you sit for your NCLEX exam. Do not wait until the last minute to prepare!

When to Take the NCLEX-RN?

After graduation from nursing school, it will be up to you when you want to take your NCLEX examination. We all know how hectic life can get and how easy it is to let it get in the way causing you to postpone some important things. Some students choose to take the NCLEX right away, others have to wait until they have the money to pay for it, and some just choose to wait because they want to give their mind a break. So when is the best time to take it?

Most students would agree that taking the NCLEX as soon as possible after graduation is the best decision. All that information you learned will still remain fresh in your mind and you will still be in nursing school mode. If you decide that you need a break from all the hustle and bustle, you most likely won't get back into the nursing school mode easily and it could affect how you prepare to take your NCLEX. The longer you wait to take your exam, the more you will have to study to refresh your memory of all the important information. If I were you, I'd take it as soon as I possibly could because when you are fresh out of school, many things will still be fresh in your mind.

In order to do your best on your NCLEX examination, you must be fully focused on it. You cannot wake up with 100 other things on your mind on the day of your exam. You must reserve the day you scheduled your NCLEX for and give it your undivided attention because if you fail to focus and you worry about other things, it will jeopardize your results.

Scheduling Your NCLEX-RN Examination

Scheduling your NCLEX can feel like such a long process and it can take upwards of 4 weeks, so it's a good idea to start this process as soon as possible after graduation. Following are some tips to take into consideration when scheduling your NCLEX examination:

  • Upon completion of your ADN program, your completion date, transcripts, and all other applicable information will have to be sent to your corresponding state board of nursing.
  • Some colleges will send all this information to the board of nursing for you after you complete it, whereas others may require you to submit your information on your own time.
  • Also after you graduate you must have a background check completed and submitted to your state board of nursing to be considered for testing.
  • An application to take your NCLEX exam in your state needs completed thoroughly by closely following all the instructions listed before submitting it to the state board of nursing; if it is incomplete it will be returned until you finish it correctly send it back.
  • Once you complete your application to test and the state board of nursing receives all of the documents that are needed along with payment for your exam, you will be provided with an Authorization to Test (ATT).
  • You may not schedule your exam appointment until you have received this ATT number.
  • When your ATT is made available you should schedule your exam as soon as possible so the dates and times are not as limited.
  • You may schedule via the internet or over the phone…whatever you do, do not let your ATT expire because then you will have to re-register and pay another exam fee.
  • Those who are taking the exam for the first time will be offered an appointment within 30 days of the request to schedule an appointment.
  • Repeat exam takers will be offered an appointment within 45 days.After you schedule your appointment, you're all set! Now you just have to continue preparing until your big day comes. Good luck!

Style of NCLEX-RN Questions

Style of NCLEX-RN Questions
The NCLEX examination has been administered via a computerized system to eligible candidates now for a little over 20 years, thanks to modern technological advances. Recently, alternate item format questions have also been implemented in order to better assess entry-level nursing competence, to more quickly determine if you belong in the pass or fail category. You will still see the standard, four-option multiple choice types of questions, but you should be aware that other types of questions will be thrown at you too, which may include:

  • Select all that apply. This type of question requires candidates to select two or more responses in order to reach the right answer. Most nursing students really dislike this type of question because several times many of the answers seem right, but there are only select ones that are the most right that should be chosen in order to correctly answer the question. For example, you could be asked to select all the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia from the several options that are listed.
  • Fill-in-the-blank. These questions will require candidates to enter a value as their final answer. For example, this type of question could ask you to perform a nursing dosage calculation and then fill in the blank with your final answer.
  • Hot spot items. When you are presented with this type of question you will see a picture or graphic and you will notice that when you move your cursor over certain areas it changes…when the cursor changes those areas are referred to as the “hot spots.” The question that is asked will relate to one or more areas on the picture or graphic and you will have to choose the correct area that the question is asking about. For example, you could be asked to point out in which abdominal quadrant the spleen is located in.
  • Chart/Exhibit format. In this question, you will be presented with a problem, and in order to reach the correct answer, you will have to click on the chart/exhibit boxes to read the given information in order to come to the most logical answer from the options provided after going over the information.
  • Ordered response items. These questions will require test takers to rank the given options in a specific order so that the correct answer can be reached. For example, a question like this could list the steps of walking with a cane and expect candidates to place the options in the correct order so that this process could correctly happen.
  • Audio question. During this question, you will be presented with a short audio clip where you will use the headphones that are provided for you in order to select the correct answer from the options provided. For example, you could be given an audio clip of a type of lung sound and be expected to choose the correct answer from the responses given.
  • Graphics Options. Here you will see pictures as your possible answers, instead of text. After reading the question, you will have to choose the correct picture that corresponds to the correct answer to the question that was asked. An example of this could be choosing a specific picture related to different views of a patient in traction.

How the NCLEX-RN Exam is Administered

The process of administering the NCLEX examination has been modified from how it used to be and we have technology to thank for that. The improved NCLEX examination now follows the method that is referred to as a Computerized Adaptive Test (CAT). CAT is a new and improved way of administering the examination that merges computer technology with modern measurement theory, with the main goal of increasing the efficiency of the entire exam process for each and every candidate.

With the use of the CAT method here is essentially what happens:

  • Every time an exam question is answered, the computer system will re-estimate the ability of that specific candidate based on all their previous answers along with the level of difficulty of the items that they have been presented with so far.
  • The computer then will select the next test question that you should have a 50% chance of answering correctly based on the ability of each and every candidate.
  • This method works to ensure that each question you are given is not too easy or too hard, but rather based solely on your ability as measured by the CAT system and what you should be expected to know in order to perform as a competent nurse.
  • Each question you are asked during your exam will target your knowledge level, so each time you answer a question the estimate of your ability will become more and more precise to ultimately determine your final result on how well you do on the NCLEX, which is either pass or fail.

At this point, you should be aware of what to expect leading up to your NCLEX exam, as well as on the day of your exam!  It only makes sense that the NCLEX is intimidating because it is important that professionals who have chosen to be responsible for the lives of others on a daily basis are competent in all areas of nursing in order to deliver the most optimal care without errors.  Take this time now to study the questions below in order to be prepared to ace your NCLEX the first time and get that “RN” behind your name that you have always dreamed of!

NCLEX-RN Facts

Doing your research about some things before completely jumping to conclusions is a good habit to get into. Being well informed in order to make the most logical decisions is the best situation to find yourself in. Knowing a few facts about the NCLEX examination itself may make you feel more comfortable about your big test day, and it will definitely give you a better idea of what exactly to expect. Here's what you should know!

  • The NCLEX-RN examination is 75 to 265 questions in length and you will have 6 hours to complete the exam.
  • Examinations are all computerized and are administered year-round. You will schedule your appointment only after you receive your ATT, which will be valid only up to 90 days.
  • As mentioned above, there are multiple question formats including the basic 4 option multiple choice, select all that apply, fill-in-the-blank, hot spot items, chart/exhibit items, ordered response items where you must rank options, audio items, and graphic items.
  • First-time test takers will be offered an appointment to take the exam within 30 days.
  • Once you submit your application to your state board and are made eligible to test, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) within 4 weeks.
  • When you arrive at the test center, you will provide an acceptable form of identification, have your picture taken, and have a palm vein reading in order to provide a secure testing environment.
  • Any belongings you take to the test center will be placed in a locker in the waiting area.
  • When you enter the test room, you will be provided with a dry erase board and marker, in the event you should have to work out an exam question. Headphones will also be provided in case you come across an audio question.
  • The testing room is monitored with both audio and video and you must remain quiet. If you ever have any questions, or if you finish, you must raise your hand for the proctor to approach you.
  • You may not skip questions; you must answer the question presented in order to continue to the next, and you cannot go back to any question.
  • Be advised that your computer test may end at any time when you have completed 75 or more questions, even if you have not reached your 6-hour time limit.
  • If you run out of time, only your last 60 operational items that you answered will be looked at, this is done to ensure adequate content coverage and to be fair for all candidates.
  • If you fail, you will get a performance report for personal remediation before retaking the exam. Use this report to your advantage to prepare, and continue to study your material to maintain your knowledge so you can retake the exam as soon as possible.
  • If you fail, you generally must wait for a minimum of 45 days between each exam, after you re-submit your application to test and pay the testing fees…again.
  • If your state allows, you can view your unofficial results 48 hours after your exam time for a small fee, otherwise, your results will be mailed to you approximately six weeks after your exam.
  • Some states also may post your license number on their state board of nursing website, which will also indicate that you have passed.

Ultimately, the NCLEX-RN examination should be taken seriously because if it were easy, everyone would do it. It is important that professionals who have chosen to have the lives of others in their hands on a daily basis be competent in all areas of nursing in order to deliver the most optimal care. Don't procrastinate, study hard and use your common sense…you got this!

About Paige Shreffler

P. Shreffler started her nursing career in 2010 as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). After working for almost five years she decided it was time to go back to college and further her education. In June of 2015 she passed her NCLEX on the first attempt and can finally put that RN behind her name! Her background has been in the long-term care setting for these past 5 years with a small amount of experience in acute care during RN school. I am excited at where my career may take me and I enjoy knowing that I may make the difference in many, many lives down the road!

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P. Shreffler started her nursing career in 2010 as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).  After working for almost five years she decided it was time to go back to college and further her education.  In June of 2015 she passed her NCLEX on the first attempt and can finally put that RN behind her name!  Her background has been in the long-term care setting for these past 5 years with a small amount of experience in acute care during RN school.  I am excited at where my career may take me and I enjoy knowing that I may make the difference in many, many lives down the road!