Dr. Jan Olson By: Dr. Jan Olson
What is the NCLEX Exam?

If you are trying to become a registered nurse, you will take the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) at some point. If you are studying to become a LPN or LVN, you will be taking the NCLEX-PN.

We’ve outlined everything you need to know about these two exams below.

Summary: Learn about the NCLEX exam. To practice for the exam, take a NCLEX practice test.

The NCLEX exam is designed for nursing graduates who wish to become RNs (Registered Nurses). The exam is computer-adaptive, which means that the exam questions change depending on how you answer, and the test is finished once the program determines the test-taker has sufficient knowledge.

Depending on the type of nurse you wish to become, you may take either the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN exam. While the tests are similar, they contain slightly different information to align with the scope of practice of both types of nurses.

The NCLEX-RN is for those who wish to obtain a Registered Nurse license. It has recently undergone a name change and is referred to as the Next Generation NCLEX.

Below are the topics you can expect to see, and how much of the test they make up.

Section Distribution
Basic Care and Comfort 6% - 12%
Health Promotion and Maintenance 6% - 12%
Management of Care 15% - 21%
Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies 13% - 19%
Physiological Adaptation 11% - 17%
Psychosocial Integrity 6% - 12%
Reduction of Risk Potential 9% - 15%
Safety and Infection Control 10% - 16%

The NCLEX-PN is for those who wish to earn their LPN or LVN and become either a practical nurse or vocational nurse. The exam consists of the following elements:

Section Distribution
Coordinated Care 18% - 24%
Safety and Infection Control 10% - 16%
Health Promotion and Maintenance 6% - 12%
Psychosocial Integrity 9% - 15%
Basic Care and Comfort 7% - 13%
Pharmacological Therapies 10% - 16%
Reduction of Risk Potential 9% - 15%
Physiological Adaptation 7% - 13%

The NCLEX-RN is taken by students who are on the path to become a registered nurse. The NCLEX-PN is taken by students who are on the path to becoming a LPN or LVN.

You’ll notice from the tables above that the main difference (content wise) between the NCLEX-RN and the NCLEX-PN is the focus and distribution of topics.

The NCLEX-RN has a tight focus on the management of patient care and assessment of patient situations, while the NCLEX-PN is more focused on data collection and coordinated care efforts.

It’s important to note that while the exams do differ, they are designed in the same way, are both computer-adaptive, and contain the same number of potential questions.

The NGN, which stands for Next Generation NCLEX, is a new portion of the NCLEX exam that will include the addition of long-form questions. The questions will include the following:

  • Extended Multiple Response
  • Extended Drag and Drop
  • Cloze
  • Enhanced Hot Spot
  • Matrix/Grid

The new NGN portion will go into effect in April 2023. However, you are not guaranteed to encounter it, as only 10% of NCLEX exams will include this new section.

If you want to start studying for this exam, consider one of the best NCLEX prep courses.

The NCLEX is scored on a pass/fail basis, so you will not receive an official score. If you do not pass, you will receive a report of your results.

Whether you pass or fail is determined by the test program. Because the exam is computer-adaptive, the questions you receive and their difficulty are calculated and re-evaluated each time you answer. Once the computer identifies your competence with the material, the test will end.

The fee for candidates seeking US licensure is $200. There are a number of additional fees to be aware of, such as fees for changing the exam language, changing your exam type, and for international scheduling.

How many questions are on the NCLEX exam?

All NCLEX exams consist of no more than 145 questions, with the minimum needing to be answered is 75. You will not know the exact number of questions you need to answer as the exam is adaptive and the number of questions can vary.

How long is the NCLEX exam?

The NCLEX exam takes up to five hours to complete.

Is there a passing score for the NCLEX?

Candidates will not receive a score for the NCLEX as the exam is pass/fail.

What does NCLEX stand for?

NCLEX stands for National Council Licensure Examination.

Who creates and administers the NCLEX?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) creates and administers the NCLEX.