This overview will help you prepare for your National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN®). We’ve included information about exam registration, exam day, including the types of content that will be covered as part of the test itself.
Exam Purpose and Background
NCLEX-PN® was created to provide a standardized assessment tool to assist the various licensing bodies at various state, territorial and commonwealth levels. The exam gauges whether candidates have the knowledge and expertise required as a beginning practical/vocational nurse.
How to Register
There’s a two-step process. First, complete and send a licensing application to the board of nursing or regulatory body where you’ll be licensed or registered. Second, register online with Pearson VUE.
The exam fee is $200, payable by debit/credit/prepaid cards.
When you register, you’ll learn about the scheduling options available to you.
Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before test time.
What to Bring:
- A form of current, government-issued Identification, showing your name in Roman characters, signature and photo (including IDs such as a passport, a driver’s license, state/province ID, a permanent residence card or military ID). Note: Your ID must match your first and last names as listed on your Authorization to Test email.
What Not to Bring:
- Electronic devices of any kind, including cell phones and calculators
- Bags, purses, etc.
- Coats, gloves, hats, scarves, large jewelry, etc., except for those for religious reasons
- Any kind of drink or food
What to Expect During Your Exam
Format/Number of Questions/Duration
Your test will be taken via computer, and the number of questions varies from 85 to 205 questions. A maximum of five hours is allowed, though the time needed for the exam will be based on your answers. As you take the test, you’ll answer a minimum number of questions and your answers will be graded as you go. Once your mastery of the content is assessed and a pass/fail determination is made with a 95% certainty (based on your answers), your exam will conclude. Note: Taking a relatively short or long amount of time on your exam does not, in itself, predict whether you passed or not.
Knowledge Exam Content Categories
Here are the areas of content you can expect to encounter during the exam, along with the approximate percentage each area of content represents:
Category 1: Safe and Effective Care Environment (28 to 40%) — Includes aspects of coordinated care, as well as infection control and safety. This section will look at areas such as client rights, advocacy, advance directives, supervisory concepts, ethics, IT, legal issues, prioritization, referrals, performance improvement, and managing resources. In addition, this part of the exam will also cover elements such as preventing errors and injuries, incident reporting, security planning, handling hazardous materials, ergonomics, safety in the home and more.
Category 2: Health Promotion and Maintenance (6 to 12%) — Assesses a range of areas dealing with various growth and development stages related to early issue detection. These areas include elements such as self-care, development transitions and stages, lifestyle choices, techniques for collecting data, high-risk behaviors, community resources, disease prevention, health promotion, the aging process and more.
Category 3: Psychosocial Integrity (9 to 15%) — Tests knowledge related to patient social, mental and emotional health. Areas assessed include items such as therapeutic environments and communication, grief and loss, cultural awareness, support systems, alterations in sensory aspects, mental health principles, crisis intervention, behavioral management, as well as neglect and abuse.
Category 4: Physiological Integrity (33 to 58%) —Covers areas including basic comfort and care, pharmacological therapies, risk potential reduction and physiological adaptation. Basic comfort and care elements to be reviewed include rest and sleep, comfort interventions, personal hygiene, elimination, mobility, nutrition and assistive devices. Within the pharmacological area, you can expect questions on pain management, calculating dosage, administering medication, adverse effects and side effects, as well as expected actions and outcomes. Risk potential reduction questions include areas such as therapeutic processes, lab values, surgical complications, diagnostic tests, and vital sign abnormalities and changes. Physiological adaptation questions include medical emergencies, imbalances in electrolytes and fluids, body system alterations and more.
Calculating Your Passing Score: The score required to pass each section is based on an extensive process involving input from a panel of industry experts.
How Can I Prepare for the NCLEX PN Test?
That’s a great question. We’ve broken down the answer into three parts.
- Do yourself a favor and study. Do not walk in unprepared. We have recommended prep materials below, but that only helps if you actually try. Plus, studying is actually proven to be the best antidote to test anxiety.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping. All of these things are scientifically linked to brain performance. If you take care of your body, you’ll be helping your grades.
- Get a study guide, a set of flashcards, or use an online course. Some people study better a certain way. Find your study strengths and make the most of them. We’ve tried to make it easy for you by tracking down the best study guide, flashcard set, and online course for your exam. Below you’ll see links to all three!