What is the NCLEX Exam?

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a standardized state-board nursing exam that evaluates candidates’ preparedness for entering nursing practice. Candidates who wish to take the NCLEX exam first need to apply for a nursing license at their state board of nursing that will determine evaluation-eligibility criteria for each candidate. Following the approval from the board, candidates are required to register for the exam using the online registration forms or by telephone. The board of nursing/regulatory body (BON/RB) will then validate the candidates’ qualifications and issue an Authorization to Take the Test (ATT) document that includes personal identification and authorization numbers. ATT is valid for a limited period determined by the BON/RB (approx. 90 days). NCLEX team will also send the list of the testing centers along with the instruction about the ways of scheduling the exam appointment via email. More information about the NCLEX exam can be found on the official Nationa Council of State Board of Nursing (NCSBN) website.

What type of NCLEX Exam is right for me?

There are two available NCLEX exam options. The NCLEX Practical Nurse Exam (NCLEX-PN) has been designed for people who have completed licensed practical or vocational nursing degrees. The NCLEX Registered Nurse Exam (NCLEX-RN) has been designed for people who have completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing.

What does the NCLEX Exam look like?

The NCLEX test is delivered at Pearson Centers in an electronic form. It lasts for six hours including breaks during which time students are required to complete anything from 75 (15 trial and 60 real exam questions) to 265 questions. Questions focus on several main areas of nursing practice, including safe effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, preventative healthcare, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity. These questions make up around half of all questions.

Most questions in the NCLEX exam are designed as either four-option, multiple-choice, or text-based questions of varying difficulty levels. There are three levels of questions: general questions that take around ten per cent of the test, and analysis and application questions, as well as open questions requiring the application of processes and facts, that make up around ninety per cent of all questions. Approximately ninety percent of the questions are multiple-choice questions. There are three types of multiple-choice questions: stem, three incorrect, and three correct answer questions. The stem questions must be answered. They include a description of a specific situation with a client related to his or her healthcare needs. The stem can also include an incomplete statement or incorrect answers that need to be identified. Three incorrect or correct answer questions require candidates to identify the situation in the nursing practice that is either right or wrong. More about the NCLEX-RN® question types can be found at KAPLAN.

What is the cost of the NCLEX Exam?

At present, the cost of taking an NCLEX exam is $200. The NCLEX does not refund exam payments for any reason.

What identification documents do I need in order to register and take the NCLEX exam?

Candidates will be required to provide personal identification details by presenting one of the acceptable identification documents that contain the candidate’s name for ATT and NCLEX test.

Some of the documents that meet the criteria mentioned above include a driver’s license, passport and identification cards issued by the province or state, military ID cards, and permanent resident cards. If a candidate decides to take the test at an international test center (including Puerto Rico), they must present their passport book or official ID card.   

In case the identification document meets the criteria mentioned above, but does not contain a signature, the candidate is required to bring a secondary identification document to the exam center that contains the candidate’s signature on the day of the exam. The full name on this secondary ID document needs to match the name found on the identification documents used during registration.

In the event that a candidate comes from a United States sanctioned or embargoed country, he or she will not be accepted to register for the NCLEX exam unless he or she provides proof of residency from a country that does not fall into the sanctioned or embargoed country category. This requirement has been introduced by The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of Treasury.

It is important to remember that the full name found in ATT email confirmation and the full name on the ID must match. In case of a name change, the candidate is required to bring acceptable name-change documents such as the marriage certificate, divorce decree or official certificate vouching for the candidate’s name-change. If the name on the ID document and ATT fail to match, the candidate will not be allowed to take the test, and he or she will have to pay an exam fee again.

Whom can I contact to get general information on NCLEX?

General details about the NCLEX exam can be obtained via the Internet, email or phone. Candidates are encouraged to contact NCSBN on using the official contact form.


Davis, J. H. (2016). Faculty Roles and Processes for NCLEX-RN Outcomes: A Theoretical Perspective. Teaching And Learning In Nursing, 11171-174. doi:10.1016/j.teln.2016.07.001

KAPLAN. (2018). NCLEX-RN® Question Types. Retrieved June 6, 2018 from: https://www.kaptest.com/study/nclex/nclex-rn-question-types/

National Council of State Board of Nursing. (2018). 2018 NCLEX Candidate Bulletin. Retrieved from: https://www.ncsbn.org/089900_2018_Bulletin_Proof2.pdf.pdf

Randolph, P. K. (2017). Original Article: Standardized Testing Practices: Effect on Graduation and NCLEX® Pass Rates. Journal Of Professional Nursing, 33224-228. doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2016.09.002

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