Get Licensed: NCLEX-RN Preparation Guide

Registration and Fees

Candidates who graduate from nursing school are required to undergo an examination before receiving licensure as a registered nurse in the United States. Known as NCLEX-RN or the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, this examination has been developed to test a candidate’s competence in the profession of nursing before practicing.

As the examination is conducted through a computerized adaptive testing (CAT) system a candidate’s every answer is evaluated. This also means that no two sets of examination questions are alike. Prior to taking the exam, candidates have to register themselves and apply for authorization from the state’s board of nursing. If they meet the requirements, they will be given an Authorization to Test (ATT) by the state board of nursing. Then, after paying the $200 examination fee, they will be scheduled for an examination.

What are candidates tested on?

In the NCLEX-RN test, candidates are tested on four major client needs. Unless specified, it is to be assumed that the client is an adult and the four components reflect on the general needs of adults. In addition, throughout the test, several concepts are integrated into the questions which include processes like communication and documentation, respectful and caring interaction between nurse and client, cultural awareness, self care, and teaching and learning. Candidates for testing can read more about the test plan and breakdown of questioning for the NCLEX at NCSBN.

The first client need category is Safe and Effective Care Environment, which is divided into Management of Care and Safety and Infection Control. The Management of Care subcategory tests the student’s ability to work as part of a medical team. Examination content for this category includes delegation, legal responsibilities, resource management, supervision and other related items. The second subcategory, Safety an Infection Control, tests the understanding and ability to protect clients and personnel from environmental hazards.

The second client need category is Health Promotion and Maintenance whereby the student is tested on the understanding of human growth and development as well as the ability to develop effective practices that promote better health for future clients.

The third client need category tests candidates on Psychosocial Integrity. Candidates are tested on the understanding of client problems and helping these clients to cope, solve, or adapt themselves to the changes caused by their illnesses or disorders.

The final client need category is Physiological Integrity and covers four subcategories. Candidates are tested on their abilities to provide basic care and comfort, physiological adaptation, pharmacological therapy and on-hour knack to reduce risk potentials found in medical procedures and treatment.

How are candidates tested?

Candidates for the NCLEX examination are tested through a CAT system, also known as computerized adaptive testing. As the name suggests, the test is an interactive one which changes the type of questions to suit the candidate’s abilities and standards. Once the first question has been answered, the system will automatically estimate your standard and project a harder question if the first question was answered correctly or an easier question if the chosen answer was incorrect.

This cycle will be repeated until the system has determined whether you are in the passing or failing category. No two sets of questions are similar. The entire examination may take up to six hours to complete, and includes a short tutorial introduction and two ten-minute breaks. During this time you will have to answer between 75 and 265 questions.

The evaluation will begin once you have answered 75 questions. The examination may be halted at any time once the system is convinced that you have acquired the passing standard. Poor candidates will finish the examination relatively quick as well, which means that the length of your examination does not guarantee a passing grade. The test will stop when the system is convinced of your standard, when you have reached the maximum limit of questions or when time has run out. Also, out of all your answered questions, there will be 15 questions which will not be taken into consideration for your final score. These questions are in reality an ongoing survey that evaluates the standards of new candidates and prepares the system for future candidates.

Your results will be mailed to you within one month from your examination date. In the event that you fail the examination, you have either 45 or 90 days to reschedule for a new examination date.

What is the secret to getting licensed?

As is the case with all examinations, hard work and preparation are keys to a successful NCLEX examination. You should fully understand the components that are involved in the examination itself and practice as many sample questions as possible to familiarize yourself with the format.

There are also many practice examinations available on the Internet and through NCLEX sample-test books. The best NCLEX-RN study book available is Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination. You can also look up online websites that offer practice examinations for a fee like NCLEX Excel and Kaplan.

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