What You Need to Know Before you Take the NCLEX!

Written by kimmel52 on November 11, 2008 – 11:45 pm

By Nancy Lydia Kimmel R.N., Ph.D., C.H.M.M.

NCSBN (National Council of the State Board of Nursing) does not have established guidelines for graduating students as to when to register. However, registering for the NCLEX examination and licensure during the month of the student’s graduation is common. Note that registering to take the examination and applying for licensure to a state board of nursing are two different processes.

Please keep in mind all NCLEX examination registrations will remain effective for a 365-day time period during which a board of nursing may determine the candidate’s eligibility. The time limit begins when the board of nursing receives the candidate’s registration from the test service. Candidates who are not made eligible by their board of nursing within the 365-day time period will forfeit their registrations, including the candidate registration fee. Candidates who wish to take an NCLEX examination will need to re-register, including repaying the examination fee, in order to receive an examination.

Students can register for the NCLEX examination and pay the $200 by credit card by calling Pearson VUE at 866.496.2539 or register via the Internet at www.pearsonvue.com/nclex.
1. Apply for licensure to the board of nursing in the state or territory where you wish to be licensed. Contact the state board for the requirements.

2. Register for the NCLEX examination with Pearson VUE by mail, telephone or via the internet.

o The name with which you register must match exactly with the printed name on the identification you present at the test center.
o If you provide an e-mail address when registering for the NCLEX examination, all subsequent correspondences from Pearson VUE will arrive ONLY BY E-MAIL. If you do not provide an e-mail address, all correspondences from will arrive only through U.S. mail.
o All NCLEX examination registrations will remain open for a 365-day time period during which a board of nursing may determine your eligibility to take the NCLEX examination.
o There is no refund of the $200 NCLEX registration fee for any reason.

3. Receive Confirmation of Registration from Pearson VUE.

4. Receive eligibility from the state board of nursing you applied for licensure with.

5. Receive Authorization to Test (ATT) from Pearson VUE.

If more than two weeks have passed after you have submitted a registration for the NCLEX examination and received a confirmation from Pearson VUE, and you have not received an ATT, please call Pearson VUE.
o You must test within the validity dates of your ATT. These validity dates cannot be extended for any reason.
o The printed name on your identification must match exactly the printed name on your ATT. If the name with which you have registered is different from the name on your identification, you must bring legal name change documentation with you to the test center on the day of your test. The only acceptable forms for legal documentation are: marriage licenses, divorce degrees and/or court action legal name change documents. All documents must be in English and must be the original documents.

6. Schedule an appointment to test by visiting www.pearsonvue.com/nclex or by calling Pearson VUE.
o To change your appointment date:
o For exams scheduled on: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, call Pearson VUE at least 24 hours in advance of the day and time of your appointment.
o For exams scheduled on: Saturday, Sunday and Monday, call Pearson VUE no later than Friday at least 1 full business day in advance of the time of your appointment.

7. Present one form of acceptable identification and your ATT on the day of the examination.
o The only acceptable forms of identification in test centers in the U.S., American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Virgin Islands are:
o U.S. drivers license (not a temporary or learners permit)
o U.S. state identification
o Passport
o For all other test (international) centers, only a passport is acceptable. All identification must be written in English, have a signature in English, be valid (not expired) and include a photograph. Candidates with identification from a country on the U.S. embargoed countries list will not be admitted to test.
o You will not be admitted to the examination without acceptable identification and your ATT. If you arrive without these materials, you forfeit your test session and must re-register; this includes re-payment of the $200 registration fee.

Receive your NCLEX examination results from the board of nursing you applied for licensure with within one month from your examination date. Under the guidance of its membership, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. (NCSBN) develops and administers two national nurse licensure examinations; the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN.) and the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN.). These two examinations are used by all U.S. state and territorial Boards of Nursing to test entry-level nursing competence of candidates for licensure as Registered Nurses and as Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses. The NCLEX examinations are provided exclusively as (CAT) computerized adaptive tests.

Several steps must be completed before a nurse can safely enter the profession. These typically include: Graduation from an accredited nursing program Meeting specific requirements of the state board of nursing Passing the National Counsel of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) NCLEX examination for registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs)

About the Test

The NCLEX examination is designed to test knowledge,skills and abilities essential to the safe and effective practice of nursing at the entry level. NCLEX results are an important component used by boards of nursing to make decisions about licensure. Only boards of nursing can release NCLEX examination results to candidates.

The NCLEX examination is administered in the United States, American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The NCLEX examination is also administered internationally at Pearson Professional Centers. For a complete list of international test centers go to www.pearsonvue.com/nclex or http://www.ncsb.org/. The CAT (computerized adaptive test) type test adapts to your skill level. The first questions that are presented to you are determining your ability level. Once your ability level is determined, the questions are presented in increasing level of difficulty/decreasing difficulty until you have answered enough questions for the computer to determine (with 95% statistical certainty) that you have met the passing standard. The minimum number of questions you will have is 75 (60 questions plus 15 pilot items). You will not be able to distinguish pilot items from “real” items. SO, if you get 265 items, that means the computer has not yet determined that you have met the passing standard at the 95% confidence level. There is no random number of candidates that get the exam with 265- that is a myth. The test is now 6 hours long (up from 5), and you should take your time. Rushing through the questions will most likely lead to failure, because each one you get wrong due to guessing means the next question is easier, and then on and on, until you fail because you are guessing at them all. Take your time to think each question through and choose the best answer. NCLEX is given throughout the US and its territories, so the same format is used and the same question bank is used across the US. You’ve studied hard, finished most of your clinical experience and now you’re ready for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX examination), often referred to as the “State Boards.” The State Boards exam is the culmination of all the hard work you completed in nursing school. The purpose of the exam is to test and ensure the knowledge, skills and abilities for safe, competent practice in the field of nursing.

Who needs to take the NCLEX examination?

At the completion of nursing school, all graduates are required to take the NCLEX examination in order to practice as an entry-level licensed RN or LPN in the United States. The registration process begins near the end of your final year in nursing school. At that time you will receive an application to take the NCLEX examination. It must be filled out and returned to the Board of Nursing in the state in which you expect to practice as a nurse.

Preparing for the NCLEX examination

If you’ve graduated from nursing school, you possess all of the knowledge you need in order to pass the NCLEX examination. It’s easier than you think; all you have to do is review the material you haven’t seen in a while. The trick to passing is starting the review process immediately following your final exams when the information is fresh in your mind. Learn all you can about the test particulars and ways to assure a passing score.

Getting test results

You will be notified of your NCLEX examination results by mail within 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the distribution procedures for the state in which you applied. If you are successful, expect to receive a sheet of paper notifying you of your passing score. If you did not pass the exam, expect to receive a diagnostic profile that describes overall performance in each section of the exam. Keep in mind that you must wait three months before applying to retake the NCLEX examination. If you want faster results, you can use the NCLEX Quick Results service. Results are available by phone three days after taking the NCLEX examination. Call (900) 328-8378 and follow the prompts. There is a $7.95 charge.

Results are also available online. The $7.95 charge still applies and you will need your user name, password and a credit card.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing operates the NCLEX examination Quick Results service. This service is currently available in 38 states: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia-PN, Georgia-RN, Illinois, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas (VN only), Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia (PN only), Wisconsin and Wyoming.

If you did not take the test in one of these states, you cannot get your unofficial results using the Quick Results service. If you have questions about this service, call the National Council of State Boards of Nursing at (866) 293-9600.

Tips on Test Taking

(1) Watch out for the words: except, always and not in all NCLEX questions.
(2) Answer each question. You are not penalized for taking an educated guess.
(3) Get a good night’s sleep before the NCLEX.
(4) Wear layered clothing to the exam.
(5) Practice with a watch and bring a watch to the test.
(6) Study for each material section of the NCLEX individually.
(7) If you extremely weak in one area of content focus on that area.
(8) Don’t cram for the NCLEX. Read over a good practice study guide at least one week in advance.
(9) Stay away from negative talk about the NCLEX with other students.
(10) Know the route to the testing center,
(11) Double check that you have the appropriate ID prior to the NCLEX test.
(12) Work through several practice tests prior to the exam.


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