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Everything You Need to Know About the NCLEX

Staff Writer
Reviewed by Dr. Clancey Sollis
Sep 6, 2023

The NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) is a crucial step for aspiring nurses to obtain their nursing license. This comprehensive exam assesses the knowledge and skills necessary to provide safe and effective patient care. Learn more as we guide you through everything you need to know about the NCLEX, from registration to study strategies and beyond.

What is the NCLEX Exam?

The NCLEX-RN exam is a standardized test administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). It is a critical test that aspiring nurses must pass to obtain their nursing license and practice as registered nurses (RNs). Read on to get a detailed understanding of how the NCLEX works.

How to Register for the NCLEX

To register for the NCLEX-RN test, you must register with both PearsonVue (the company that administers the NCLEX exam) as well as with the state board of nursing where you wish to practice as a nurse. Joyce University is authorized to provide licensure in the state of Utah and with the Utah Department of Public Licensing (DOPL). Once you have a license to practice in Utah, you are also part of the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). The NLC allows nurses with one state license to practice in over 40 different states with only one license! If you are seeking licensure outside of the compact states, you must contact the applicable board of nursing licensing department.

When Do You Take the NCLEX?

Timing is an essential factor when planning to take the NCLEX. Timing for taking the NCLEX can be determined by the state or institution. Many institutions require students to wait 45 days after graduation to sit for the exam; at Joyce University, students can take the exam at a minimum of 10 days after you graduate.

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How Many Times Can I Take the NCLEX?

Some test-takers may need to retake the NCLEX if they do not pass it the first time. According to NCSBN, candidates may retake the NCLEX eight times a year with a 45-day period in between each examination. However, it’s important for candidates needing to retake the NCLEX to contact the Nursing Regulatory Body (NRB) in their state of residence to get more information on the NCLEX retake policy. Get tips and advice for Taking the NCLEX a Second Time.

How to Study for the NCLEX?

Preparing for the NCLEX requires a strategic study plan. It is a great idea to start preparing for the NCLEX beginning the first semester of a nursing program. It’s important to schedule time for study throughout the program, not just at the end, to ensure you’re prepared and comfortable with your understanding of nursing concepts. It’s also helpful to know how the test is structured so you can determine which areas you believe your stronger in and what areas require a bit more study. If you haven’t taken an NCLEX prep course during your program, consider participating in one as it can help boost your understanding. Learn more about Creating an NCLEX Study Plan.

How Many Questions Are on the NCLEX?

Knowing what to expect on the NCLEX in terms of the number of questions can help alleviate anxiety. The NCLEX has anywhere from 75 to 265 questions to be completed in a maximum of five hours, including breaks. Want to know more? Check out our post on the Anatomy of the NCLEX.

How to Handle Test Anxiety?

Test anxiety is a common challenge faced by many test-takers. Creating a study plan and giving yourself enough time to study will help you feel more prepared and relaxed come testing day. A few other ways to help curb your test anxiety is to get plenty of sleep, move your body, and eat nourishing meals. It’s also helpful to learn a few relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation to help you ground and center before heading into your exam. Lastly, make sure you reward yourself after taking the NCLEX. Get more Ideas on Managing Stress and Anxiety.

What Does the NCLEX Exam Determine?

The NCLEX-RN is an exam designed to determine eligibility for licensure for nursing candidates. The exam will evaluate your nursing competence, critical thinking and clinical judgment skills, as well as your ability to make safe and effective decisions in various patient care situations.

What Score Do You Need to Pass the NCLEX?

The passing standard, as determined by the NCSBN Board of Directors, is reflective of the amount of nursing ability required to practice nursing competently at an entry level. The NCLEX uses computer adaptive testing. Adaptive testing adjusts the difficulty of the test based on the candidate’s performance on each question. The questions will get harder or easier depending on whether the candidate answers correctly or incorrectly. Students who perform well get less questions while students who perform poorly get more opportunities to improve. Once a student reaches 265 questions, the exam closes. The result will be either a ‘Pass’ or a ‘Fail,’ not a percentage score.

Is the NCLEX a Difficult Exam?

The difficulty of the NCLEX can vary depending on a few factors, such as the candidate’s educational background, preparation, and test-taking skills. The exam includes a mix of multiple-choice questions, multiple response questions, fill-in-the-blank items, and other interactive questions. Moreover, the questions are designed to be adaptive, which means they become more challenging as the candidate answers correctly.

While the NCLEX is a challenging exam, the national pass rate for first-time test-takers was 74.13% in 2022, which indicates that the majority of candidates who take the exam pass it on the first attempt.

Is the NCLEX Only for Nurses?

Yes. The NCLEX-RN is specifically designed for individuals seeking to become licensed nurses in the United States. It is not for other professions.

Do All Nurses Have to Pass the NCLEX?

In the United States, all nurses are required to pass the NCLEX to obtain a nursing license and practice as a registered nurse (RN).


The NCLEX exam is a critical milestone in every aspiring nurse’s journey. By understanding the various aspects of the exam, from registration to study strategies and beyond, test-takers can approach the NCLEX with confidence. Remember, thorough preparation, perseverance, and a positive mindset are key to achieving success in this important examination.

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