What is NCLEX? A Beginner's Guide

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Are you a nursing student gearing up to tackle the NCLEX exam? If so, you will embark on a critical journey determining your nursing career’s trajectory. With a pass rate hovering around 79%, it’s clear that this test isn’t a walk in the park. 

But fear not! This beginner’s guide will break down the NCLEX essentials and and answer what is the NCLEx exam. We’ll also equip you with the knowledge and confidence to ace this pivotal exam. 

Whether you’re just starting or deep into your prep, let’s pave your way to becoming a licensed nurse.

NCLEX pass rates for the years 2020 to 2022:

YearNCLEX Pass Rate (%)

These figures represent the NCLEX pass rates for US-educated nurses during the respective years.

What is NCLEX Exam?

So, what is a NCLEX? NCLEX, or National Council Licensure Examination, is a crucial step for aspiring nurses in the United States. This standardized exam ensures nurses possess the knowledge and skills to provide safe and effective patient care.


  • NCLEX-RN (Registered Nurse): This exam is for those seeking to become registered nurses. RNs are qualified to handle a broader range of patient care responsibilities.
  • NCLEX-PN (Practical Nurse): The PN exam is intended for those pursuing careers as practical or vocational nurses. PNs typically assist with basic patient care under the supervision of RNs or doctors.
What is NCLEX?

Why is it Important?

Passing the NCLEX is a requirement to obtain nursing licensure in the United States.

It ensures that nurses are competent in delivering safe patient care.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the exam and follows rigorous standards.

The NCLEX is a pivotal examination determining a nurse’s practice eligibility. Understanding the purpose, format, and differences between the RN and PN exams is crucial for anyone on the path to becoming a nurse in the United States.

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Personalised study plan and expert NCLEX tutoring with regular feedback and progress updates

NCLEX Format and Content

The NCLEX exam is designed to evaluate the competency of aspiring nurses. Understanding its format and content is essential for effective preparation.

Exam Format:

  • The NCLEX is a computerized adaptive test (CAT), which means the difficulty of the questions adapts to your performance.
  • You’ll face a minimum of 75 questions, with a maximum of 265 questions for the NCLEX-RN and 205 for the NCLEX-PN.
  • The time limit varies, but you have approximately 6 hours to complete the exam.

Content Areas:

  • Safe and Effective Care Environment: This section evaluates your ability to provide safe care to patients, manage care, and ensure a safe healthcare environment.
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance: It covers topics related to health promotion, disease prevention, and early detection of health problems.
  • Psychosocial Integrity: Assessing your knowledge of patients’ mental health, emotional support, and psychosocial well-being.
  • Physiological Integrity: This section is divided into four categories: 1. Basic Care and Comfort, 2. Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies, 3. Reduction of Risk Potential, and 4. Physiological Adaptation.
NCLEX Exam format


  • The NCLEX uses a pass/fail system.
  • The computer determines your pass/fail status based on your performance relative to the passing standard.
  • There’s no numerical score; it’s simply about meeting or exceeding the passing standard.

Preparation Strategy:

  • Given the adaptive nature of the test, practice with various questions to build your confidence.
  • Focus on your weak areas during preparation.
  • Time management is crucial, as you have limited time to answer each question.

Understanding the format and content of the NCLEX is the first step toward success. Effective preparation tailored to the content areas is key to passing this critical exam and confidently embarking on your nursing career.

1-1 NCLEX Tutoring
Personalised study plan and expert NCLEX tutoring with regular feedback and progress updates

9 Tips to Help You Prepare for the NCLEX

1. Understand the Blueprint

It’s crucial to begin by comprehending the NCLEX blueprint. This document is your guiding light, meticulously outlining the content areas and their weightage. Understanding the blueprint provides a clear roadmap for structuring your study strategy.

2. Set Clear Study Goals

Setting clear and achievable study goals is the foundation of your NCLEX preparation plan. Begin by defining your study objectives and milestones. Determine how much time you can allocate daily or weekly to your preparation efforts, aligning them with your anticipated test date. These goals will help you stay on track and measure your progress effectively.

3. Choose the Right Resources

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Selecting the right resources is a pivotal decision in your NCLEX preparation journey. Many reliable NCLEX review materials are available, including textbooks, online courses, practice question banks, and study guides. Additionally, make the most of the free NCLEX Practice Questions.

4. Active Learning Strategies

Active learning is key to effectively retaining and understanding the material. Instead of passively reading or watching, engage with the content actively. Employ summarization, flashcards, and self-quizzing to reinforce your understanding and retention of key concepts.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice is an integral component of NCLEX preparation. Engage in NCLEX-style practice questions to familiarize yourself with the exam’s format and the types of questions you’ll encounter. After each practice session, meticulously review your answers. Understand why you got certain questions wrong and prioritize improvement in those areas.

6. Simulating Test Conditions

To reduce test-day anxiety, simulate test conditions during your preparation. Take full-length practice exams under timed conditions. That will help you become accustomed to the real test experience, improving your time management and comfort with the exam format.

7. Seeking Support

Don’t hesitate to seek support during your NCLEX preparation journey. Consider joining study groups or online forums to connect with fellow test-takers. Or get matched with an expert NCLEX tutor and gain valuable guidance and insights based on their experience.

8. Managing Stress

Maintaining a healthy balance is vital for productive NCLEX preparation. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet contribute to well-being. Implement stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness or meditation to stay calm and focused throughout your preparation.

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9. Check Your Progress

Periodically assessing your progress is essential. As you advance in your preparation, adjust your study plan accordingly. Focus more on your weaker areas to ensure comprehensive readiness for the NCLEX. Regular self-assessment will help you fine-tune your preparation strategy and increase your confidence as the test date approaches.


We hope you’re feeling more confident after we’ve answered what is the NCLEX test. In your journey to NCLEX success, remember: Preparation, not luck, leads to triumph. Embrace active learning, follow the blueprint, and practice relentlessly. Stay committed to your goals, and you’ll unlock the doors to your nursing career. 

For ongoing support and guidance, consider joining Medic Mind US today and talk to an NCLEX tutor.


1: How many times can I take the NCLEX exam if I don’t pass on my first attempt?

Answer: You can take the NCLEX multiple times if you fail to pass on your first try. However, there are limitations. In most states, there is a waiting period between attempts, and you must reapply and pay the exam fee each time. It’s crucial to use the time between attempts wisely by identifying your weak areas and focusing your preparation efforts there.

2: Can international nursing graduates take the NCLEX in the United States?

Answer: Yes, international nursing graduates can take the NCLEX in the United States. However, they must meet specific eligibility requirements, typically completing a nursing program that meets U.S. standards and obtaining a VisaScreen Certificate from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) or equivalent credentials evaluation agency.

3: How long does preparing adequately for the NCLEX exam take?

Answer: The duration of NCLEX preparation varies from person to person. On average, most candidates spend several weeks to a few months preparing. It depends on factors such as your familiarity with the content, your study schedule, and the resources you use. Creating a structured study plan and identifying your strengths and weaknesses can help you determine your ideal preparation timeline.

4: What is the passing standard for the NCLEX, and how is it determined?

Answer: The passing standard for the NCLEX is not a fixed percentage or score. A panel of experts determines it through a process called the Modified-Angoff method. They review each test question and estimate the percentage of minimally competent candidates who would answer it correctly. The passing standard is then set based on these expert judgments. To pass, you need to perform at or above this standard.

5: Are there accommodations available for test-takers with disabilities?

Answer: Yes, the NCLEX provides accommodations for test-takers with documented disabilities. These accommodations may include extended testing time, extra breaks, or other support measures to ensure equal access to the exam. To request accommodations, you’ll need to follow the specific guidelines provided by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and provide the required documentation of your disability.

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