Have you been diligently studying science to become a nurse? Or are you already in med school figuring out your career path? We may have some answers in store. But before we reveal details, let’s address the elephant in the room: the NCLEX.
There are a lot of acronyms in nursing: RN, NP, APRN, CSN—the list goes on. But NCLEX generally gives any hopeful butterflies in their stomach. These five little letters stand for the most significant exam you’ll have to take before holding any of those other acronyms, like RN (registered nurse), as a job title.
Here’s a little stress relief: The nursing school will prepare you well for the NCLEX (we’ll expand the acronym soon, we promise!). The exam tests your knowledge of the nursing material you cover in school and what you need for your career. And, if you’re wondering how many times you can take the NCLEX, we have great news. You can take it more than once. So, if you don’t ace it the first time, you can focus your studies on the material that caught you up and pass the NCLEX with flying colors the next time.
Read on to find out what you should expect in this exam and some other details. But before we do that, we just want to say: You’ve got this!
What is the NCLEX?
The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is the test that determines if a person is prepared to practice as an entry-level nurse. Based on critical thinking skills, the exam tests aspiring nurses on how they will apply what they learned in school in a clinical setting. Aspirants take this test after earning their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Let’s talk about what’s on the test. The following are the four major content areas of the exam:
- Safe and Effective Care Environment: This test section focuses on patient safety, the number-one concern. The first part of the section, Management of Care, looks at topics like advocacy, case management, client rights, and ethical practice. The second part, Safety and Infection Control, test nursing students on everything from error prevention to how to handle hazardous materials.
- Health Promotion and Maintenance: This section examines the test-taker’s knowledge of topics related to human life, like the aging process, pregnancy, development, lifestyle choices, and self-care.
- Psychosocial Integrity: This test section looks at behavioral issues like coping mechanisms, grief, loss, spirituality, and stress.
- Physiological Integrity: This exam section covers four healthcare concepts: Basic Care and Comfort, Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies, Reduction of Risk, and Physiological Adaptation. These sections include topics like assistive devices, hygiene, IVs and chemotherapy, lab values, and body systems. In other words, scientific and medical concepts help nurses provide adequate patient care.
How many times can I take the NCLEX?
Ready for a big sigh of relief? If you don’t pass the NCLEX on the first attempt, you can retake it as many times as you want. You just need to wait 45 days between tries. If you do the math, you can take the test up to eight times in one year.
Getting ready for the NCLEX
If you want to ace the test on the first try, your best bet is to study for the NCLEX plenty of time ahead of taking the retest. Make a study plan, and practice questions while reviewing your nursing school material. Try to retain information over time so that you don’t need to cram right before the exam. Here are five more quick tips that’ll set you up for success:
- Sleep well and eat a nutritious meal before the test. And don’t forget to stay hydrated.
- Make sure you understand the question formats. Half your battle is won as soon as you thoroughly familiarize yourself with every section.
- Take practice tests to gauge your strengths and areas of improvement, and focus on your studies accordingly.
- Pick up an NCLEX guide, and seek other resources like a test prep course.
- Form a study group with your nursing school colleagues. A little moral support goes a long way.
Applying for the NCLEX
Another critical step in getting ready for the NCLEX is signing up for it. Here’s how:
- Apply for licensure: Remember that this is a licensure exam, and when you pass, you’ll be able to seek this credential from a nursing regulatory body (NRB). The first step to taking the NCLEX, therefore, is to register with the NRB from which you’ll be seeking your nursing license.
- Register with Pearson VUE: Pearson VUE is the testing company that conducts the NCLEX. So you’ll pay for, register, and schedule your exam with the company.
- Pay for the exam: The cost of the test depends on where you take it. You may need to pay additional fees if you make changes to your registration. Veterans may be eligible for reimbursement.
- Get your authorization to test (ATT): You’ll receive an ATT email when the NRB has determined your eligibility and you’ve completed your registration with Pearson VUE. Keep this email on hand in your inbox because you’ll need it when scheduling your test.
- Find the best testing location for you: There are plenty of testing centers around the world, so choose the one that’s closest to your home.
- Schedule your exam: Schedule your NCLEX date with Pearson VUE Candidate Services online or by phone.
Why is the NCLEX such a big deal?
The NCLEX not only determines whether or not an individual is ready to safely practice as a nurse—which is a big deal in and of itself––but also ascertains the quality of a nursing program.
NCLEX pass rates—along with retention, graduation, and employment rates—are important factors in helping accreditation programs determine the viability and strength of nursing schools. Some accreditors require that a nursing program should have an 80% first-time pass rate, while others range from 75% to 90%.
In short, the NCLEX isn’t just a big deal for you but also for your school.
While you study hard to clear this exam, we’ll pick some of the most comfortable scrub sets from our collection. Sport a trendy pair on exam day. Even while sitting for hours, you’ll feel good, and your workwear will get you in the clinical mindset. We wish you lots of luck. We know you’ll nail it!