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NCLEX Exam Format and Information

Posted by Nursing Educator on Feb 5, 2018 3:26:56 PM

So you’re preparing to take the NCLEX-RN nursing exam. Fantastic. This will be a milestone in your nursing career, and the test is pricey, so you want to optimize your chances of getting a high score. Registration and scheduling fees are typically between $200 and $300. Additional costs for materials tend to run an average of $300 to $500.

The most important thing you should know about the test is that the questions are designed to gauge your ability to make sound decisions in complex scenarios. You will have to develop a kind of nursing calculus based on an experience-based feeling for the way a hospital runs. The multiple choice questions are not fact-based, but rather test your ability to weigh options in an informed and effective manner in medical situations where no single choice is necessarily the only viable choice.

You will not be asked, for example, what the ratio of salt to H2O is in a saline drip, or how many CCs of morphine a 190lb man should be given to treat pain after an operation. Rather, you will be presented with scenarios like the following:

“A psychiatric client with a history of violence has been court ordered to take a personality evaluation after torturing a neighbor's cat. To evaluate the client for signs of potential violence, which clues should a nurse consider most relevant?

A. Rigid posture, glaring, and restlessness.

B. Physical withdrawal and depression.

C. Noncompliance and silence.

D. Talk of previous violent acts and hyper-vigilance.

As you can see, some answers are better than others, but the situation is highly subjective.


To pass the test, you must answer a minimum of 75 questions correctly. The goal is to demonstrate competence in a nursing environment, and you can answer up to 265 questions in order to show your ability to make wise decisions. You will have 15 practice questions that don’t affect your score.

You have 6 hours to complete the exam with an optional break at the second hour.

According to the Maryland Board of Nursing, the test has a pass rate of roughly 77.6% for first-time test takers.

There are many resources available to help you practice for the test. But one of the best strategies is to take practice quizzes using NCLEX-RN style questions every day.

Topics: nclex, student, testing, exam, preparation