NCLEX-PN Exam Review: Test Questions, Registration Process, and Retaking the Test

National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) is the test that all the LPN aspirants are required to pass, in order to obtain the license. It is organized by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and nursing boards of individual states. A practical nurse has an entry-level position in the hospitals and healthcare centers.

The main purpose of conducting this examination is to check whether the candidates are eligible to be a Licensed Practical Nurse or not. NCLEX-PN test is a five-hour (maximum) examination, comprising of questions related to different categories. It is a computer adaptive test with 85 to 205 questions. Test results are directly sent to the candidates by the board. Let’s explore more about this nursing licensure examination.

NCLEX-PN Test Sections

    • Safe and Effective Care Environment

This section holds 21-33% of the total number of questions in the NCLEX-PN test. Safe and effective care environment covers topics like infection control, care and safety issues, mental/ psychiatric patients, the safety of medication administration to patients, etc. Other than that, questions related to nursing management, ethical & legal issues, and laboratory tests & results can also be asked under this section.

    • Physiological Integrity

It is probably the largest section of the NCLEX-PN examination. It covers around 43-67% of the test questions. The topics included in this section are Physiological Adaption, Basic Care & Comfort, Reduction of Risk Potential, Pharmacological & Parental Therapies, Pediatric Care, Gerontology, Adult Medical & Surgical Care, Infectious Diseases, etc.

    • Health Promotion and Maintenance

As the name suggests, this section deals with prevention and diagnosis of diseases and promoting individual health. It comprises of topics like Prevention and Early Detection of Disease, Infant Growth & Development, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Human Growth & Development, etc. Around 7-13% of the total test questions are from this section.

    • Psychosocial Integrity

In this section, the questions are asked to test how well a nurse can handle psychiatric patients. The topics such as Personality Disorders, Coping & Adaptation, Depression, Psychosocial Adaptation, Organic Mental Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Schizophrenia, and Eating Disorders are included under this section. It covers almost 8-14% of the total number of questions in this test.

Facts About the NCLEX-PN Examination

  • Total Number of Questions: 85 (minimum) to 205 (maximum)
  • Average Number of Questions: 112
  • Maximum Time Allotted for Taking the Test: 5 Hours
  • Average Test-Taking Time (per candidate): 2 hours 14 minutes
  • Percent of Students Taking the Maximum Allowed Time: 1.1%
  • Number of Breaks- 2 Optional Breaks (First after 2 hours and second after additional 90 minutes)
  • Number of NCLEX-PN Test Takers in 2016 (till Sept. 2016): 50,910
  • Percent of Candidates Who Attempted the Maximum Number of Questions: 13.5%
  • Percent of Candidates Who Attempted the Minimum Number of Questions: 57.2%
  • Percent of First-Time (U.S. Graduated) Test-Takers to Pass in the First Attempt in 2016 (till Sept. 2016): 84.59%
  • Number of International Test-Takers in 2016 (till Sept. 2016): 1,849
  • Exam Cost: $200 (varies according to the different state boards)
  • Mode of Payment: Credit, Debit, or Prepaid Cards

What is CAT (Computer Adaptive Testing)?

Also called as Tailored Testing, CAT is a computer-based test technique adaptive to the abilities of the test-takers. NCLEX-PN examination uses this technology to test the knowledge and skills of the examinees. You can understand the process in a way that if you answer more questions right, you will have lesser upcoming questions to answer with the increasing difficulty level. On the other hand, if you don’t answer sufficient questions right, more questions with a lower difficulty level will be asked to you.

The NCLEX-PN examination has some rules that determine passing or failure of the candidates. The advantage of CAT is that it calculates the scores of the examinees in a uniform manner. It differs from the standard test-taking techniques in the way that it shortens the length of the test while keeping a higher level of precision.

One drawback associated with this test is that you can’t presume the time you would be taking to complete the test; it is a bit difficult to manage your time accordingly. However, NCLEX-PN test is taken in this way only, and you need to be prepared for cracking it.

NCLEX-PN Questions

The first thing that you should do while commencing the preparation for the NCLEX-PN examination is; ask the current LPNs about their experience of giving this test. It will help you build your strategy accordingly. As CAT is not same as other tests, you need to acquire a different path to pass the test.

MCQs (Multiple-Choice Questions) occupy the major part of this test. There can be any number of options ranging from 2-8. You will also get ‘multiple-multiple’ type of questions, i.e., there will be multiple choices, and you need to give multiple responses. It means that there can be more than one correct answers for one question and you need to mark all of them.

Another type of questions can be ‘fill-in-the-blank’ that require you to fill the correct answers at the missing places. However, these kinds of questions are rarely asked in the NCLEX-PN test. Other than that, there can be the hot spot, sound, drag & drop, and chart/exhibit questions.

Both hot spot and sound questions are assessment-based. While hot spot questions require you to assess the pictures or diagram of a patient and analyze them to present the correct answer; sound questions have the sounds of the heart beats, lungs or other body parts, from which, you need to diagnose the symptoms of any abnormality.

NCLEX-PN Pass Rates

When you are going to take this examination, you should keep in mind the percentage of the students that pass the test every year. Have a look at the pass rates of the past years of the NCLEX-PN exam.

  • 2016 (till Sept. 2016)- 50,910 test-takers; 71.76% pass
  • 2015- 70,097 test-takers; 69.04% pass
  • 2014- 73,731 test-takers; 69.79% pass
  • 2013- 75,280 test-takers; 73.71% pass
  • 2012- 80,423 test-takers; 73.79% pass
  • 2011- 80,949 test-takers; 75.12% pass
  • 2010- 82,519 test-takers; 78.08% pass

Information Source: NCSBN Exam Statistics and Publications

Note: These figures show the pass rates of all the candidates.

Register for the NCLEX-PN Examination

You can register for this test through the Pearson VUE website. Pearson VUE offers services like test development & management along with the delivery and regulation of certification and licensure examinations. With the largest testing centers network in the world, it has test centers all across the nation. Here is the process of getting registered for the NCLEX-PN test.

  • First, you need to submit an application for licensure to the concerned Board of Nursing.
  • You must fulfill all the eligibility criteria of the Nursing Board.
  • Now, you can register for the NCLEX-PN examination either online or over the phone by calling at 866-49-NCLEX.
  • Once the registration is complete, you will get an acknowledgment mail.
  • The Board of Nursing will intimate your eligibility to take the test to the Pearson VUE.
  • Pearson VUE will send you Authorization to Test (ATT) via email.
  • For most of the boards, ATT is valid for 90 days, while for others, it may vary from 60 to 365 days. If it is not used within the time limit, you will have to obtain it again.
  • After acquiring the ATT, you can schedule the time and venue of the examination.

What to Do on the NCLEX-PN Exam Day?

Once you have completed all the formalities of the registration process, it is the time to focus on the preparation. Don’t leave it for the day of the examination. Be prepared, and you will feel more confident on this day. One of the most important things that you need to do before going to the exam center is to gather all the documents needed for the test such as ID proof, admit card, etc.

You should dress in a comfortable way and should keep in mind that gloves, hats, scarves, and coats are not allowed in the examination hall. Try to reach the examination center 30 minutes before the test starts. If you are late for more than 30 minutes, you will not be allowed to take the test. Also, the exam fee will not be returned.

You will have to go through all the security checks before entering the examination hall. Your identification proof will be verified. You also need to provide a photograph, valid signature, and a palm vein scan. There are security checks inside the examination hall as well. All the activities of the test-takers are recorded both in audio and video formats. Outside materials like paper or writing tools are not allowed. You will have an on-screen calculator and a dry-erase board & marker.

With the start of the examination, try to keep up the pace. You don’t need to be in a rush; there are no extra marks for finishing the exam earlier. Keep yourself calm and read the test paper carefully. After completing the test, there is a short survey that needs to be answered. You can raise your hand thereafter, to signal the examiner that you have finished the test.

The exam results are not announced immediately. Once calculated, they are verified so that correct scoring and pass/fail decisions can be assured.

After the NCLEX-PN Examination

The official results of this test are declared after 6 weeks by the State Board of Nursing. The board mails the result to each candidate. If the candidate has passed the test, no information about the score is mailed. On the other hand, if you couldn’t crack the test, a CPR (Candidate Performance Report) is mailed to you along with the fail result.

In the CPR, a detailed report about the performance of the candidate in the test is provided. You can analyze it and know about your strengths and weaknesses. It carries the information about how many questions did you answer and how many, out of them, were correct in which categories.

There are also ‘unofficial results’ that are available within 48 hours of the examination. Candidates can choose the ‘Quick Result Service’ option by paying $7.95. However, unpaid and paid results are received almost within the same time period.

Retake the Test

If you fail the test in your first attempt, you can take it again, but only after 45 days. It may vary according to the State Nursing Board. You can register for retaking the exam in the following manner:

  • You need to contact the Board of Nursing and notice them that you want to retake the examination.
  • Register yourself again with Pearson VUE and pay the fee of $200.
  • Wait for the new ATT.
  • Schedule the test location and time.