About the NCLEX-PN

The NCLEX® is designed to test the nursing candidate's knowledge, skills, and abilities essential for the safe and effective practice of entry-level nursing. Passing the NCLEX-PN exam is required for initial recognition as a licensed practical/vocational nurse in the United States. Candidates must be granted approval by the individual state boards of nursing to take the NCLEX-PN exam.

Examination Content

The NCLEX-PN is designed to assess competency required for performing safe, effective nursing care expected from entry level graduates.

NCLEX-PN includes test items in the following content areas:

  • Coordinated Care – 19%
    • Advocacy, Client care assignments, Client rights
    • Collaboration with interdisciplinary team, Concepts of management and supervision
    • Confidentiality/information security, Continuity of care, Establishing priorities
    • Ethical practice, Informed consent, Information technology, Legal responsibilities
    • Performance improvement (quality improvement), Referrals, Resource management
  • Pharmacologic Therapies – 14%
    • Adverse effects/contraindications/side effects/interactions
    • Dosage calculations, Expected actions/outcomes
    • Medication administration, Pharmacological pain management
  • Reduction of Risk Potential – 13%
    • Changes/abnormalities in vital signs, Diagnostic tests
    • Laboratory values, Potential for alterations in body systems
    • Potential for complications of diagnostic tests/treatments/procedures
    • Potential for complications from surgical procedures and health alterations
    • Therapeutic procedures
  • Safety and Infection Control – 13%
    • Accident/error/injury prevention, Emergency response plan
    • Ergonomic principles, Handling hazardous and infectious materials
    • Home safety, Least restrictive restraints and safety devices
    • Reporting of incident/event/irregular occurrence/variance
    • Safe use of equipment, Security plan
    • Standard precautions/transmission-based precautions/surgical asepsis
  • Psychosocial Integrity – 11%
    • Abuse/neglect, Behavioral management, Chemical and other dependencies
    • Coping mechanisms, Crisis intervention
    • Cultural awareness/cultural influences on health, End-of-life care
    • Family dynamics, Grief and loss, Mental health concepts
    • Religious and spiritual influences on health, Sensory/perceptual alterations
    • Stress management, Support systems, Therapeutic communication, Therapeutic environment
  • Basic Care and Comfort – 10%
    • Assistive devices, Elimination, Mobility/immobility
    • Nonpharmacologic comfort interventions
    • Nutrition and oral hydration, Personal hygiene, Rest and sleep
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance – 10%
    • Aging process, Ante/intra/postpartum and newborn care
    • Data collection techniques, Developmental stages and transitions
    • Health promotion/disease prevention, Health screening
    • High-risk behaviors, Lifestyle choices, Self-care
  • Physiological Adaptation – 10%
    • Alterations in body systems, Basic pathophysiology
    • Fluid and electrolyte imbalances, Medical emergencies
    • Unexpected response to therapies

The full test plan is available on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website.

Test Length and Format

Each candidate answers a minimum of 85 questions or a maximum of 205 questions, depending on performance. The exam ends when it is determined with a 95% confidence interval that a candidate's performance is either above or below the passing standard. If a candidate has borderline performance for the majority of the examination, the test will automatically end at 5 hours or 205 questions, whichever comes first.

Question formats

  • Single best response
  • Multiple-response (also known as “select all that apply”)
  • Fill-in-the-blank (used for calculations)
  • Hot spot
  • Ordered response
  • Chart/exhibit format
  • Audio/video format

Any item formats, including standard multiple-choice items, may include multimedia, charts, tables, or graphic images

Computer Adaptive Examination (CAT)

The NCLEX-PN is a computer-based adaptive exam. The NCLEX item selection software chooses each question to give the candidate about a 50% chance of answering each one correctly. The computer will not allow a candidate to proceed to the next question without answering the previous one. The test may end at any point when the algorithm determines that the candidate has met, or failed to meet, a statistical degree of certainty regarding clinical competency.

When competence above the passing standard is determined, the exam ends and the candidate passes. If it is determined that the candidate does not meet minimum competency, the exam ends and the candidate does not pass.

Exam Facts

  • The NCLEX-PN was first given in 1983 as a paper-based examination, with at least 50,000 test-takers annually. Nearly 75,000 candidates took the exam in 2014.
  • All examinations are administered at Pearson VUE testing centers throughout the United States. The NCLEX-PN can be scheduled at any Pearson VUE testing center by appointment.
  • Content is reviewed regularly by the NCSBN based on graduate surveys, with recent changes emphasizing the evolving complexity of modern nursing and client care in a variety of clinical scenarios.
  • In 2012, the average number of items (questions) administered per candidate on the NCLEX-PN was around 117 and the average test length was 2.3 hours.

Leading reasons for delaying or not taking the NCLEX® Exam

Lack of confidence in ability to pass the examination

  • Timely preparation: Given the extensive amount of studying required to prepare for the NCLEX exam, many candidates can become overwhelmed and feel unprepared. The numerous NCLEX study materials on the market today present conflicting content and strategies, causing uncertainty and a delay in finding the right study tools to use.
  • Acquiring the knowledge base: UWorld's mission is to ensure that users feel prepared and confident at exam time and beyond. We teach you the critical reasoning skills used by health care professionals and provide effective NCLEX exam preparation, improving and honing your knowledge base for a successful career in nursing.
  • Strengthening areas of weakness: With our vast bank of questions, users are challenged with scenarios that test the complete range of subjects. Users can also create tests in specific subjects to strengthen areas of weakness.

Test anxiety and knowing what to expect

Many test takers dread test day. Test-taking anxiety is common and can affect anyone's performance, especially during such an important exam. A student may study carefully but still find it difficult to feel comfortable without intimate knowledge of the look and feel of the actual exam.

  • We have devised a comprehensive layout that mimics the NCLEX examination. This significantly helps ensure confidence and a sense of familiarity and comfort on exam day.
  • We supply users with scoring statistics that are specially designed to allow users to pinpoint their areas of weakness.

Not enough time to prepare or choose the best resource

Everyone studies and learns differently; one study method may not work for everyone. When looking for study materials, students may feel time-pressured to choose the same resource as everyone else instead of finding one that fits their personal needs.

UWorld offers various NCLEX-PN Qbank subscription durations. This flexibility allows users to choose the one that is right for them and start their preparation according to their own timeline. UWorld's comprehensive product and versatile features give users everything they need to feel confident and ready on exam day.