All Nurses NCLEX Study Guide: Complete Info for PN & RN About the NCLEX Exam


An important step on the road to becoming a certified nurse is passing the NCLEX hence the importance of having a good NCLEX study guide. It is naturally important for you to take this exam very seriously since it determines how your career blossoms. Careful preparation for exams is quite important along with patience and ability to stick to the professional code of conduct. Although it is possible to take the exam more than once, you should never be tempted to take the test only as an ”experiment’ just to see how well you do.

With that said, this NCLEX study guide provides you with the professional instruction you need for understanding the NCLEX exam. Covered are all aspects of the test including the importance of the test, who is eligible for the test, what benefits does the test bring, preparation procedures that you will need throughout the process and tips for succeeding in the exam. Therefore, upon completion of this guide, you can rest assured you will have the confidence and sufficient knowledge you require for maximizing your performance on your National Council Licensure Examination.


What is NCLEX and Why is NCLEX Study Guide Important?


NCLEX exam is a standardized test that each state board of nursing uses to determine whether or not a candidate is prepared for entry-level nursing practice. The test is a comprehensive computer-based exam designed to measure your knowledge and skills in relation to the demands of the job. Currently, only two types of NCLEX examination are offered which include:


The NCLEX-PN is required for licensure as a licensed practical nurse whose main responsibilities include gathering data from the patients and assisting them to follow their care plans. In the year 2014, the overall pass-rate of this test for all test-takers was around 73.08% out of 18,030 students.

The NCLEX-RN, on the other hand, is required for licensure as a registered nurse whose primary duties are developing care plans for patients and monitoring closely their diagnostics. In the year 2014, the overall pass-rate of this test for all candidates who took the test was 73.16% out of 51, 120 students.

Established by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the NCLEX exam ensures the public protection by establishing standards for professional practice. The purpose of the test, however, is to establish a standard method of measurement for the skills that have been acquired by nursing school graduates.


What to Expect on the NCLEX Exam?


The exam is given on a computer as stated in this NCLEX study guide but the process is quite adaptive and interactive too. This means the computer usually adapts the exam to the answers you have already given. It also means that the next question you receive will depend on the answer you gave before.

So the more answers you get right the harder the questions become until you have demonstrated you have mastered the course. However, incorrect answers will mean returning to a slightly lower testing level. Fortunately, the computer usually continues providing questions until you reach a pass or fail grade.

The minimum number of questions asked on the NCLEX-PN test is 85 while the maximum is 205. For the case of NCLEX-RN exam, the number of questions can vary from as minimum as 75 to as maximum as 265. Questions on the NCLEX test are not just in multiple choice format, multiple right answer questions, drag and drop questions, graphic- based questions and fill in the blank questions are also included in the exam. Some questions will also require you to interpret pictures, charts and tables.

Additionally, a maximum of 6 hours to complete the test is provided. This means that if you’re required to answer all 265 questions in the test, you’ll only have an average of one minute and 21 seconds to answer every question. In addition, the subjects covered on the NCLEX-PN are similar to those covered on the national exams for registered nurses, but at a less advanced level. They are divided into four categories and six sub-categories and include:

  1. Safe, Effective Care Environment
  • Management of Care — contains 13 to 19% of the test
  • Safety and Infection Control — covers about 8 to 14% of the test

     2. Health Promotion and Maintenance  contains 6 to 12% of the test

     3. Psychosocial Integrity — covers about 6 to 12% of the test

     4. Physiological Integrity

  • Basic care and comfort — contains 6 to 12 of the test
  • Reduction of risk potential — contains 13 to 19% of the test
  • Pharmacological therapies — contains 13 to 19% of the test
  • Physiological adaptation — contains 11 to 17% of the test

It is a difficult and challenging test but so long as you have acquired an RN or PN degree, there is no reason that with solid preparation and knowledge acquired in the nursing school and NCLEX study guide you cannot pass this test.

Who is Eligible for NCLEX Study Guide?


To take the NCLEX test, you have to apply for the nursing license from your state board of nursing. The board will be able to determine whether or not you meet the requirements to sit for NCLEX examination. If you are eligible, you will receive an NCLEX Examination Candidate Bulletin in your email thereby allowing you to register to take the exam. Registration with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s testing service can be done either by filling out a mail-in registration form or by phone.

Immediately the state board verifies your eligibility to sit for the exam, you will receive an Authorization to Take the Test (ATT) as well as a list of testing centers and instructions for the process of scheduling an appointment so you can take the test. The exam can be taken anytime over the next 365 days as long as the student meets all state board of nursing requirements. The costs to take the NCLEX exam is $200 for U.S. residents only and an additional $150 surcharge for international exam takers. On the other hand, if a candidate chooses to switch exam type from NCLEX-PN to NCLEX-RN, or vice versa, they must pay an addition $50 surcharge.

Here are some of the foreign nations and non-NCSBN territories where NCLEX is available at Pearson VUE testing centers for non-US residents wishing to earn NCLEX certification and practice nursing in the United States. They include:

  • United Kingdom
  • Japan
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Australia
  • Taiwan
  • Hong Kong
  • Puerto Rico
  • India
  • Philippines

The Only NCLEX Study Guide You Will Need to Pass This Important Exam


Who Writes NCLEX Exam Questions?

One interesting question in an NCLEX study guide context is about who actually sets the exams. Well, examination questions are usually written by doctorally or masters nursing experts who work with nurses or teach nursing students. Those who identify the questions and write them down are called “item writers”. In order for one to become an item writer, they must have worked with graduate nurses within the last 12 months, or they must be actively involved in teaching students.


After relevant questions are written down, they are reviewed by a panel of experts “known as item reviewers”. For PNs a panel comprises of PN experts is chosen – the same for RNs. An advanced degree may not be required for one to be part of the item reviewers panel. In the USA NCLEX review territories are divided into four geographical areas and each team of item writers and item reviewers must comprise nurses representing each region, minority populations and different practice areas. In its entirety, the item development process seeks to ensure that the NCLEX examination represents skills, abilities, and current nursing knowledge and is the best assessment of an individual’s competence to fully practice as an entry-level nurse.

Tips for Succeeding in NCLEX Exam


  • Review an NCLEX Study Guide

Look for a good NCLEX study guide and review it. Such a guide will provide you with the foundation needed in order to approach examination questions (whether you are familiar with the material or not). Another benefit of using a guide is that they provide you with the right tools you need in order to consolidate your skills. Remember, it is virtually impossible to remember every single lab or medication value, but it is possible to identify and eliminate wrong answers from the choices provided – and then make use of deductive reasoning to arrive at the best possible answer. A good NCLEX-RN study guide or NCLEX- LPN study guide is basically one that is designed to prepare you for the exam by boosting your confidence and familiarizing you with some common tricks and challenges that trainee nurses face in the exam room.

  • Take Practice Tests

Don’t spend all of your preparation time with your eyes on a book or computer screen studying. Make sure you also spend some ample time honing your testing skills for peak performance. You can consult a few NCLEX study resources that are offered online just to expand your scope of learning. There are also apps, books and even live events that you can choose to attend.

  • Focus on Your Problem Areas

It is not wise to try and cover the entire syllabus, especially if you have some weak areas that demand more attention. You should primarily focus on your weak areas and then gradually move towards your strong areas as the exams approach. One area that students tend to get challenged in is pharmacology. It is important to pay more attention to this area particularly because most students tend to fail in it.

  • Don’t Cram

In relation to the previous tip, attempting to absorb everything that you learned in the last 2 years in a month or less may not be the best thing to do. Ideally, one should focus on areas they had difficulty in during school, but even then, only briefly. Do not attempt to memorize each and every topic from your drug book. Do not go to bed listening to an MP3 of lab values. Just absorb what you can – and don’t cram.

  • Don’t Stress Yourself

The most difficult part is over. You have completed nursing training and put lots of effort and time needed in order to qualify to take your state boards. The exams you take in the school of nursing are simply meant to mimic the sort of questions you’ll see on the NCLEX. From experience, the tests done in nursing school (senior year) are usually far more difficult than what NCLEX offers. So if you passed your previous exams, there is absolutely no reason why NCLEX should stress you.

Follow These Study Tips

In addition to using a good NCLEX study guide, you want to develop a solid study plan. Without a good study plan, you might easily lose focus along the way. Here are some tips on how to go about this.

  • Find a friend to help you prepared. Someone you were with in college would be ideal. You can test each other’s knowledge using flashcards, studying rationales and focusing on key learning phrases used in exams. Remember, practice makes perfect.
  • Find a study environment that suits your learning pattern. For some people, that means locking yourself in a room for a week or two. For others, that means studying over morning coffee, during work breaks or on the bus.
  • If you are yet to find a suitable study plan try a variety of methods until you determine which one works best for you.
  • During exam day get plenty of sleep, avoid alcohol, dress comfortably and arrive at least 30 minutes early so you won’t be rushed. Relax and try not to focus on the length of your NCLEX exam. It is normal to feel like you are only getting half the questions correct (it’s quite normal actually).

What to Do if You Fail NCLEX Exam


If you have completed your NCLEX but failed to reach the passing score you may feel discouraged and disoriented. However, this NCLEX study guide is designed to help you succeed no matter the situation. It is normal to fail, but you should take failure as a stepping stone so that you can do even better in the next year.

You should realize that you are not alone. In 2007 alone, 14.5% of US educated students failed their NCLEX-RN on their first attempt. Also that same year, about 12% of US educated students failed their NCLEX-PN on their first try.

The best thing to do after failure is to figure out where you went wrong and what you can do to avoid similar mistakes next time. You might have failed due to illness, family crisis or being distracted during exam time. These things happen and you should learn to overcome such stumbling blocks going forward.

Studying with an NCLEX study guide and enrolling in a review course can significantly enhance your confidence about passing the exam next time. Sample tests are readily available online or at your local library – and these can help you familiarize with the test question format.

Most importantly, be prepared to succeed. Overcoming an initial failure is a testament to your resilient character and the kind of nurse you will be. So warm up and be prepared to do even better next time.


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