Date Published: February 5, 2019
As a new nursing student, it is normal to be confused about the NCLEX and everything it entails – after all, taking six hours to complete an exam seems a little overwhelming. You may be wondering what to expect, how the test affects your future in nursing and what exactly is the right way to study. While the NCLEX may feel intimidating, there are many ways to prepare yourself to conquer the exam.
So, what exactly is the NCLEX?
The NCLEX is The National Council Licensure Examination, designed to determine whether or not a candidate is prepared to begin working as an entry-level nurse. Simply put, passing the exam means you are a practice-ready nurse! The exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and evaluates students’ overall comprehension and level of core competencies.
How do I know when to take the exam?
That’s a great question. Most students take the exam within 45 days of graduation, but the timeline may vary. To make sure you are ready for the NCLEX, there are a few requirements and criteria set in place. The first step is to apply to take the exam with your state board of nursing. Once you are deemed qualified by the state board, you will receive an Authorization to Test email that serves as an invitation to schedule your exam. This is when you should set up a review plan or service to help you prepare. In fact, according to a study from NCSBN, when students wait longer than 54 days from the date of eligibility to take the NCLEX exam, they experience a significant drop in first-time pass rates. This is why it is important to move quickly when you are approved to schedule the exam.
Check out the NCSBN website for step-by-step instructions.
When do I start studying?
As a nursing student, studying is something you are very familiar with by now. You also understand that it plays an extremely important role in your NCLEX success. Knowing when to start studying is dependent on your personal study style and the time it will take you to get through the NCLEX test plan. The NCSBN updates the NCLEX test plan every three years to help candidates prepare for the exam and provide an overview of the test’s content and topics. Find the study plan that is right for you, then be sure to dedicate sufficient time to mastering the material for maximum preparedness.
Check out Savanah’s story on how she prepared for, and passed, the NCLEX in 75 questions.
How does the test work and why should I take it?
The NCLEX is a computer adaptive test, meaning the exam actively selects questions for you based on your earlier responses to questions. For example, if you miss a question on pharmacology, you may be asked a question related to pharmacology later in the exam. Questions are structured as ordered response items, fill-in-the-blank, multiple-response and more.
So, why take it? If you want to become a practicing nurse, a passing NCLEX score is a requirement. Fortunately, there are a multitude of resources available to help you feel totally ready and completely confident to pass! If you aren’t sure where to begin, ATI has many resources available.
What if I don’t pass?
Let’s face it — sometimes exams get the better of us. While passing the NCLEX is necessary to begin working as a nurse, you can take it as many times you need to. While there is no cap, you are required to wait 45 days in between each attempt. That being said, those 45 days plus a six-week waiting period for official results will set you back a little more than three months, which can add up to missed job experience and paychecks. That is why it is important to begin preparing early on to significantly increase the likelihood of passing.
The NCLEX is certainly an important step in the process of becoming a nurse, but it does not have to feel impossible. Nursing school is designed to help you prepare for the exam and with the right amount of studying and preparation, you will be well on your way to success!