NCLEX Exam Day: What to Do Before, During and After

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The day has finally come — it’s time for you to take the NCLEX! Everyone wants to have the best test-taking experience possible, but if you’re getting ready to sit for the exam you have spent years preparing for, it might be tough to focus on test day.

We’ve devised a checklist of things you should do before, during, and after the big exam to have the best NCLEX experience you possibly can!

Before the Exam

  • Prepare Yourself Mentally and Physically – Before any big test, it’s important to make healthy choices that will get you mentally and physically ready for your exam. Prioritize getting a good night’s sleep before your NCLEX exam day and make sure you have enough time in the morning to eat a healthy balanced breakfast. Mentally preparing yourself for the exam also means giving yourself plenty of time to study for it, so set aside time for a few final study sessions to avoid cramming right before the test.
  • Review the NCLEX Rules – Ideally, you should familiarize yourself with the NCLEX Candidate Rules before the day of the exam, but it’s a good idea to review them the morning of for a refresher. The NCSBN and your testing venue take these rules very seriously!
  • Check Your Belongings – Before you head to your testing center, you should double and triple check that you have everything you need with you to go take the NCLEX. The most important item to bring with you to the test is an acceptable ID — without this, you will not be allowed to sit for the exam!
  • Arrive Early – The NCSBN suggests arriving to your testing center at least 30 minutes before your testing time. Before hopping in your car, make sure you know how to get to the venue and allow yourself plenty of time to get there in case things like traffic or bad weather are at play. Don’t forget to fill your gas tank the day before, too! 
  • Store Your Personal Items – All electronic devices and other personal items like clothing and accessories are prohibited from being taken into the exam room. The test center will collect electronic devices from you at check-in, and you will not be allowed to access these items until you leave the testing center after completing the NCLEX. Storage space will be provided for you to keep all other personal items in, and you will be able to access these during exam breaks if needed. Pro Tip: Food and drink is allowed during breaks, so bring snacks!

Related Read: Your NCLEX Frequently Asked Questions Answered by a Nurse Educator

During the Exam

  • Pace Yourself – With a minimum of 75 questions, the NCLEX is a lengthy exam! The good news is that you have up to 6 hours to complete the RN exam and up to 5 hours to complete the PN exam. Make sure you pace yourself by taking the time to analyze each question carefully and not rushing through them.
  • Take Breaks If Needed – There are two optional breaks available to you while taking the NCLEX — one after approximately 2 hours of testing time and another after approximately 3.5 hours of testing time. Don’t hesitate to use these breaks if you feel like you need them! They are a great time to stretch and refocus your thoughts to help you rock the rest of your test.
  • Use Your Resources -You will be provided with an erasable marker board for making notes during the exam and an on-screen calculator to help you answer test items. Use these resources to their full advantage!

Related Read: Everything You Need to Know About Computerized Adaptive Testing

After the Exam

  • Take a Moment to Celebrate – You did it! You survived taking the NCLEX, one of the most daunting challenges that a student has to face on their nursing journey. It’s important to recognize the significance of this achievement and give yourself credit for all of the hard work you put into it. Give yourself a pat on the back, do a little dance and celebrate your accomplishment!
  • Learn About Results Processing – After you finish taking the NCLEX, check out this info from the NCSBN on how your exam results will be processed and sent to you.
  • Wait 48 Hours for Quick Results – Some candidates will be able to pay a fee to access their “unofficial” NCLEX results about 48 hours after completing the exam. If you’re anxious to know your score (who wouldn’t be?) you can learn more information about the Quick Results Service here.

Looking for more information about the NCLEX Exam? Head over to the Passing the NCLEX category of our student blog.

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