NCLEX-RN® Test Format

The NCLEX-RN® exam is organized according to the framework, "Meeting Client Needs." There are four major categories and eight subcategories. Many nursing programs are based on the medical model where students take separate medical, surgical, pediatric, psychiatric, and obstetric classes. However, on the NCLEX-RN exam, all of the content is integrated.

Questions are primarily multiple-choice with four possible answer choices; however, there are also alternate question types. Alternate question types include multiple-response, fill-in-the-blank, hot spots, chart/exhibit and drag-and-drop. All questions involve integrated nursing content. Let's look at the following question:

A 23-year-old woman with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) is returned to the recovery room one hour after an uneventful delivery of a 9 lb., 8 oz., baby boy. The nurse would expect the woman's blood sugar to

(1) rise
(2) fall
(3) remain stationary
(4) fluctuate

Is this an obstetrical question or a medical/surgical question? In order to select the correct answer, (2), you must consider the pathophysiology of diabetes along with the principles of labor and delivery. This is an example of an integrated question.

Taking the NCLEX-RN® Exam

There is no time limit for each individual question. You'll have a maximum of 6 hours to complete the exam, which includes a tutorial in the beginning. There are no mandatory breaks. However, there's an optional break after 2.5 hours of testing, and another optional break after 3.5 hours of testing.

Everyone answers a minimum of 75 questions to a maximum of 265 questions. Regardless of how many you answer, you will be given 15 experimental questions that do not count for or against you. The exam administrators use them to test for future questions on the exam.

Your exam ends when one of the following occurs:

  • You have demonstrated minimum competency and answered the minimum number of questions (75).
  • You have demonstrated a lack of minimum competency and answered the minimum number of questions (75).
  • You have answered the maximum number of questions (265).
  • You have used the maximum time allowed (6 hours).

Try not to focus on the length of your exam. You should just plan on testing for 6 hours and completing 265 questions. And if you have a long exam, remember that you are still in the game as long as the computer continues to give you questions; so focus on answering them all to the best of your ability.