What is the NCLEX-RN Exam All About?

August 23, 2017
Kaplan Test Prep

Learn how to master the NCLEX-RN exam.

When you know what to expect on the NCLEX-RN, you can expect to do well.

The NCLEX-RN exam is very similar to how your nursing exams were in nursing school. While many of the questions during nursing school were knowledge-based, the NCLEX-RN assesses your critical thinking abilities. There are also several experimental questions incorporated into the exam to help the administrators decide if they will use them on future exams. Here are a few tips to ensure your best performance in the NCLEX-RN:

The NCLEX-RN experience

You are allowed six hours to take the exam, consisting of 75 to 265 questions. The test is computer adaptive, which means it can shut off when you have a) shown competency and answered the minimum requirement of 75 questions, b) shown less than minimum competency and answered the minimum 75 questions, c) answered the maximum 265 questions, or d) you have run out of time.

Whether you answer 75 questions or the full 265, it could mean you passed or failed, so don’t walk out of your exam assuming you failed if you answered the full 265 questions. It’s important to understand that you may have more than 75 questions, and that you should mentally prepare for anything on test day.

Consistent preparation is key

It’s important to build up your testing stamina and complete at least 75-100 practice NCLEX questions per day to prepare. It’s also important to complete practice tests with more than 75 questions to help build up your ability to potentially answer 265 questions. If you get past that 75 mark and you don’t see your computer shut off, don’t panic. Take a break, take a deep breath, and keep going.

There are many tactics and skills the Kaplan’s NCLEX review course taught me, such as the decision tree, which helped me to break down what the question is asking and evaluate my options to select the correct answer. Through proper preparation, you will be successful on the NCLEX exam.

Don’t be afraid of a retake  

If you aren’t successful on your first attempt at the NCLEX, hang in there. It does not mean you are a terrible nurse or that you don’t know how to properly care for patients. Maybe you had a bad day, are dealing with stress or situations beyond your control, or just let your nerves get to you. Review what you struggled with, and come back stronger the next time.

Read each question thoroughly   

One of the takeaways Kaplan instilled in me during the review course, was the ability to identify the “shiny penny” answers—the answer that at first glance looks like it is 100% correct and the answer you so desperately want to click on. Read the question in its entirety. I cannot stress that enough. It’s the little things in the wording of the question that can cause you to make silly mistakes.

For example, if the following is stated somewhere in the questions, “Which action by the LPN requires immediate intervention by the nurse,” you are looking for the answer that indicates a wrong/negative action.

Taking the NCLEX-RN exam is the final step in becoming an official registered nurse. You’ve already completed and survived nursing school, and your final task is to pass this test. Whether this is your first, second, or third time taking the NCLEX-RN, approach the test with confidence, determination, and envision the letters “RN” after your name.

To familiarize yourself with exam-style questions before the test, take advantage of our free NCLEX-RN practice resources.

Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan Test Prep

About Kaplan Test Prep

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