You must have been hearing about NCLEX-RN in almost all the articles – it is the licensure exam for aspiring nurses with an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing to start practicing, and becoming a Nurse.

To become an RN, you must hold this licensure. This makes it the most important challenge for you and your nursing career. So, are you ready to take it up?

You are not alone, as we are to help. In this article, we have compiled all the information about the NCLEX-RN exam, the key features of the exam, the topics you need to study, the time duration, and everything beyond.

So, stay tuned –

What is the NCLEX-RN exam?


The NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) is a standardized exam that determines your ability to apply medical knowledge and analyze nursing scenarios to begin practice as an entry-level registered nurse (RN) in the United States.

The NCLEX-RN exam is administered and handled by the NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing). The exam is a computerized adaptive test (CAT), designed to ensure newly licensed nurses’ minimum competency in providing safe and quality patient care.


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We can break down the exam into four sections –

  • Safety and Effective Care Environment
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Physiological Integrity

Key features of the NCLEX-RN exam

Here are the key features of the NCLEX-RN exam –

Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) – As the test progresses, the difficulty of the questions adjusts based on the test-takers responses.

Question Types – MCQs, select-all-that-apply, fill in the blanks, and other visual aids.

Minimum and Maximum Number of Questions – minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 145 questions.

Time Limit – 5 hours

Scoring to Pass – 75%

NCLEX-RN exam questions – topics you need to study

The topics you need to study with the percentage of questions seen from these topics in the NCLEX-RN exam are below.

  • Management of Care: 15%-21% of questions
  • Safety and Infection Control: 10%-16% of questions
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance: 6%-12% of questions
  • Psychosocial Integrity: 6%-12% of questions
  • Basic Care and Comfort: 6%-12% of questions
  • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies: 13%-19% of questions
  • Reduction of Risk Potential: 9%-15% of questions
  • Physiological Adaptation: 11%-17% of questions


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How long is the NCLEX-RN exam?

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The exam is 5 hours long with 145 questions, and 15 unscored. However, you need not sit for the entire 5 hours and your exam might end abruptly.

Here’s why –

  • You have answered the minimum number of questions (75) and scored a passing 75%.
  • You were horrible while answering the minimum number of questions.
  • You have finished the maximum number of questions quota, 145 questions.
  • Or, your time is up. You exhausted your 5 hours.  

How To Register for the NCLEX-RN online?

Just like any exam registration process, registering for an NCLEX-RN exam also might seem daunting but actually is pretty straightforward.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

Step 1 – Check Your Eligibility

If you meet your state’s eligibility requirements to take the NCLEX-RN you can proceed further. The education you need to hold is an Associate degree or a BSN degree in Nursing to be eligible. 

* The other eligibility criteria might vary per state.  

Nursing Degrees: 

-> Associate Degree

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-> Master’s Degree

Step 2 – Create an Account

You need to visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website and create an account.

Step 3 – Apply for Licensure

Fill out the form and submit the application for registration to licensure under NRB. Choose the state where you need the license to practice. 

Step 4 – Receive Authorization to Test (ATT)

You’ll receive an ATT if your application is approved by the NRB. You might also schedule your exam post receiving ATT.

Step 5 – Pay the Exam Fee

The most important part – pay the exam fee online.

Step 6 – Schedule Your Exam

Now, you need to log in to your account and choose a test center, date, and time that works for you.

Step 7 – Prepare for the Exam

Now as the time is scheduled, you need to prepare for the exam well. Try using study materials, review content areas, and practice questions to prepare thoroughly.

Step 8 – Appear the Test

Appear for the test, and bring the required identifications. The exam will be administered on a computer at the test center. Follow the instructions provided.

Step 9 – Receive Your Results

The time to reap what you sowed. The results are typically available within 48 hours after the exam.

If you have prepared well you would pass the NCLEX-RN, if not you can retake it after 45 days.

Step 10 – Licensure

If you pass, your state board of nursing will issue your license, and you’ll officially become a Registered Nurse. Congratulations. 

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Some common questions regarding the NCLEX-RN exam

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How many times can I take the NCLEX-RN exam?

You are allowed to take 8 retakes per year with a waiting period of 45 days in between. However, most of the students clear the exam on their very first attempt.

You need to ensure that you have prepared well and try to give your best in clearing the exam on your first try itself. Even if you fail, it’s okay, for you can retake it after 45 strong preparation days.

When can I take NCLEX-RN again?

You can retake your NCLEX-RN exam after 45 days of the previous attempt.

When will the new exam format go into effect?

The new NCLEX exam format has been in effect since April 1, 2023. So, the aspirants trying to earn an RN licensure this year would be the first batch to face the new format.

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.