nurse test

How Long is the NCLEX-RN? Your Complete Guide

Written by: Kristine Thorndyke

The NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) is a crucial step for aspiring registered nurses in the US. Understanding the NCLEX-RN exam length, structure, and how to prepare is essential for passing the first time.

What is the NCLEX-RN?

The NCLEX-RN is a computer-adaptive test (CAT). This means the difficulty of each question is based on your performance on previous questions. The exam includes a variety of question types including:

  • Multiple-choice: The most common type, offering four answer choices.
  • Fill-in-the-blank: Requires calculating a numerical answer.
  • Select-all-that-apply: Multiple correct answers are possible.
  • Ordered response: Requires dragging and dropping options into the correct order.
  • Hot spot: Involves selecting an area on an image or diagram.

It’s important to note that there’s no set passing score based on the number of questions you answer correctly. The NCLEX-RN uses complex algorithms to determine your competency level.

How Long is the NCLEX-RN?

The length of the NCLEX-RN varies for each test taker, but here are a few fixed variables:

  • Minimum questions: 75
  • Maximum questions: 265 (While reaching this limit is rare, it’s good to be aware of it.)
  • Time limit: 6 hours (This includes breaks, but the exam clock continues running during them.)

Because of the CAT format, your exam may be shorter or longer than someone else’s. If the computer determines your competency quickly, you might finish in less time. If it takes longer to assess, you may receive more questions. You can find more information on the test at the NCSBN website.

Time Management Tips

Time management is crucial during the NCLEX-RN exam. Aim to spend about one minute per question, but don’t get discouraged if some take longer.

If you encounter a difficult question, don’t dwell on it – flag it and move on. You can always return to flagged questions later. Utilize your breaks strategically. Stepping away from the computer for a few minutes can help you clear your head, refocus, and tackle the remaining questions with renewed energy.

How to Study for the NCLEX-RN

Effective preparation is key to passing the NCLEX-RN. Here’s how to get started:

  • Create a Study Plan: Set realistic goals, schedule dedicated study time, and track your progress. See our 5-week NCLEX study plan for inspiration.
  • Utilize NCLEX Prep Resources: Invest in reputable NCLEX review books, online courses, and practice questions that simulate the CAT format.
  • Focus on Content Areas: Familiarize yourself with the NCLEX-RN Test Plan, which outlines the content areas and their weight on the exam.
  • Develop Test-Taking Strategies: Learn techniques for approaching different question types, managing anxiety, and eliminating incorrect answers.

Tips for Test Day:

  • Arrive early: Allow time to check in and get settled.
  • Bring required documents: Identification and Authorization to Test (ATT) email.
  • Manage anxiety: Take deep breaths and focus on your preparation.

Understanding the NCLEX-RN exam length and format is crucial for a successful testing experience. By developing a solid study plan, practicing with CAT-style questions, and using effective test-taking strategies, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle the exam and achieve your goal of becoming a registered nurse.