The NCLEX is the National Council Licensure Exam for nurses. There are two forms of the test: the NCLEX-RN for registered nurses and the NCLEX-PN for practical nurses. Students who receive a degree in nursing must first pass the NCLEX exam before they can become registered or practical nurses. The test for RNs can be between 75 and 265 questions, while the NCLEX-PN ranges between 85 and 205, according to Pearson VUE, which administers the test at testing centers across the United States. Because passing the test is required before working as a registered or practical, nursing students often spend countless hours preparing for the exam.

Preparation

As with most any test, ample studying and preparation are essential before taking the NCLEX. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recommends that nursing students schedule the exam soon after graduation but with enough time to properly study and prepare. Make sure to take the time to go over class notes and textbooks from your nursing classes.

The National Student Nurses Association recommends that those taking the NCLEX order the Test Plan online, which can offer you guidance about where to concentrate your studies. You can also purchase test preparation kits and find practice exams and sample questions online. The NSNA also recommends that people design a study plan for themselves and stick to it. For example, try to study for the same time each day and avoid distractions such as television. You can also make notes on flash cards or in a notebook that you take with you so that you can study if you find yourself with a few spare minutes during the day.

Exam Strategies

Make sure you are well-rested on the day you are scheduled to take the NCLEX. Arrive at the testing center early, and be sure to bring proper identification. The National Student Nurses Association recommends against cramming for the exam the night before or the day of the exam. Instead, make sure you are well-prepared in advance so you are not stressed and anxious when it comes time to take the test.

While taking the exam, read all questions thoroughly and completely and consider all possible answers. Try to home in on keywords in the questions that indicate what is being asked. Eliminate answers that you know to be wrong, then consider the remaining possibilities. Keep in mind that for some questions, multiple answers may be correct, but they may not address all aspects of the question, according to NSNA. Look for the answer that most completely answers the question.

Know Your Stuff

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recommends that students be well-versed in several aspects of their education and training before taking the NCLEX. First, it's important to be familiar with what a patient's normal lab values and test values should be. This can help you make proper determinations about patient care both on the exam and on the job. Other things to keep in mind when answering questions are the safety of the patient, patient assessment protocols and the rules of medication administration. Keeping these important standards in mind can help you determine the correct answer on NCLEX questions.