NCLEX Test Day: What to Expect

If your test day is right around the corner and you’re not quite sure what to expect, you’ve came to the right place. Let’s take a look at some of the top questions NCLEX-RN® test-takers have. Remember, being prepared leads to better scores!

Here’s a checklist of things to bring on the day of the exam:

  • Your Authorization to Test (ATT).
  • One form of signed identification that includes a picture. If you have changed your hair color, lost weight, or grown a beard, have a new picture ID made before test day. The name on your ID must exactly match the name on your ATT. Acceptable forms of identification include driver’s license, state/province identification, passport, and U.S. military ID.
  • A snack and something to drink.
  • Do not bring any study materials to the test center.

Check-in procedure:

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes before the test.
  • Present your ATT and picture ID.
  • Sign in.
  • A computer picture will be taken of you.
  • You will be fingerprinted and may have your palm vein pattern scanned.
  • All of your belongings will be placed in a locker outside the testing room.

Test Day Tip

Earplugs are available on request. Request them in case you find yourself distracted by background noise.

Where Will I Take My Test?

You will be in a room separate from the rest of the test center. Many testing sites consist of a room with 10–15 computers placed around the perimeter. Each computer sits on a full-size desk, with an adjustable chair. There are dividers between desks, but you will be able to see the person sitting next to you. There is a picture window from which the proctor will observe each person testing. There are also video cameras and sound sensors mounted on the walls to monitor each candidate.

What Will the Computer Screen Look Like?

The number of the question you are answering is located in the lower-right side of your computer screen. In the upper-right corner is a digital clock that counts down from 6:00—representing the 6 hours you have to complete the short tutorial that begins the exam, the exam itself, and all breaks.

If the question is a traditional 4-option, text-based, multiple-choice question, the question stem is located in the top half of the screen, and the 4 answer choices are located in the lower half of the screen. Radio buttons are in front of each answer choice.

You will notice that there are 2 buttons at the bottom of the computer screen. You use the Next (N) button to confirm your answer selection and move to the next question. Click the Calculator button to display a drop-down calculator that can be used to perform computations.

If the question is an alternate question that may have more than 1 correct answer, you will see the phrase, “Select all that apply” between the stem of the question and 5 or 6 answer choices. A small box is in front of each answer choice. The Next (N) button and Calculator button are at the bottom of the computer screen.

If the question is a hot spot alternate question, the screen will contain a graphic or a picture. The Next (N) button and Calculator button are at the bottom of the computer screen.

If the question is a fill-in-the-blank alternate question, a text box will be under the question. The Next (N) button and Calculator button are at the bottom of the computer screen.

If the question is a drag-and-drop/ordered response alternate question, the unordered options will be under the question and to the left. The space for the ordered response will be to the right of the unordered options. The Next (N) button and Calculator button are at the bottom of the screen.

If the question is a chart/exhibit alternate question, it will include the following prompt after the question stem: “Click on the exhibit button below for additional client information.” The Exhibit button is located in the bottom of the computer screen between the Next (N) button and the Calculator button. Click on the Exhibit button to display a pop-up box containing 3 tabs. Click on each of the tabs to display information needed to answer the question.

If the question is an audio alternate question, the question will contain an audio clip that you must listen to in order to answer the question. Click on the Play button (a right-pointing arrow) to listen to the clip. A slider bar allows you to adjust the volume at which you hear the clip. If you want to listen to the audio clip more than once, you can click on the Play button again.

If the question is a graphics alternate question, each of the 4 answer choices will be a graphic instead of text.

Do I Get Any Breaks?

You will receive an optional break at the end of 2 hours of testing. There will be a pre-programmed prompt offering you a break. Leave the testing room, stretch your legs, and eat your snack. Take some deep breaths and get yourself ready to go back into the testing room. The computer will offer you another optional break after 3 1⁄2 hours of testing. We recommend that you take it unless you feel you’re on a roll.

You may take a break at any time during your test, but the time that you spend away from your computer is counted as a part of your 6 hours of total testing time. Kaplan recommends that you take a short (2–5 minute) break if you are having trouble concentrating. Take time to go to the restroom, eat your snack, or get a drink. This will enable you to maintain or regain your concentration for the test. Remember, every question counts. If you need to take a break, raise your hand to notify the test administrator. You must leave the testing room, and you will be required to take a palm vein scan before you are allowed to resume your test.

How Will I Know When My Test Ends?

A screen will appear on your computer that states, “Your test is concluded.” You will then be required to answer several exit questions. These are a few multiple-choice questions about your impression of the examination experience. They do not count toward your results.

How Long Will It Take to Receive My Results?

Your results are sent to you by your state board of nursing. Each state board determines when the NCLEX-RN® exam results are released. In the following jurisdictions, you may access your “unofficial” results 2 business days after taking your exam via the NCLEX® candidate website (for a $7.95 fee):

Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming

For most states, you will receive your official results approximately 6 weeks after your test date.