What's Tested on the NCLEX-RN?

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN® exam) determines if it’s safe for you to begin your practice as an entry-level nurse. While nursing school exams are knowledge-based, the NCLEX-RN® tests application and analysis using the nursing knowledge you learned in school. You will be tested on how you can use critical thinking skills to make nursing judgments.

Becoming familiar with the NCLEX-RN test plan is a crucial part of performing well on the NCLEX-RN. Here is a quick breakdown of what you can expect to encounter on the exam:

What is the NCLEX-RN test plan?

The NCLEX test plans are basic outlines—compared to “blueprints” by the NCSBN—of content tested on the NCLEX.
Understanding how the test plan works can be extremely helpful when preparing for the exam. All NCLEX-RN information and test plans for both candidates and educators can be found via the (NCSBN).

These detailed plans provide you with sample test questions, information regarding the test and how it is scored, nursing activities for each category, and a tutorial about the types of questions you’ll find on the exam.

How can I prepare for the NCLEX-RN?

Test plans provide you with different lists and categories of what you should know for the test to help you maximize your time and efforts. For example, if you’re interested in learning more about lab values, the laboratory value section provides you with key concepts you should know.

Some of these concepts include:

  • Obtaining blood specimens through a central line
  • Patient education regarding laboratory tests and procedures
  • When to notify a healthcare provider regarding lab values

In 2016 slight revisions were made to the NCLEX. The terminology and number of questions per category, for example, have remained the same as the previous version. However, the most notable changes have been made to the section on Management of Care, including the addition of organ donation and advanced directives/self-determination/life.

Prepare for the NCLEX with content and questions created by our experienced nurse educators. Access thousands of NCLEX-style practice questions, full-length NCLEX-style tests, and Live and On-demand videos.

What is the NCLEX-RN passing standard?

Every three years, the NCSBN Board of Directors reviews the NCLEX-RN test plan, exam, and passing standards to reflect any changes in the field of nursing and entry level competence requirements. The current passing standard for the NCLEX is 0.00 logits, which will remain in effect through March 21, 2019, the same.

As far as the format goes,

“All registered nurse candidates must answer a minimum of 75 items. The maximum number of items that a registered nurse candidate may answer is 265 during the allotted six-hour time period. The maximum six-hour time limit to complete the examination includes the tutorial, sample questions and all breaks. Candidates may be administered multiple choice items as well as items written in alternate formats. These formats may include but are not limited to multiple response, fill-in-the-blank calculation, ordered response, and/or hot spots. All item types may include multimedia such as charts, tables, graphics, sound and video. All items go through an extensive review process before being used as items on the examination.”

How will questions be distributed on the test?

During nursing school, students always focus on how many questions will be asked on certain topics. This is also a common approach to the NCLEX-RN. Below is a breakdown of the percentage of each question type you can expect to find on the new exam:

  • Physiological adaptation: 14%
  • Management of care: 20%
  • Reduction of Risk Potential: 12%
  • Safety and Infection Control: 12%
  • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies: 15%
  • Basic Care and Comfort: 9%
  • Psychosocial Integrity: 9%
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance: 9%

Ultimately, the NCLEX-RN is formatted according to candidate-specific needs, which include alterations in the length of the test. The percentage of questions distributed may also vary from each candidate.

Bottom line: the changes to the NCLEX-RN are no cause for concern. Simply taking the time to become more aware of what you will encounter on NCLEX Test Day already puts you ahead of the curve. Well done!

NCLEX-RN® and NCLEX-PN® are registered trademarks of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. Test names and other trademarks are the property of the respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are endorsed by nor affiliated with Kaplan or this website.