Passing the NCLEX-RN

You have studied long and hard to become a nurse, you have graduated from a recognized nursing program and met all the requirements of the board of nursing in your state. Now there is just one more hurdle you have to jump before you can begin your career as a registered nurse: pass the NCLEX-RN, otherwise known at the National Council Licensure Examination.

This examination is created and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and assesses the skills, abilities, and knowledge that are necessary to safely and effectively practice nursing at the entry-level. To ensure public safety, those who want to practice nursing are required to pass this examination, which is provide in a CAT, computerized adaptive testing, format. This testing format selects questions based on the examinee's answers to previous questions, so if a difficult question is answered correctly the examinee is presented with a more difficult question, but if a difficult question is answered incorrectly a simpler question is asked of them.

The exam covers content that is based on patient needs, such as safe effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, and psychosocial and physiological integrity. Content on safe effective care environment includes topics like management of care and safety and infection control. Content on physiological integrity includes topics such as basic care and comfort, reduction of risk potential, physiological adaption, and pharmacological and parenteral therapies.

Test questions will require that you apply your knowledge through the use of cognitive abilities such as memorization, recalling, analysis, and application. While the majority of items on this exam are multiple choice questions, items also include broader questions that do not have multiple choice answers. Some of these questions may ask you to look at a picture of a body part and identify a particular area of it that is relevant to the question, or ask a question related to medication dosage that requires you to make a mathematical calculation and input an answer. Other types of questions may deal with medical or nursing procedures and ask you to arrange actions in the correct order.

Although it can be scary knowing that you only have three chances to pass the NCLEX-RN, passing rates are typically positive. In 2009, 88.42 percent of the students educated in the United States who took the NCLEX-RN passed it the first time they took it, and 55.87 percent passed it when they repeated it. Of the students who passed the examination on their first try, 89.49 percent had earned their baccalaureate degree, 87.61 percent earned their associate degree, and 90.75 had earned a diploma.