How The NCLEX Works (Part II): What To Expect At The Testing Center
This article is the second direct response to the many inquiries that test-takers have made regarding the the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The purpose of this two-part essay is to discuss how the NCLEX is administered and what to expect.
The NCLEX remains vitally important to your future as a nurse because you will not be granted a nursing license anywhere in the United States if you have not taken and passed this exam. And if you do not have a valid nursing license, you will not be able to legally work as a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN).
The first part of this two-part essay explains in detail how computerized adaptive testing works. You are now reading the second part of this two-part essay, which is going to describe what to expect at the very moment that you take your seat in front of the computer at the testing center.
First of all, NCLEX is always administered at a Pearson Vue testing center. There are more than 200 Pearson Vue testing centers operating in the United States at any given time. In addition, 18 international testing centers are in operation.
Test-takers are permitted to have one dry-erase board and one set of headphones at each testing station. A calculator will be available to assist in solving those pesky dosage calculation questions. However, it is not a hand-held calculator. Rather, it is the type of virtual calculator that displays in the corner of one's computer screen. Test-takers may drag and drop the calculator to an area of the computer screen that they prefer.
The NCLEX is comprised of three parts: a tutorial, the actual exam, and a survey that will appear after your test ends. The tutorial is mandatory, only lasts a few minutes, and is designed to acclimate the the test-taker to how the rest of the exam will work. After finishing the tutorial, the exam will begin. The exam does not end until the computerized adaptive test reaches a pass/fail determination, the maximum number of questions have been answered, or the test-taker simply runs out of time. After the exam has been completed, a survey will appear on the computer screen. Even though the survey is purely optional, you are encouraged to complete it.
NCLEX-PN test-takers have five hours to complete the exam, and those who take NCLEX-RN have a maximum of six hours. You will be taking NCLEX in a room with multiple computers and testing stations. A proctor and a camcorder will be monitoring the activities in the room.
As always, preparation is the key to conquering the NCLEX. Hopefully some of your nervousness and test anxiety will be alleviated if you know what to expect before you sit in front of that computer at the testing center. Good luck to you!Last edit by Joe V on Jun 28, '12
About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Moderator
TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.
Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 38,035; Likes: 69,253
CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
Specialty: 11 year(s) of experience in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psychApr 26, '15This is an awesome article. I would like to add to it though. The test centers are responsible to administer the tests in a such a way that they can pretty guarantee that no one cheats. To that end there is a lot more to know about what to expect at the test center. I took my test less than a year ago, I had no issues at all and passed my first try, however I have a couple of classmates who are not allowed to ever be licensed because they failed to follow some simple rules, and I have read about a handful on AN....don't let it happen to you!!
Pay close attention to the list of rules you have to sign and agree to before you sign it. You can familiarize yourself with it on the PV website prior to going to test. KNOW what it says, because if you violate it, your results will void and you may not be allowed to test again.
You can not wear a hat or even a headband, they will ask you to remove those.
Don't start scribbling all the notes in your head onto the whiteboard the minute they hand it to you. That is called brain dumping and is not allowed. Don't write anything on it until you are at your computer and the test starts.
If you wear glasses, they will ask to inspect them (google glass would allow someone to cheat) before you enter the test room.
Don't take off your shoes....apparently some people have tried brain dumping on light colored socks or bare feet, so if you do remove your shoes during the test, your results will go on hold until they can go over the video to be sure you aren't getting information from the bottom of your feet.
You will be asked to remove jackets, they will go through the jackets to be sure that there is nothing in the pockets or lining that is contraband.
You will be asked to empty your pockets.
Leave everything but your ID and keys in the car! If you bring anything in that's not allowed in the testing room, you will have to let them seal it in a bag and then put it in the locker. If that happens, let THEM break the seal when you leave. If you do it, your test can be voided and you may not get to retest.
Do not go to your locker by yourself on a break. Have an attendant go with you if you absolutely have to go (and you shouldn't have to) so that you have proof you haven't accessed anything that can remotely get you accused of cheating.
There are rare test centers that will allow you to leave the center on a break...I don't understand why they would allow that, but do NOT do it! Not for any reason, at all, not ever. People who do get accused of cheating on a fairly regular basis.
I have read on here "I looked at a journal in my locker, my test was voided and they wont let me test again" or "My child was sick, I called my mom on break to check on her and my test got voided and I ill never get a license" Don't let that happen to you!!
Don't risk ANYTHING that can get you accused of cheating, because if that happens it is quite possible you will never get your license. If you are unsure, ask an attendant. Very simply put, think about what you would think if you read someone whining about being accused of cheating on here because they did whatever....if you would think that could mean that they cheated, do NOT do it!!!
After the test: If your results go on hold, it could be due to something as simple as the palm scanner not reading correctly or a technical glitch with the computer, don't panic! It doesn't mean anything except an extra day or two before you get results.
And remember, most of us leave the test center thinking we failed...it is normal to feel that way. Don't let it get you down! You won't know until you know....so don't freak out!