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Explain NCLEX please

Good afternoon all!!! I won't start Nursing School until August 20th, but I have been obsessively reading threads here on allnurses just trying to understand everything :)

So I know WHAT the NCLEX is (and more importantly how crutial it is) but can someone please explain the structure. Is is multiple choice, essay?

From what I can read is that it can "shut off" in 75 questions but that is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. There is also a bonus something (???) that you can select if you want to, but people don't always have the courage.

It sounds like no test I have ever taken, someone please just break it down for me.


It's normal to be confused! No one understands at first, and try explaining it to someone not in nursing school and they don't get it.

It's a CAT: computerized adaptive test. Here's a link that explains it better than I can: https://www.ncsbn.org/1216.htm

But basically you questions one at a time. If you get a question right, the next one is harder. If you get it wrong, the next one is easier. This continues until you hit a confidence level where you're getting half the questions right and half wrong. At that point the test shuts off. If you're above the passing level when this happens, you pass. If not, you fail.

The minimum number of questions is 75. If it shuts off after 75, you either proved you passed or failed already. The maximum is 265. The time limit is 6 hours. There are various rules of how they score if you run out of time or hit 265 questions that I believe are explained in the link I provided.

Hope that helps!

Thanks so much for the website - I spent about an hour just poking around reading anything. that does make a lot of sense. I feel better that the national pass rate is almost 86%. Everyone was making it sound like it was an impassible test without years of practice and studying.

Is there an optional part that you can attempt or something. I keep seeing people mention something like that

JustBeachyNurse, RN

Specializes in Complex pediatrics turned LTC/subacute geriatrics.

Try these two articles from here on allnurses.com:

The first is about the Computer Adaptive Testing: https://allnurses.com/nclex-discussion-forum/how-nclex-works-749353.html


There are no optional components to the NCLEX. The number and type of questions varies due to the computer adaptive testing as described in the above article. Some of the terminology is slang ;"shut off at X questions" just refers to the fact that the system determined your pass or fail status within x number of questions. NCLEX-RN has a minimum of 75 questions while the NCLEX-PN has a minimum of 85 questions.

The NCLEX is the national licensing exam for nurses that is one of the requirements to earn a license as a nurse in the United States, so yes it is a crucial step in the journey to earn the title of nurse.

There's no optional part.

You might be talking about the PVT trick? After you take the exam there's a trick to find out if you passed or failed by going to the pearsonvue site and trying to register to take it again. If it brings you to the credit card page and lets you register, you failed. If you get a pop-up that says you recently took the exam, you passed.

It's my understanding that most people pass the first time. My school gives us the Kaplan review course and the end and our school has a 99% pass rate the first time.


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