The NCLEX exam is the final hurdle that aspiring nurses must clear to start a fulfilling career providing patient care. While it’s normal to have a mixture of anxiety and excitement as the comprehensive exam gets closer, success depends on careful planning, optimism, and hard work.

Essential NCLEX test-taking techniques are covered in this tutorial, which will increase your self-assurance on exam day. Read on as we examine the format of the NCLEX exam and offer efficient study methods to allay test-related anxiety.

Table of Contents:

Understanding the NCLEX Exam Format

Having a comprehensive understanding of the content for every subject will enable you to more efficiently organize your study time.

1. CAT stands for Computerized Adaptive Testing.

Unlike previous exams with a predetermined number of questions, the NCLEX uses a process called Computerised Adaptive Testing, or CAT. This implies that each question’s difficulty varies dynamically according to how well you do. 

If you answer a question correctly, you will go on to increasingly difficult ones, so your nursing knowledge is evaluated specifically.

2.  Content Breakdown

The NCLEX encompasses a broad range of topics related to nursing practice, categorized into four core areas of client needs:

  •  Safe and Effective Care Environment
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Physiological Integrity

3.  Exam Length and Scoring

The NCLEX varies in length, with the computer algorithm determining the minimum number of questions needed (75) to reach a definitive pass/fail outcome. This approach ensures efficient testing, allowing strong performers to complete the exam sooner. The scoring system utilizes a 95% confidence interval, meaning you must demonstrate consistent competency to pass.

4.  Recognizing Different Question Forms

The NCLEX uses multiple-choice and select-all-that-apply question forms, among others. Moreover, graphs and pictures could be combined to evaluate your proficiency with visual data interpretation in a clinical context.

Also Read: The NCLEX Challenge: Overcoming Anxiety and Achieving Excellence


The National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, is a standardized test that prospective nurses must pass in order to become licensed. There are two versions of the NCLEX: NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN.

Your desired nursing career path will determine the type of test you take:


For RNs, the NCLEX-RN places a strong emphasis on care management. The test assesses a nurse’s capacity for managing patient care, assigning work, and reaching independent choices. In addition to covering a range of nursing topics, the Registered Nurse test may incorporate more difficult critical thinking problems.

2.  The NCLEX-PN

The NCLEX-PN places a strong emphasis on care coordination and is designed with practical or vocational nurses (LPNs/LVNs) in mind. This test evaluates a nurse’s capacity to work under the direction of an RN, emphasizing basic patient care and core nursing competence.

The exams have a minimum and maximum number of questions:

  • NCLEX-PN: 85 minimum, 205 maximum questions
  • NCLEX-RN: 75 minimum, 265 maximum questions

The NCLEX uses a scoring system called logits to determine if you pass. There is no set number of correct answers to pass. Instead, the exam continues until it’s at least 95% confident your ability is above (pass) or below (fail) the passing standard.

Both exams cover similar topics like patient comfort, safety, and medication administration. 

However, the NCLEX-RN covers a wider range of topics and may have more difficult questions requiring sophisticated critical thinking skills. There might be a few fewer questions on the NCLEX-RN (74–145) than on the NCLEX-PN (85–205).

Tackle the Exam Confidently: Tips and Strategies

Learn how to ace the NCLEX and confidently enter the nursing field by mastering test-taking techniques.

1.  Create a Customized NCLEX Study Schedule

Mastering the NCLEX requires a customized and well-thought-out study strategy.

  1. Self-Assessment: Start by analyzing your strengths and weaknesses in every NCLEX content category. Review previous exams or NCLEX practice questions to identify which areas need to be improved. 
  2. Resource Arsenal: Equip yourself with multiple study resources, including review books, online question banks, and practice tests. These resources will solidify your knowledge base and expose you to various question formats.
  3. Targeted Focus: Channel your study efforts on the NCLEX subscales where you scored lower. Utilize resources and undertake targeted NCLEX practice questions and exams aligned with these specific content areas.

2.  Cultivate Self-Awareness and Strategic Test-Taking Skills

Exam anxiety can be turned into a laser-like drive that helps you ace the NCLEX by developing self-awareness.

  1. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses: Analyze your content knowledge across the NCLEX domains. This critical evaluation will guide your study efforts and ensure you prioritize areas requiring more focus. 
  2. Have a Growth Mindset: Achieving success in the exam requires a confident approach to each question with the belief that critical analysis will lead to the correct answer. Uncertainty should not depress you; rather, view it as a chance to think more deeply and rule out incorrect answers.
  3. Active Problem-Solving: Test-takers who do not pass frequently rely solely on memory or gut feelings. To perform well on the NCLEX, a candidate needs to actively interact with the question, thoroughly evaluate the responses, and select the choice that makes the most sense in light of nursing principles.
  4. Maintain Focus and Avoid Distractions: Stay focused on the primary question; do not let extraneous details or personal experiences influence your judgment. Trust your knowledge and utilize the information presented within the question to make informed decisions.

3.  Integrate Practice and Resource Mastery

Extensive practice is the cornerstone of NCLEX exam preparedness. Here is how to leverage practice opportunities and valuable resources:

  1. Practice Makes Progress: Devote sufficient time to complete practice questions and simulated exams. Concentrate on utilizing nursing principles to address actual clinical situations, reflecting the NCLEX’s focus on practical implementation.
  2. Deepen Understanding Through Review: Analyze the rationales behind correct and incorrect answers. This comprehensive review process strengthens your knowledge base, allowing you to pinpoint areas for improvement and solidify your grasp of key concepts.
  3. Explore a Variety of Resources: NCLEX preparation resources are multifaceted, encompassing free and paid options. Explore online practice tests, daily review question apps, comprehensive review courses, and study guides to identify a combination that aligns with your learning style and budgetary constraints. 

4.  Master the Test Experience and Maintaining Composure

The NCLEX exam is a significant milestone; experiencing pre-test jitters is natural. Here is how to effectively manage the test experience and radiate confidence:

  1. Consistent Study Habits: Integrate daily study sessions into your routine, similar to any other essential task. Consistency reinforces knowledge and prevents last-minute cramming.
  2. Strategic Breaks: Utilize breaks effectively to recharge and refocus. Take short breaks (ideally, 10 minutes every 50 minutes) to maintain mental clarity and optimal cognitive function.
  3. Maintain Composure: Challenge yourself to remain focused and confident throughout the exam. Trust in your preparation and ability to handle each question effectively.

Also Read: How to Hire the Best Healthcare Instructional Designer for Your Training Needs?

Wrapping Up

Implementing these comprehensive NCLEX preparation tips can allow you to effectively manage the exam experience, minimize anxiety, and approach the test with focus and confidence. After all, you have invested significant time and effort in preparation. 

If you’re looking for effective NCLEX preparation resources, Hurix Digital can help. Our immersive learning solutions are designed to empower you to succeed on the NCLEX.

Contact us for further details!