A woman in a white shirt is sitting at a desk and looking at her phone, feeling overwhelmed by the hard preparation for the NCLEX exam.

How Hard is the NCLEX?

The NCLEX exam can be challenging, but with the right preparation and strategy, you can succeed. It’s important to understand the exam format, evaluate your preparedness, and employ effective study techniques. By doing so, you’ll increase your chances of conquering the NCLEX and achieving your nursing goals.

Understanding The NCLEX Exam

What is the NCLEX Exam?

The NCLEX exam, or the National Council Licensure Examination, is a standardized test that nurses must pass in order to obtain their nursing license. It is designed to assess the knowledge and skills necessary to safely and effectively practice as an entry-level nurse. The exam is divided into two categories: the NCLEX-RN for registered nurses and the NCLEX-PN for practical nurses.

Who Should Take the NCLEX?

If you have completed an accredited nursing program and meet the eligibility requirements set by your state’s nursing board, you should consider taking the NCLEX. It is an essential step towards becoming a licensed nurse and pursuing a career in healthcare.

Exam Format & Content

What to Expect in the NCLEX Exam

The NCLEX exam consists of multiple-choice questions, as well as alternate-format questions such as select-all-that-apply and prioritization. These questions are designed to evaluate your critical thinking skills and ability to make safe and effective nursing judgments. The exam is computer-adaptive, meaning that the difficulty level of the questions will adjust based on your responses.

NCLEX Test Plan

The NCLEX test plan outlines the content areas and percentage of questions that will be covered in the exam. It includes the following categories:

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

Understanding the test plan will help you prioritize your studying and focus on the areas that require more attention.

Evaluating Your Preparedness for NCLEX

Are You Ready for the NCLEX?

Before taking the NCLEX, assess your level of preparedness. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you completed a comprehensive nursing program?
  • Have you reviewed and studied all the content areas outlined in the NCLEX test plan?
  • Have you taken practice exams and assessed your performance?
  • Do you feel confident in your ability to apply nursing knowledge and make safe clinical judgments?

Honest self-reflection will help you determine if you’re ready to tackle the NCLEX.

What are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

Identifying your strengths and weaknesses is crucial for effective studying. Take the time to reflect on your nursing knowledge and skills. Are there specific content areas where you excel, or areas that need improvement? Knowing your strengths will boost your confidence, while focusing on your weaknesses will help you allocate more time for studying and practice.

Strategies to Conquer the NCLEX

Study Tips to Ace the NCLEX

To enhance your chances of success on the NCLEX, consider the following study tips:

  • Develop a study schedule and stick to it.
  • Use a variety of study resources, such as textbooks, online courses, and practice questions.
  • Practice answering different types of NCLEX questions to improve your critical thinking skills.
  • Collaborate with fellow nursing students or join study groups for support and additional learning opportunities.
  • Take breaks and engage in activities that help reduce stress, such as exercise or mindfulness practices.

Overcoming NCLEX Anxieties

Feeling anxious about the NCLEX is natural, but do not to let it hinder your performance. Here are some strategies to help you overcome NCLEX anxieties:

  • Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques to calm your nerves.
  • Visualize yourself successfully completing the exam and achieving your nursing goals.
  • Remind yourself of the hard work you’ve put into your studies and trust in your abilities.
  • Focus on one question at a time and stay present in the moment, rather than worrying about the entire exam.

Post-NCLEX Evaluation

Interpreting Your NCLEX Result

After taking the NCLEX exam, you’ll receive your results within a few weeks. Understand how to interpret your results in order to gauge your performance. The results will indicate whether you passed or failed the exam, and may provide additional information such as the number of questions answered and the time taken to complete the exam.

If you passed the NCLEX, congratulations! This means that you have met the minimum competency standards to practice as a nurse. Take a moment to celebrate your achievement and reflect on the hard work you put into preparing for the exam.

If you did not pass the NCLEX, do not discouraged. Many nurses have faced this setback and gone on to pass the exam on a subsequent attempt. Take some time to review your results and identify areas where you may need to improve. Use this as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and strengthen your knowledge and skills before retaking the exam.

What to Do if You Didn’t Pass the NCLEX?

If you didn’t pass the NCLEX, stay positive and focused. Here are some steps you can take to improve your chances of success on a future attempt:

  1. Analyze your results: Review your score report and make note of the areas where you scored lower. This will help you identify the topics that require more attention in your studies.
  2. Develop a study plan: Create a new study plan based on your identified areas of weakness. Set a schedule and allocate specific study time for each topic.
  3. Seek additional resources: Consider utilizing additional study resources such as review books, online courses, or tutoring services. These resources can provide a different perspective and help reinforce your understanding of the content.
  4. Practice exams: Take advantage of practice exams to simulate the testing environment and assess your progress. This will also help you become familiar with the types of questions and the time constraints you’ll encounter on the actual exam.
  5. Seek support: Reach out to fellow nursing students, instructors, or support groups for encouragement and guidance. Connecting with others who have gone through a similar experience can provide valuable advice and emotional support.
  6. Stay motivated: Remind yourself of your ultimate goal of becoming a licensed nurse. Stay focused, stay positive, and believe in your ability to succeed.

Remember, the NCLEX is designed to challenge you and ensure that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to practice safely and effectively as a nurse. With determination, perseverance, and the right study strategies, you can conquer the NCLEX and embark on a fulfilling career in nursing.


Q: How can I manage my time effectively during the NCLEX exam?
Managing your time effectively during the NCLEX exam is crucial. To do so, read each question carefully but avoid spending too much time on any single question. If you’re unsure about an answer, make an educated guess and flag the question to revisit later if you have time. Pace yourself throughout the exam to ensure you have enough time to answer all questions.

Q: Can I bring any study materials or resources into the NCLEX exam?
No, you are not allowed to bring any study materials or resources into the NCLEX exam. The exam is designed to assess your knowledge and critical thinking skills, so it must be completed without any external assistance.

Q: How long is the NCLEX exam?
The length of the NCLEX exam varies depending on the individual and the number of questions they receive. The minimum number of questions is 75, and the maximum is 265. On average, the exam takes around 6 hours to complete.

Q: Can I take breaks during the NCLEX exam?
Yes, you are allowed to take breaks during the NCLEX exam. However, the clock will continue to run during your breaks, so manage your time wisely. Taking short breaks can help you recharge and maintain focus throughout the exam.

Q: Are there any breaks scheduled during the NCLEX exam?
No, there are no scheduled breaks during the NCLEX exam. You can take breaks as needed, but remember that the clock will continue to run. Plan your breaks strategically to ensure you have enough time to complete the exam.

Q: What happens if I run out of time during the NCLEX exam?
If you run out of time during the NCLEX exam, the computer will automatically end the exam. Your performance will be evaluated based on the questions you have answered up to that point. Manage your time effectively and pace yourself throughout the exam to avoid running out of time.

Q: Can I change my answers during the NCLEX exam?
Yes, you can change your answers during the NCLEX exam. The exam is computer-based, so you can go back and review and change your answers before submitting your final response. However, be cautious when changing answers and only do so if you have a valid reason to do so.

Q: How soon can I retake the NCLEX exam if I didn’t pass?
The waiting period to retake the NCLEX exam varies by state. You will need to check with your state’s nursing board for specific guidelines. In most cases, there is a waiting period of 45-90 days before you can retake the exam.

Q: Can I use a calculator during the NCLEX exam?
Yes, a basic on-screen calculator is provided during the NCLEX exam. You can use it for calculations as needed. However, practice using the calculator before the exam to ensure you are comfortable with its functions.

Q: How long do I have to complete the NCLEX exam?
The time limit for the NCLEX exam is six hours. However, most test-takers complete the exam in less time. Manage your time effectively and pace yourself throughout the exam to ensure you have enough time to answer all questions.