Everyone who wants to become a registered nurse in the United States must take the NCLEX-RN, or National Council Licensure Examination. It has been developed by educators and medical and nursing professionals who have determined the minimum knowledge level that nurses should possess to begin their practice as a registered nurse.

However, not everyone can take the NCLEX RN. First, you'll need to prove that you're eligible. To do this, you'll need to apply to your state board of nursing. Each state board has different eligibility requirements, but most states require that applicants have completed registered nurse training through an accredited school or university. You can either get an associates degree in nursing or a bachelors degree in science or nursing. Some states also require you to have worked in a clinical setting for a specific number of hours. Most nursing schools include clinical work in their programs. Other requirements might include taking a tuberculosis test. You'll also need to pay the application fee, which is currently $200.00.

When you've applied to your state board and have fulfilled all of their requirements, you'll receive an authorization to test (ATT) notification that you can use to take the test. Each state then will give you a specified number of days to take the test. While this number can vary a great deal, most states give you 30 to 45 days. You will have to take the test at a testing center. Locations of these centers will be provided to you by your state board.


The test itself will be completed on a computer. It consists of a series of multiple choice questions that tests your knowledge in four key areas:

  1. A safe care environment
  2. Maintaining and promoting wellness or good health
  3. Psychosocial factors
  4. Physiological influences and factors

Although there are more than 250 questions on the test for RNs, you may have to answer less than half of them. The test is designed to assess your knowledge as you answer each question. When you've answered enough questions either to pass or fail clearly, the test is over. You'll have five hours to take the test, but don't worry; you'll get a few, ten-minute breaks during that time. You'll also be able to take a tutorial at the beginning of the test so you know how the exam program works.

If you do not pass the test, you'll have to wait for a number of days before retaking it. This time frame can vary from state to state, but in many states its 30 to 45 days.

Last Updated: 05/19/2014


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