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RN Requirements: What is the NCLEX and how to Pass It

Higher Education Articles July 28, 2013

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is an examination that must be passed to receive a nursing certification. It is a means of judging the competence of the licensing candidate to help protect the public and ensure quality healthcare by nurses. It functions a standard bar, a means of judging how well the potential nurse has learned the practical knowledge to effectively care for patients.

Most nursing students have spent years preparing for their future careers. This examination is a large hurdle that must be overcome: they must pass the NCLEX to become RNs. The test, therefore, incurs quite a bit of anxiety. Understanding some basics about the examination can help candidates prepare and increase their chances of passing and becoming an entry level nurse.

When should a nursing student take the exam?

When a student has obtained their academic credentials, they need to submit an application and a fee for an Authorization to Test (ATT). This slip will certify that the individual has the rest of their prerequisites in order. The slip will also contain an expiration date that should be carefully minded. If the student fails to take the NCLEX before the expiration date, they will have to apply for another ATT and pay another fee. Many current nurses also recommend taking the examination as soon as possible following graduation because the material will be most fresh in the mind.

The practical aspects of the exam

Test takers are offered six hours for the registered nurse examination and five hours for the practical nurse examination, which two optional breaks during the test taking period. The test is taken on a computer, meaning that no pens or papers are allowed into the exam room. The test will provide calculators on the computer as well as erasable boards for note taking. Since the exam is administered by computer, previous questions cannot be returned to once students hit the submit button. In order to take the exam, the proctors of the test will also collect a sample of the fingerprint, palm vein scan, photograph, and signature to verify the identities of each test taker.

Preparing for the exam

New questions are being added to the exam on a regular basis to ensure nurses are prepared to tackle material in the modern, ever changing world of medicine. The categories have remained the same for over a decade, however, and include Physiological Integrity, Psychosocial Integrity, Health Promotion and Maintenance, and Safe and Effective Care Environment. Students will be answering questions related to medical – surgical, maternal – child, and psychiatric nursing. Drugs are also common questions. Lab values must be memorized so that abnormal numbers can be readily recognized.

Some experts on the exam suggest that nursing students focus on finding review programs that concentrate more around understanding the exam and strategy that reviewing content. Most current nurses who have taken the exam found that some review texts that offer overviews of each test section are helpful. After several years, the material learned in the first months of class may require some relearning. There are several study guides and classes available. Kaplan offers a popular nursing review course, and some schools will even provide students with the admission fees.

Getting the results

Once a nursing student exits the testing room, they generally immediately wish they could know their results. Fortunately, if their nursing board participates in the Quick Results Service, they can get them in just 48 hours for a small fee. Without this service, most candidates will receive their results within one month. If a person fails the exam, they will also be given a report on how they did by each section of the exam, which can then be used to focus their study in a specific area. Retaking the exam is possible, though most boards set standards of the minimum number of days that must pass.

The NCLEX-RN requirements are tough to ensure the high quality of healthcare that Americans have come to expect. Nurses are to know and understand a great deal of material related to medicine and disease, but also patient care. Nursing is a demanding yet fulfilling job that most enjoy. Nursing students spend many hours reviewing their textbooks in preparation for this essential test. Understanding the basics of the test and some recommended preparation tactics should help to ease the stress and help the candidates feel more comfortable and confident walking in.

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