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NCLEX Candidate Frequently Asked Questions

NCLEX Candidate FAQs

What are the eligibility requirements for taking the NCLEX?

NCSBN does not maintain a list of eligibility requirements to take the NCLEX. Contact the board of nursing where you are seeking licensure for their requirements.

Links to all boards of nursing websites and contact information are available on the Contact a Board of Nursing page.

How do I register for the NCLEX?

To take the NCLEX, you will first need to complete two separate processes:

  1. Contact your board of nursing and request a licensure application. 
    • You will pay a licensing fee to the board of nursing along with the submission of your application materials.
    • Licensure applications must be obtained from the board of nursing in the state/jurisdiction where you are seeking licensure, as requirements vary from board to board.
    • Obtain a copy of the online NCLEX Candidate Bulletin

     2. Register with Pearson VUE (the testing vendor) using one of the following methods:

    • Online - Visit http://www.pearsonvue.com/nclex and pay with a credit, debit or prepaid card. 
    • Phone - Call Pearson VUE NCLEX Candidate Services at 866.496.2539 and pay the $200 by credit, debit or prepaid card.

Contact your state board of nursing about applying for licensure.

Find out more about the NCLEX registration process.

What are the requirements for taking the NCLEX as an internationally educated nurse?

As an internationally educated candidate, you will need to complete the two processes listed in the above question.

Additionally, regulations and requirements regarding internationally educated nurses vary for each board of nursing. Requirements may include:

  • Obtaining Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) certification
  • Taking an English proficiency exam
  • Obtaining official review of credentials (i.e. review of nursing education)

NCSBN does not maintain a list of requirements for internationally educated nurses for individual boards of nursing.

Candidates do not need to be U.S. citizens to take the NCLEX, however, there are some boards of nursing which will not allow candidates without U.S. Social Security numbers to apply for licensure or obtain a license. It would be up to a non-U.S. citizen to find out from the board of nursing whether either of these situations apply.

Links to all boards of nursing websites and contact information are available on the Contact a Board of Nursing page.

Can a school/agency/employer pay for my NCLEX?

Yes, nursing schools, agencies or employers may register and pay for the NCLEX on behalf of the candidate. This is considered a Third Party Payment.

Third parties are required to register and pay for exam registrations through the Pearson VUE website or over the phone (866-496-2539) with a credit, debit or prepaid card. Money order, certified check, and cashier's check payments are no longer accepted.

For more information on these types of payments, visit the Third-Party Payments page.

I have registered for the NCLEX, when will I get my Authorization to Test (ATT) email?

Once you have been made eligible by your board of nursing, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) via the email address you provided when registering. You must have your ATT email to schedule an appointment to take the NCLEX. A paper copy of the ATT is no longer necessary for admittance to the NCLEX. To gain access to the NCLEX, you will be required to present one form of acceptable identification. The first and last name on your identification must match exactly the name you provided when registering. For further details, visit Authorization to Test.

After you register with Pearson VUE and your board of nursing declares you eligible, you will receive your Authorization to Test (ATT). All application materials and fees must be submitted to the board of nursing before they can deem you eligible to test.

Once the board of nursing declares you eligible to test and your ATT is issued, you must test within the validity dates of your ATT (varies from 60 days to 365 days; however, the average is 90 days). These validity dates cannot be extended for any reason. If you do not test within these dates you will have to reregister and pay another exam fee. The ATT contains your authorization number, candidate identification number and an expiration date. You need the ATT to schedule an appointment to take the NCLEX.

Call Pearson VUE NCLEX Candidate Services at 866.496.2539 or at one of the international telephone numbers in the NCLEX Candidate Bulletin to report a lost ATT or if it has been two weeks since you registered and have not received your ATT.

Links to all boards of nursing websites and contact information are available on the Contact a Board of Nursing page.

When a candidate calls to schedule an exam, how soon can they expect to get an appointment?

First-time test takers will be offered an appointment within 30 days of the call, or online attempt, to schedule an appointment; repeat candidates will be offered an appointment within 45 days. If you wish, you may decline the appointment offered and schedule later than the 30 or 45 days.

Where can I take the NCLEX?

The NCLEX is given year round and is administered by Pearson VUE. Candidates can take the exam at any Pearson Professional Center in the U.S. (including U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam, Northern Mariana Islands). International locations where the NCLEX is offered for purposes of domestic licensure include Australia, Canada, England, (Germany - temporarily not testing at this location), Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico and Taiwan.

Candidates are able to take the NCLEX at any Pearson Professional Testing location, regardless of the board they are applying for licensure.

Candidates can find U.S. and international test center locations by going to the Pearson VUE website at www.pearsonvue.com/nclex.

For more information on where the NCLEX is offered, visit the Test Center Locations page.

How does a candidate with special needs request testing accommodations?

A candidate must contact their board of nursing for instructions on how to apply for accommodations and what documentation is required. A candidate may receive testing accommodations if they provide documentation from an appropriate medical professional to support their request. This documentation must include a diagnosis included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Among the accommodations available are additional testing time, separate room and/or assistive personnel (i.e., reader).

What forms of identification are accepted at the test center?

The only acceptable forms of identification in test centers in the United States* are:

  • U.S. drivers license (Department of Motor Vehicle-Issued) (if expired, a renewal slip that contains a photograph and a signature must be presented in order to be admitted)
  • U.S. state identification (Department of Motor Vehicle-Issued)
  • Passport
  • U.S. Military Identification

The only identification acceptable in test centers outside of the United States is:

  • Passport

All identification must be valid and not expired with signature and photograph. All identification must be in English and signed in English.

Driver’s/learner’s permits, temporary identification (examples include limited term IDs and any ID reading “temp” or “temporary”) and passport cards are not accepted for admittance to the NCLEX.

Candidates with identification from a country on the U.S. government’s sanctioned countries will have to follow the requirements listed in order to sit for the exam.

For more information on identification, visit the Acceptable Identification page.

*United States includes American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Does the middle name need to match the ID and the ATT?

Only the first and last names need to match between the candidate’s ID and ATT.

When will I get my results?

Candidates whose board of nursing participates in the Quick Results Service can receive their ‘unofficial’ results 48 hours after their exam date and time (a fee is required).  Official exam results are available only from the boards of nursing and will be mailed to candidates approximately six weeks after taking the exam. Pearson VUE and NCSBN do not provide exam results.

Links to all boards of nursing websites and contact information are available on the Contact a Board of Nursing page.

For more information about getting NCLEX results, visit the Results Reporting section.

If I fail the NCLEX, when can I take it again?
Candidates must wait a minimum of 45 or 90 days between each exam. This length of time is determined by the board of nursing and will be reflected in the new ATT’s validity dates. The NCSBN retake policy allows candidates to retake their exam 45 days after administration of their exam. Candidates who have applied for licensure with a participating board of nursing will be permitted to take the NCLEX eight times a year, but no more than once in any 45-day period, unless limited to fewer retakes by the desired jurisdiction of licensure. Candidates are encouraged to contact the boards of nursing for their policy on NCLEX retakes. 

 

Once you reregister for the NCLEX, the length of time determined by the board of nursing will be reflected in the new ATT’s validity dates.  

 

Please Note – If you missed an exam appointment or your ATT expired, you do NOT have to wait the 45 or 90 day period before you can retest. Questions regarding testing limits, resubmitting materials, background checks, or licensing fees should be directed to your board of nursing.

 

 

To retake the NCLEX:

  • Contact your board of nursing and notify them that you plan to retake the exam. Determine what materials or fees you need to resubmit to the board.
  • Reregister with Pearson VUE and pay the $200 fee.
  • Once the board makes you eligible you will receive a new Authorization to Test (ATT) and be able to schedule an exam date.

 

For more information on retaking the NCLEX, visit the Retake Policy page.

Have any studies been done on how long a candidate waits after completing a nursing program and the chances of passing/failing the exam?

See the research study on NCLEX Pass Rates: An Investigation Into the Effect of Lag Time and Retake Attempts.

Do candidates have an option to challenge items on the exam that they do not believe were valid?

Candidates who applied for licensure in jurisdictions where boards of nursing authorized the Review and Challenge may participate in the process. The Review and Challenge process allows candidates to review the items in question with a representative from their state board. Once a Review and Challenge is initiated, NCSBN staff will conduct content review of the items in question and determine validity of the candidate’s assertion.

Can you recommend review courses and/or study materials to help me prepare for the NCLEX?

NCSBN does not recommend or endorse any review courses or study materials. If you are interested in participating in a review course or purchasing review materials, please consult a nursing education professional for suggestions.

Links to all boards of nursing websites and contact information are available on the Contact a Board of Nursing page.

Average Exam Statistics

What is the average number of items tested per candidate?

In 2012, the average number of items (questions) administered per candidate was around 119 on the NCLEX-RN and 117 on the NCLEX-PN.

What is the average length of candidate exam?

Currently, an average RN exam lasts for 2.5 hours and an average PN exam lasts for 2.3 hours.

How many candidates run out of time?

Currently, about 2% of NCLEX candidates run out of time on their exams. This percentage has been consistent since 2005. The run out of time rates are similar for the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN.

Find more information about how CAT determines a pass or fail result when a candidate runs out of time.

What are the current statistics of the likelihood to pass the NCLEX on 2nd, 3rd and 4th attempts?

A research study addressing the relationship between retake attempts and NCLEX performance was published in JONA: Healthcare, Law, Ethnics and Regulations. Bibliography of this study is as follows:

Woo, A., Wendt, A., & Liu, W. (2009). NCLEX® pass rates: An investigation into effect of lag time and retake attempts. Journal of Nursing Administration: Healthcare, Law, Ethics, and Regulation, 11(1), 23-26.

Are you tracking candidates from accelerated programs separately?

No. NCSBN tracks performance by individual programs and then groups them as Diploma, Associate Degree, or Baccalaureate Degree (and higher).

Advice for Candidates

If a candidate has no idea how to answer an item should they guess?

The NCLEX item selection algorithm is designed for maximum efficiency. Items are chosen based on candidate’s ability estimate, so candidates have about a 50% chance of answering each item correctly. Therefore, a candidate should not take the NCLEX with the expectation that they will be able to answer every item correctly. When candidates see an item they do not know, they should consider the item carefully and answer the best they can. The computer will not allow a candidate to proceed to the next item without answering the previous one.

Should a student answer an item in a certain time frame?

Candidates should maintain a reasonable pace when answering items, perhaps one item every minute or two. As mentioned above, only about 2% of candidates who have taken the NCLEX ran out of time. Candidates should take time to read each item carefully before answering.

Why do some candidates receive a certain amount of items while other candidates receive another amount?

As a candidate takes the exam, items are selected based on the candidate's response to previous items. The exam ends when it can be determined that a candidate's performance is either above or below the passing standard, regardless of the number of items answered or the amount of testing time elapsed.

Tags: NCSBN