Nursing Exams Beginning To End: An Overview of General Nursing Exams
Different Types of Nursing Examinations
In the US, nurses can work as Licensed Practical Nurse (LPNs), Registered Nurse (RNs) or Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs). To obtain a nursing license, all aspiring nurses have to complete a LPN program or a RN program and take the National Council Licensed Examination (NCLEX) exam.
There are two types of NCLEX exams, namely, NCLEX–PN (for LPN) and NCLEX–RN (for RN).
The Nursing Boards of States are responsible for accrediting nursing schools, nurse training, and licensing programs. Once you complete a nursing program approved by the state, you can take the state-based examination to get a license to pursue a nursing career. The license offered by one state may not be accepted in another state but some states provide provisions where the state-based nursing licenses (LPN, RN or APN) are valid in other states. Some states recognize another state’s nursing license through exchange regulations. In other states, you have to take another test to get a license. Some nurses hold various licenses which allow them to practice in different states.
Who Can Apply for Nursing Exams?
You are eligible to take the NCLEX exams if you have done a LPN program, RN program or advanced training in nursing. In the LPN Program, you receive 12 months training from an accredited community college, vocational school or technical school. As a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), you can get employment in hospitals or clinics.
In the RN program, you can get any of these three certificates -
- Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)
- Bachelor Degree in Nursing (BSN)
- Diploma in Nursing Program
After completing the program, you are eligible to take the NCLEX examination to work in various nursing occupations.
The Nurse Practitioner or NP is also a registered nurse who has received advanced training in clinical skills such as prescribing medications, physical examinations, diagnosis, treatment, interpreting medical tests, and training the patients. NPs can even practice independently of a physician. APNs can work as CNS, CNM, and CRNA.
There are many undergraduate programs in nursing leading to an associate degree, diploma, and Bachelor’s degree in nursing. After getting a nursing degree, you can apply for postgraduate nursing education.
Applying for the Nursing Exams
If you have completed a nursing program from an accredited nursing school approved by the State Board of Nursing, you are a Nursing School graduate, and you will have to pass the NCLEX examination to practice as a RN or LPN in the U.S. To take the examination, you have to register yourself and the process starts at the end of the final year of the nursing program. In the final year, you get an application where you are invited to take the NCLEX examination. The form should be filled and returned to the Board of Nursing.
Passing the Exam
Students who have completed a nursing program should find it quite easy to pass the NCLEX examination. All the questions asked in the test paper are multiple choice questions which are related to the subjects that you have studied in the nursing program. Nevertheless, it’s better to prepare fully for the exam because it will be a waste of time and money to take the exam a second time. To pass the exam, you need to review all your study materials. A strong understanding of the subjects is very important. Make a plan that will cover all the materials and analyze your weaknesses and strengths in various subjects. You can even study in groups to develop a more competitive environment. Take some time to tackle sample exam questions which can be collected on the Internet or the school library. You can get CD-ROMS and course material from reliable sources such as NSNA NCLEX Excel Online Store.
You take the test on the computer so you need to have a basic knowledge of using computers and keyboards to answer the questions. Only one question will be displayed on the computer screen at a time. The examination is distributed in four sections, namely, Safe Effective Care Environment, Psychological Integrity, Physiological Integrity, and Health Promotion and Maintenance. You get multiple questions in each of the sub-divisions and each section has 75 questions where the initial 15 questions are not included in the tabulation of the final score.
Students are given five hours to take the tests and the test period includes 10 minutes breaks after two hours of test. You can go on any day in the week to the test centers to take the exam. The test usually contains questions to test your lab skills and general knowledge. If you know your weaknesses, you should try to answer more of the sample questions for that area. Sometimes, the answers provided are very similar so you need to be careful in selecting the correct one.
After you have satisfactorily answered all the questions, you have to submit the answers. You will not get immediate results after you have submitted the test. The result will be sent to you via email by the State Board of Nursing within two to three weeks.
Preparing for the Exam and Tips to Answer the Questions
To prepare for the exam, you need to upgrade your vocabulary. Learn all the medical terms and basic concepts. You should learn to use your knowledge for real life situations to answer the questions. The best way to prepare for the exam is to practice more. Practicing will also help you to become confident and reduce anxiety.
Watch for tricky questions because most students provide the wrong answer when they actually know the right answer. When you get stuck with a particularly tough question, don’t spend too much time on it. Skip, and return to the question later.
Nursing jobs provide a conformable way to earn a living and there will be a high demand for nurses in the coming years. The job is highly challenging so it requires a certain level of patience and tolerance. There are many ways to become a nurse because many accredited US schools offer nursing programs. In fact, you can even get certification in nursing through online schools offering online LPN programs or online RN programs. Many US universities offer online LPN programs and RN programs because many modern students prefer to study in the comfort of their homes. If you are preparing for the exam, you should develop a study pattern and do not get over anxious because the pass percentage of the exam is very high.
To learn more about nursing exams, follow these links.
- NCLEX Examinations
- Licensure by Examination
- Nursing Licenses in New York
- Information on NCLEX Examination
- NCLEX-PN Practice Questions (PDF)
- NCLEX-RN Review
- Help for NCLEX Exams (PDF)