How long is the NCLEX-PN® exam?

A nursing student preparing for the NCLEX-PN exam.

For nursing students studying for a career as an Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), the NCLEX® duration is something they should consider when preparing for their NCLEX-PN exam. The sheer length of the test is an issue some candidates aren’t prepared for on exam day because they haven’t practiced questions similar to NCLEX-PN questions under exam-like conditions.

In order to gain licensure and become a practicing nurse clinician, candidates are required to pass the NCLEX-PN exam; therefore, it is helpful to know what types of questions are on the exam, how to best prepare for the exam, and to know the answer to the question, How long is the NCLEX-PN exam? in order to be confident and prepared on exam day.

When the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) launches the Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) in April of 2023, there will be substantive changes to the NCLEX-PN questions. But in this post, we’ll discuss the current NCLEX duration and some other information that can benefit students who are preparing for the NCLEX-PN exam by answering some frequently asked questions regarding the exam in its current format.

How Long Is the NCLEX-PN Exam?

When explaining the length of the NCLEX exam, there are two factors to consider: 1) Number of items (questions), and 2) Time allotted.

Number of Items:

Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, when taking the NCLEX-PN exam, you will face a minimum of 75 items and a maximum of 145 items. 15 of these items are known as pretest items and are not scored. However, you will not be informed as to which items are pretest items.

Time Allotted:

The time limit for the NCLEX-PN is five hours. This allotted time includes an introductory screen, sample items, the actual exam, and breaks.

Your exam is considered complete when one of the three following things happens:

  1. The computer stops administering NCLEX-PN questions when it has determined with a 95% certainty that you are above or below the passing standard. This is known as the 95% Confidence Interval Rule. This rule can go into effect at the minimum number of items (75) or at any number after that, up to 145.
  2. If the computer has not determined at a 95% rate of certainty your competency in relation to the passing standard when you reach the maximum number of items (205), the computer will ascertain a “pass” or “fail” judgment.
  3. The last scenario is that you run out of time. (This is known as the Run-Out-Of-Time Rule, or R.O.O.T.) If you’ve yet to show with a 95% certainty that you are above or below the passing standard, and if you haven’t answered all 205 questions when you get to the five-hour mark, the computer will determine if your answers were consistently above or below the passing threshold.

Are There Breaks During the NCLEX-PN Exam?

During the NCLEX duration, candidates are permitted two optional breaks. The first optional break is offered two hours into testing, and the second optional break is offered three-and-a-half hours into your NCLEX-PN exam. 

A few things to note:

  • If you take one or both of the optional breaks, the breaks count against your five hours of permitted testing time. The clock does not stop for breaks.
  • All candidates are required to leave the testing room during breaks.
  • Any personal items you access during your break (purses, backpacks, etc.) may be subject to inspection by your test administrator (TA).

How Much Time Per NCLEX-PN Question Am I Allowed?

There is no time limit for individual NCLEX-PN questions – you can take as much time per question as you like. However, it is important to remember that the exam will end after five hours, so be aware of your pacing as you move through the exam.

What Content Is Examined on the NCLEX-PN Exam?

The exam content for the NCLEX-PN is divided into four categories (two of the categories are further divided into subcategories):

  • Safe and Effective Care Environment
    • Coordinated Care
    • Safety and Infection Control
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Physiological Integrity
    • Basic Care and Comfort
    • Pharmacological Therapies
    • Reduction of Risk Potential
    • Physiological Adaptation

The items you will face on the exam are distributed relatively evenly across these categories:

Content Categories Percentage of Items on the NCLEX-PN Exam
Safe and Effective Care Environment: Coordinated Care 18–24%
Safe and Effective Care Environment: Safety and Infection Control 10–16%
Health Promotion and Maintenance 6–12%
Psychosocial Integrity 9–15%
Physiological Integrity: Basic Care and Comfort 7–13%
Physiological Integrity: Pharmacological Therapies 10–16%
Physiological Integrity: Reduction of Risk Potential 9–15%
Physiological Integrity: Physiological Adaptation 7–13%


What Types of Questions Will I Face on the NCLEX-PN Exam?

There are a variety of question types you will see on the NCLEX-PN exam, including (but not limited to): fill-in-the-bank calculation, ordered response, multiple choice, multiple response, hot spot, audio and graphic, and ordered response.  

NCLEX-PN Overview . . . 

The NCLEX-PN exam has  75-145 items, and you are given up to five hours to complete the exam. There is no time limit for NCLEX-PN questions, but be aware of your pacing as you move through the exam so that you don’t exceed your total time. You are given the option of taking one or both of the scheduled breaks during the exam. There are four different content categories that will be tested on exam day: Safe and Effective Care, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Psychosocial Integrity, and Physiological Integrity. Questions are asked in a variety of formats.

Good luck on your NCLEX-PN exam!


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NCLEX-PN examination – NCSBN. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2022, from

COVID-19 Impact to NCLEX Candidates, NCSBN. Retrieved 5/9/2022 from

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