After you graduate from an accredited nursing program, the last hurdle to overcome in order to become a licensed clinician is taking (and passing) the NCLEX® exam.
But “when” is a question many students ask upon graduation. When can I take the NCLEX? When should I take the NCLEX? When will I be prepared to take the NCLEX?
When? When? When?
In most states, the earliest you can take the exam is approximately 45 days after your graduation date. It’s important to note that this does vary state by state, so check with your nursing regulatory body (NRB) to find out if your state requires a longer waiting period. But just because you can take the NCLEX 45 days after graduation, does this mean you should? Here are three questions to consider when deciding how long you should wait to take the NCLEX after you graduate . . .
When do you plan to enter the nursing workforce?
There are a number of personal factors that determine when a graduating student wants to enter the workforce, but this question — When do I want to begin my career? — obviously helps determine when you’ll want to take your NCLEX.
If you plan to take a few months or even a year off between graduation and the beginning of your nursing career, you might not feel a rush to test right away. In fact, it could be a beneficial time of extra study with a high-quality test prep resource so that you are confident and prepared on exam day.
However, most students are anxious to start their life as a practicing clinician right away. They’ve been dreaming of this day for quite awhile, and besides, we all have bills to pay! If you’re looking to get started as soon as possible, that 45-day mark is something to keep your eye on.
It’s important to note that you can’t just show up to a testing center on an exam day and take the NCLEX. There are a few steps to take before you test:
- Apply to your nursing regulatory body (NRB) for licensure
- Register with Pearson VUE and pay registration fees
- Receive your Authorization to Test (ATT)
- Schedule your exam date with Pearson VUE
How Long Can You Retain What You Learned in Nursing School?
One of the advantages in taking the NCLEX immediately upon graduation is that the information you have learned in nursing school is relatively fresh in your mind. For students who put off taking their exam, retention of pertinent information may be a challenge.
If you are not taking the NCLEX within the first three months of graduation, make sure you spend a set amount of time each day practicing with a trusted test prep resource like UWorld.
The challenging NCLEX-style questions, detailed rationales, vivid illustration, and precise performance tracking will help reinforce the knowledge you have gained in your nursing program and increase your chances of NCLEX success.
Do You Feel Confident That You Have Adequately Prepared?
Whether you take the NCLEX 45 days after graduating, 6 months after graduating, or a year after graduating, the most important question to ask yourself is this: “Am I properly prepared for this high-stakes licensure exam?”
The NCLEX is a computer adaptive test which measures your competency with each question asked. Each new question is harder or easier based on your previous answers. In other words, there is no fooling the test or getting lucky on exam day. Your knowledge level will be exposed.
If you are adequately prepared, that is a good thing — you’re going to do well! However, if you haven’t followed a study plan and put in the necessary preparation time, you run the risk of less-than-ideal test results.
The best answer to “How long should you wait to take the NCLEX after you graduate?” is probably this . . .
That’s up to you. But when you do decide to take the NCLEX, MAKE SURE YOU’RE READY.
So, how do you “make sure you’re ready?” Here are some important steps:
- Build a study plan and begin studying well in advance of your exam day.
- Use high-quality, industry-leading practice questions
- Choose a test prep resource written by experienced nurse educators and practicing clinicians
- Utilize flashcards with spaced repetition technology
- Track your progress and take self-assessments to gauge your readiness
UWorld is the industry leader in NCLEX prep, and we can help you pass your exam on the first attempt. Our online learning tools will have you confident and prepared on exam day. With NCLEX-style questions, detailed and thorough rationales, and precise performance tracking, we’ll have you ready for exam success. Click here to discover why we are the students’ choice for NCLEX prep.