How To Answer NCLEX-PN® Questions

A practical nursing student answering NCLEX-PN® questions in UWorld QBank.

Aspiring clinicians who plan to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) must first pass the NCSBN NCLEX-PN exam. The NCLEX-PN tests your nursing knowledge; therefore, it is imperative to appropriately prepare for the exam so that you can answer NCLEX-PN questions correctly.

If you are preparing to take your exam for the first time, it is helpful to know what to expect on the exam, how to approach NCLEX-PN questions, and how to answer NCLEX-PN questions with confidence. Here are a few suggestions for you as you study and prepare for your upcoming exam.

How Many Questions Are on the NCLEX-PN?

During the exam, you will receive a minimum of 75 NCLEX-PN questions and a maximum of 145 questions. Fifteen of the questions are being tested for use on future exams and will not be scored. These are called pretest or experimental questions. These questions are interspersed with scored questions so you will not be able to tell which questions are being tested or which are being scored. This is important because it allows the NCSBN to collect accurate statistical data to use these questions on future exams.  

The time allotted for the exam is five hours, but most candidates finish much sooner. You will be permitted two optional breaks during the NCLEX-PN. The first optional break occurs after two hours of testing, and the second optional break is at the three-and-a-half hour mark. (NCSBN®, Examination Candidate Rules)

What Content Will I Have To Know To Answer NCLEX-PN Questions Correctly?

The questions on the exam are divided among the eight Content Categories listed in the PN NCLEX test plan (NCSBN, 2020 NCLEX-PN Test Plan). Each category is then assigned a percentage of questions that will appear on your exam. So, for example, you can expect 10-16% of your exam to consist of questions related to pharmacological therapies. 

Content CategoriesPercentage of Items on the NCLEX-PN Exam
Coordinated Care18–24%
Safety and Infection Control10–16%
Health Promotion and Maintenance6–12%
Psychosocial Integrity9–15%
Basic Care and Comfort7–13%
Pharmacological Therapies10–16%
Reduction of Risk Potential9–15%
Physiological Adaptation7–13%

What Percentage of Questions Do I Have To Get Right to Pass the NCLEX-PN Exam?

The NCLEX exam is different from traditional exams you have taken during your nursing program. The NCLEX is delivered as a computer adaptive test (CAT) that presents items based on your ability level. This means that you will receive a “customized” exam based on your unique ability level which is calculated as you progressively answer questions on the test. The ability level of each question is calculated from the statistical data that was collected when previous candidates answered it as an unscored question (like the unscored questions you will answer on your test). 

You are probably used to receiving test results that indicate the percentage of questions you answered correctly. You knew you passed the test if you answered a high enough percentage of questions correctly. CAT exams are scored differently. Your score will not be calculated or reported as a percentage. It will be calculated on a statistical scale that indicates that your answers determine with 95% confidence that you are either above or below the passing standard. At this point, the exam will terminate and you will receive a score report of either pass or fail. (NCSBN, Computerized Adaptive Testing). 

What Types of NCLEX-PN Questions Will I See on my Exam?

It can be helpful to know, in advance, what types of questions you will be asked to answer on the exam. The types of questions you can expect on your exam will be determined by when you are planning to take the test. Candidates who test before April 1, 2023 will receive “traditional” NCLEX questions. Candidates who test on or after April 1, 2023 will receive the Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) exam which includes both traditional and the new question types that more accurately measure clinical judgment. If you choose to answer questions on the optional special research section of the exam (before April 1, 2023), you will also receive the new NGN questions.

Here is a list of the types of traditional questions. 

  • Multiple choice (choose one answer) 
  • Multiple response (choose all correct answers) 
  • Hot spot (click on an area of a picture or graphic image) 
  • Exhibit (click on the tabs for more information to help you answer the question)
  • Fill-in-the-blank (type numbers as answers to calculation questions)
  • Ordered response (click to move answer options from one column to the other in the correct order) 
  • Audio/video questions (click to see short video clips or hear short answer options) 

How To Prepare To Answer NCLEX-PN Questions

The best way to answer NCLEX-PN questions correctly on exam day is to thoroughly prepare in advance. Here are seven tips to prepare for your exam:

  1. Test yourself with practice questions as early and often as possible. Use questions from a premium product, preferably one that is highly recommended by your peers, like the UWorld Nursing NCLEX-PN QBank. The questions in the UWorld QBank are written in the same style as NCLEX-PN questions and also appear in the same format and color scheme. Practicing with the UWorld QBank test questions can help to relieve anxiety on test day since you will already be familiar with the way questions will appear. 
  2. Take practice tests in an exam-like environment in order to build confidence. With the UWorld QBank, you can choose to create variable length exams and time yourself while you answer the questions and complete your test. 
  3. Focus on why the correct answer is correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect. It is important to understand the rationales for all of the answer options, not just the correct answer. The detailed explanations and educational objectives included for each UWorld QBank question provides you with the knowledge and understanding to develop the critical thinking skills required to answer all of the NCLEX-PN questions correctly.
  4. Be Sure To Read the Entire Question. Candidates who rush through the exam often make mistakes. Take your time and read the entire question carefully so that you know exactly what is being asked. 
  5. Eliminate incorrect answer options when you read the question. Before choosing the correct answer, eliminate any answers that you know are incorrect. This narrows down your options so that you can focus on which of the remaining answers is correct. 
  6. Look for bolded descriptors in the question stem such as most, first, and best. These are included in the question to help you decide between one or more answer options that appear similar. Many of the UWorld QBank questions are written with these descriptors to familiarize you with these types of questions. Check the NCSBN FAQs for a more comprehensive list of descriptors. (NCSBN, What the Exam Looks Like)
  7. Review your answers but don’t second guess yourself. In most cases, it’s best to stick with your first response. 

How To Answer NCLEX-PN Questions: If You Don’t Know the Answer

If you find yourself in a situation with an NCLEX-PN question where you just don’t know which answer to choose, first eliminate any option that you believe is definitely not correct. Then, rank the remaining choices in order as to which one you think is most probably correct and choose the option you’ve ranked the highest. 

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UWorld is the industry leader in NCLEX-PN 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. Discover why we are the students’ choice for NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN prep


References

 NCSBN Examination Candidate Rules, NCSBN. Retrieved 5/9/2022 from https://www.ncsbn.org/1219.htm#6201

2020 NCLEX-PN Test Plan, NCSBN. Retrieved 5/9/2022 from https://www.ncsbn.org/2020_NCLEXPN_TestPlan-English.pdf

Computerized Adaptive Testing, NCSBN. Retrieved 5/9/2022 from https://www.ncsbn.org/1216.htm

What the Exam Looks Like, NCSBN. Retrieved 5/9/2022 from https://www.ncsbn.org/9010.htm

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