Taking the NCLEX®

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For students who dream of becoming a nurse, it all comes down to this . . . the NCLEX® exam.

The stress of getting into a nursing program, the rigors of your didactic learning, the craziness of clinical rotations, the long nights of researching specialties, and the months spent preparing for the exam are all in the past.

Now, everything hinges on what happens in that testing center when you sit for the NCLEX exam.

It may sound like a frightening proposition, but if you’ve chosen the right test prep resource and maintained a consistent study plan, you have nothing to worry about on exam day.

This is your chance to demonstrate all that you’ve learned and showcase the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired in the classroom, in your rotations, and in your NCLEX preparation.

With so much riding on exam-day performance, many students have lots of questions. How do I register for the NCLEX? When should I arrive? What is required to sign in? How long is the exam? Do we get breaks? What am I allowed to bring into the testing room? Etc.

Here are a few things to expect on exam day:

Make Plans To Arrive Early

Arriving early to your NCLEX testing center eliminates the stress that comes with running late and ensures that you will be able to sit for the exam. It is recommended that you arrive 30 minutes early.

If you arrive more than 30 minutes late, you may be turned away from the testing center, and you’ll have to register for another testing date and pay another registration fee. 

Don’t Forget Your Photo Identification

Upon arrival at the testing center, you will be asked to provide an acceptable photo identification. In the past, test takers were required to also provide a paper copy of their Authorization to Test (ATT) for admittance, but this is no longer required. 

Acceptable forms of identification will meet each of these requirements: recent photograph, name (in Roman characters), signature, government-issued, non-expired.

Examples of acceptable identification are: driver’s license, passport, military identification card, permanent residence card, state or provincial/territorial identification card.

Note: The name on your identification must match exactly the name found on your Authorization to Test (ATT) email.

Prepare To Be Scanned

Before you begin your NCLEX exam, personnel at the testing center will collect your signature, take a computer photograph of you, and administer a palm vein scan. 

Wondering What To Wear?

Keep in mind that the maximum amount of time allowed to complete the NCLEX exam is five hours, so it’s possible that you’re going to be at the testing center for a considerable amount of time. Therefore, it is advisable to wear something comfortable that will allow you to stay focused on your exam. (e.g. If you get cold easily, wear something that will keep you warm.)  

Note: You will not be allowed to bring any personal belongings into the testing room. Scarves, hats, gloves, coats, etc. must be placed in a locker outside of the room.

Testing Materials Are Provided

Keep in mind that the NCLEX is a computer-administered test that uses computer adaptive testing (CAT) to determine a candidate’s competency level.  

This means you will not be permitted to bring any outside materials (i.e. paper, writing materials, calculators) into the testing room. An onscreen calculator, marker, and note board are provided for your exam.

Break Time

The NCLEX is an arduous exam; therefore, there are two breaks permitted during the exam. Both of these breaks are optional for the test taker. 

The first scheduled break is permitted approximately two hours into testing; the second scheduled break is permitted after approximately three and a half hours into the test.

If you wish to request a break, or leave the testing room for any reason, the TA will escort you out of the room after you raise your hand. A palm vein scan will be administered when you leave and when you re-enter the testing room.

You are permitted to access your personal items during a break (purse, coat, hat, gloves, food or beverage, etc.) but you are not permitted to bring any personal items into the testing room.

Note: The exam clock continues to run when you are on your breaks.

Once You Answer a Question . . .

Unlike other exams you may have taken, you cannot go back and change an answer on the NCLEX. Once you answer a question, your answer is final. So, take your time and think carefully about each answer choice before submitting an answer.

When Your Exam Is Completed

When the computer has accurately assessed your competency level, you will receive a message on your screen that states “Your test is concluded.” 

You will then be presented with a few survey questions, asking you about your testing experience. These questions do not affect your test results.

When you are finished with the exam and the exit survey, raise your hand and wait for the TA to dismiss you.

You can expect to receive your test results approximately six weeks after taking the exam from your nursing regulatory body (NRB).

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