NCLEX Exam FAQs: When to Take It, What to Bring, & More!

If you’re approaching the end of your nursing program, you’re no doubt thinking about that last hurdle standing between you and the coveted title of RN: the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). 

Given what you’ve already accomplished, you should be confident you’re going to pass the exam, but nevertheless, it’s normal to have questions about it. Maybe you have questions like “How much is the NCLEX?” Or perhaps you’re wondering, “What do I bring to the NCLEX?” and even “When do I take the exam?” 

In this post we’re going to answer those questions and more. We’ll dive into the top 10 NCLEX FAQs, so you’ll be ready to meet that final challenge on the road to becoming an RN! 

Let’s get to it!


Frequently-Asked Questions About the NCLEX

1. When do you take the NCLEX?

You can typically take the NCLEX after completing an approved nursing education program. Essentially, this means after you’ve graduated from a nursing program and received an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or Bachelors of Science in nursing (BSN). 

Keep in mind, specific eligibility will vary by state! So be sure to check with the nursing regulatory agency in your state to ensure you have the most up-to-date information regarding your eligibility to test.

2. How do you schedule the NCLEX? 

Apply for licensure

First, you’ll need to apply for licensure with the nursing regulatory agency in the state you’ll be working (not living) in. 

Each state has its own requirements and application process. If you still have questions, you can typically find information on this process at your state’s Board of Nursing website!

Receive an authorization to test (ATT)

Next, you’ll need to receive an authorization to test (ATT). You might’ve heard other nursing students mention an ATT. This is just a fancy way of saying the state has deemed you eligible to take the NCLEX! 

Once your application is reviewed and approved by your state’s Board of Nursing, you’ll receive an ATT from Pearson VUE (the company that administers the NCLEX). The ATT will contain important information such as your candidate identification number and instructions on how to schedule your exam.

Select your exam location and date

From there you can select your exam location and date. Once you’re registered you’ll be able to select your preferred exam location. 

The NCLEX is usually administered at a Pearson VUE testing center. Each location is basically the same. I chose the one closest to my house that was also offering the date I wanted. 

When it comes to selecting a date and time for your exam, availability may vary depending on the testing center and the number of candidates scheduling their exams.

Pay your exam fees

Once you get the date and location figured out, it’ll be time to pay your exam fees. (We’ll cover this in more detail below.) 

The payment must be made by VISA, MasterCard, or American Express credit, debit, or prepaid cards to complete registration.

After your payment goes through, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Pearson VUE. Make sure to check this email carefully to ensure all the information you provided is correct! 

From there, it’s time to prepare for your exam & get ready to rock it!

3. How much is the NCLEX?

The registration fee to take the NCLEX within the United States is $200. Additional fees may apply, such as: 

  • An international scheduling fee ($150); 
  • If you change the nursing regulatory body after registration ($50); 
  • Or if you change the exam type (RN/PN) after registration ($50). 

There’s also a no refund policy. Registration fees for any reason will not be refunded, including but not limited to: 

  • Duplicate registrations (you can’t have more than one active registration for the same exam); 
  • Failure to reschedule and/or cancel an exam appointment outside of 24 business hours; 
  • Or failure to appear for an exam appointment. 

If you’re a veteran wondering, “how much is the NCLEX for me?” then there’s some good news for you. Through the Qualified Veterans Reimbursement Program, The Department of Veterans Affairs has added the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN to the qualified list of nonfederal government licensure/certification examinations. This allows eligible veterans and their dependents to be reimbursed for the cost of test(s)!

4. Where do you take the NCLEX?

As mentioned, the NCLEX is typically taken at a Pearson VUE testing center. These testing centers can be located by visiting the Pearson VUE website and finding a center near you by entering your address.

5. How early should you arrive?

You’ll want to be at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time. If you arrive more than 30 minutes late, you may be required to forfeit your appointment, re-register, and pay another exam fee. 

A funny story for you…

I have kind of a funny story on this point. I took my exam in April of 2020, which I’m sure you can imagine was quite a unique experience! I was so worried I’d be late to my exam that I gave myself extra time to get there about 45 minutes early. 

Well, halfway to the exam center, I realized I’d forgotten my mask! This was early enough in the pandemic that masks weren’t regularly worn everywhere, but I was specifically told when I registered for my exam that if I forgot a mask I wouldn’t be allowed to test!

I was so panicked, I had to turn around, call my husband and ask him to meet me halfway to give me my mask. I ended up arriving about 20 minutes before my exam appointment and it all worked out, thankfully! 

But all that to say, I’m so grateful I gave myself extra time! If there’s ever a time to be early, it’s for your NCLEX exam!

6. What should you bring to the NCLEX?

As for what to bring to the NCLEX, please remember the following: 

Comfortable clothing

Provisions will be made for religious/cultural dress. Otherwise hats, scarves, gloves and outerwear should be left outside of the testing room. 

Your identification

Be prepared to present one form of approved identification at the testing center, such as:

  • Passport books and cards;
  • Your driver’s license;
  • A permanent residence card;
  • Or your military identification card.

All approved identification must be valid and must be:

  • A physical copy (no digital copies); 
  • Unexpired; 
  • And government issued.

Your ID must include: 

  • Your printed first and last names ( exactly the same as the names you used to to register for the exam);
  • A recent photograph;
  • And your signature. (If the ID does not contain a signature but meets all other ID requirements, a secondary form of identification is required.)

Electronic devices

All electronic devices (cell phones, tablets, smart watches, and other electronic devices) must be stored in a sealable plastic bag provided by Pearson VUE at the testing center.

Note that you won’t be allowed to test if you skip this step, and you’ll be required to re-register and pay another exam fee for any additional appointments!

7. How long is the NCLEX? 

You have up to 5 hours to complete the exam. 

8. How many questions are on the NCLEX? 

You can anticipate a minimum of 85 questions and a maximum of 150 questions on the exam. 

9. Walk us through the day. What’s it like from start to finish?

Check-in process

Upon arriving at the testing center, you’ll begin the check-in process. This includes storing all of your personal devices and providing your biometric information (i.e., your signature, a photograph, and a palm vein scan). These are required to be admitted to the test. 

Preparing for the exam

When it’s your turn to begin your exam, you’ll be called back by name, provided with instructions on what to do if you need to take a break during the exam, and what to do once you’ve finished. 

From there you’ll be shown to your testing station and given an on-screen calculator and an erasable white board with a marker for making notes during the exam. 

Taking the exam

When you’re ready, you’ll begin! Remember, you have up to 5 hours for the exam including breaks. Take your time, analyze each question carefully, and don’t feel pressured to rush through. 

Once a response is submitted, it can’t be changed and you can’t return to that question, so be confident in your choices! 

Submitting the exam

Once you’ve finished the exam, it’ll shut off automatically. From there, the test will end with a short survey. 

Once the survey is completed, raise your hand and wait for the test administrator to dismiss you. You’ll then be escorted out of the testing area, and you can retrieve any stored items and leave the testing facility. 

10. Is there anything I should do the night before the exam to minimize anxiety?

If I could offer one piece of advice when preparing for exam day it would be do not cram the night before your exam! The last thing you want to do is walk into your exam with a fatigued brain from tossing and turning all night after a day full of cramming. 

I personally was of the mindset that if it’s the day before the exam and I don’t know it, I’m probably not going to know it and that’s okay! You don’t have to know everything. The exam is just to make sure you’re a safe, competent, new graduate nurse that’s ready to provide quality care! 

So, take a brain break the night before the exam. Watch your favorite TV show, go see a movie, or enjoy dinner with your family and friends! And just relax knowing tomorrow you’re going to become a real-deal registered nurse. You’ve got this!!


Further Reading

We hope answering 10 FAQs about the NCLEX has put your mind at ease. It’s normal to feel nervous, but remember what you’ve done already! You have more than what it takes to crush this exam and become an RN. 

Good luck on the last leg of your journey, and be sure to reach out if you need additional help!

Looking for more (free!) content to help you prepare for the NCLEX-RN? Check out these other posts on the Blueprint Nursing blog:

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