Hey! Welcome to Nurse Code’s insightful article on the NCLEX PN exam.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the exam structure and format, requirements and cost, topics breakdown, and type of questions in the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical/Vocational Nurses, plus answer all your concerns about this exam.

At the end of this session, you’ll be conversant with everything you need to know about the NCLEX PN.

In summary, here is what you’ll learn about.

  • An overview of the NCLEX PN exam
  • NCLEX PN requirements, cost, and types of questions
  • The exam topics breakdown

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Other free NCLEX PN study materials:

  1. NCLEX PN exam prep
  2. NCLEX PN study plan
  3. NCLEX study guide
  4. NCLEX practice exams
  5. NCLEX PN flashcards
  6. NCLEX cheat sheet
  7. NCLEX PN Exam FAQ
  8. Best NCLEX PN study materials

An Overview of the NCLEX PN Exam

An Overview of the NCLEX-PN Exam

The National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses is developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

It’s for nursing students aspiring to become licensed practical nurses/licensed vocational nurses—the lowest entry-level nursing position.

Sometimes the NCLEX PN is referred to as the “States Board” or the “Board” because it’s administered by the individual State Board of Nursing.

This entry-level exam tests candidates on their knowledge, skills, and expertise in providing safe and effective nursing care.

Simply put, the exam determines whether nursing students are competent enough to practice as practical nurses.

The exam is updated every three years to ensure it’s up-to-date with the latest nursing practices and techniques in the nursing and medical field.

More importantly, the NCLEX PN is based on computer adaptive testing (CAT).

CAT ensures each candidate has a unique testing experience tailored to their knowledge level.

With CAT, the exam gets harder or easier depending on the test-takers response.

If a candidate’s answer is correct, the next question will be more challenging, while the next question will be easier if it’s incorrect.

In other words, the questions adapt to a nursing student’s competency level.

The bottom line?

Candidates must pass the NCLEX PN exam to apply for licensure with their State Boards of Nursing to become licensed practical nurses.

Now, if you’ve been in the health-related field long enough, you’ll know there’s also the NCLEX RN exam, which is different from our subject of discussion today, as NCLEX RN is for aspiring registered nurses.

NCLEX PN Exam Requirements, Registration, and Cost

NCLEX-PN Exam Requirements, Registration, and Cost

The qualification for the NCLEX PN varies by nursing boards.

However, the main requirement is an associate’s degree in nursing graduation certification from an approved practical nursing program.

Most practical nursing programs take between a year to two.

That said, how do you register for the National Council Licensure Examination for PN?

The process is straightforward.

First, check with your State Board of Nursing to find out the requirements.

Apart from the one I mentioned above, you may be required to submit your transcripts, undergo a background check and pay the licensure fee.

The next step is to apply for licensure through your nursing board.

At the same time, you should register with Pearson VUE either through your mobile phone or online.

From my experience, online application is easier.

You’ll also be required to pay for the exam fee, which is $200, according to the NCSBN.

There might be additional payment if you change the exam type, language, etc.

Remember, your eligibility for the exam comes from your Board of Nursing.

Pearson VUE only confirms the information from your nursing board by issuing an Authorization to Test (ATT).

The next step is to sit tight and wait for the registration acknowledgment email from Pearson VUE, ATT.

The ATT is a confirmation that you are eligible for the exam.

And it’s valid for 90 days, although, in some states, the validity period may vary from 60 to 365 days.

With the ATT, you can schedule a test date.

The test day should be a few months ahead to allow you time for test prep.

Start your exam prep or continue from where you left off if you’ve already started.

NCLEX Exam Topics Breakdown

NCLEX Exam Topics Breakdown

The NCLEX PN exam takes 5 hours to complete, and the minimum number of questions you can answer is 75.

The maximum is 145.

The exam has two optional breaks.

The first is 2 hours after the exam starts, and the second is 90 minutes later (after the first break).

The NCLEX PN is majorly multiple-choice questions, but there are additional alternate type questions: multiple-response, hot spot, drag-and-drop, chart/exhibit, and fill-in-the-blank.

NCLEX RN and NCLEX PN have similar Client Needs Categories tested in the exams.

However, the main difference between the two is that NCLEX for registered nurses focuses on the management of care and the supervision of others.

Hence, it’s broader in scope.

Some of the sub-topics in the NCLEX RN are either briefly covered in the NCLEX PN or removed altogether.

NCLEX PN, on the other hand, is centered around working under direction, that is, working under RNs.

That said, let’s delve into the four Client Needs Categories and their subcategories.

As a side note, only two categories have subcategories.

Safe and Effective Care Environment

This category makes up 21-33% of the actual exam.

The Safe and Effective Care Environment category, as the name suggests, majorly focuses on patient care safety issues, preventing injuries and infection, and the safety of medication administration to patients, to mention a few.

There are two subcategories here.

  • Coordinated Care (18-24%)

Coordinated Care is about collaborating with other healthcare professionals to provide safe and effective care.

The nursing actions tested here include Concepts of Management and Supervision, Establishing Priorities, Advanced Directives, Ethical Practices, Client Rights, Informed Consent, Referral Process, Legal Responsibilities, and Resource Management.

  • Safety and Infection Control (10-16%)

The areas covered in this subcategory include Handling Hazardous Materials, Incident Reporting, Emergency Response Plan, Security Plan, Use of Restraints and Safety Devices, Injury Prevention, Accident/Error Prevention, and Medical and Surgical Asepsis, among others.

Health Promotion and Maintenance (6-12%)

Here, licensed practical nurses are tested on the stages of growth and development and the early detection and prevention of health problems.

The topics covered include Proper Development, Infant Growth and Development, Developmental Stages, Lifestyle Choices, STIs, etc.

Psychological Integrity (9-15%)

As the name suggests, Psychological Integrity is about supporting and promoting patients’ emotional, mental, and social well-being.

The subcategories include Grief and Loss, Coping Mechanisms, Substance Abuse and Therapy, Crisis Intervention, and Psychiatric Health and Diseases.

Physiological Integrity

Physiological Integrity is about clients’ everyday activities

There are four subcategories here.

  • Basic Care and Comfort (7-13%)

This subcategory focuses on helping clients with activities of daily living in a healthcare facility or otherwise.

The nursing actions in this subcategory include Nutrition and Oral Hydration, Non-Pharmacological Comfort Intervention, Elimination, Personal Hygiene, Assistive Devices, Mobility, and Rest and Sleep.

  • Pharmacological Therapies (10-16%)

Here, candidates are tested on Pharmacological Pain Management and Side Effects, Expected Effects, Adverse Effects, and Medication Administration.

  • Reduction of Risk Potential (9-15%)

The nursing actions in this subcategory are geared toward reducing risk.

Key areas of focus include Laboratory Values, Diagnostic Tests, Potential for Complication of Diagnostic Tests, Treatment and Procedures, Potential for Body System Alterations, and Vital Signs.

  • Physiological Adaptation (7-13%)

This is the last subcategory, and it’s centered around Body Systems, Fluid and Electrolyte Imbalances, Illness Management, Medical Emergencies, Basic Pathophysiology, and Unexpected Responses to Therapy.

This is an overview of the NCLEX PN content areas.

However, it will be best to review the NCSBN test plan to have a comprehensive overview of what to expect in the NCLEX PN exam.

What Happens If You Fail the Exam?

What Happens If You Fail the Exam?

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, you can take the NCLEX PN up to eight times a year.

The waiting period between NCLEX PN tests is 45 days.

Confirm with your States Boards of Nursing just to be sure.

You’ll be required to notify the nursing board of your intention to retake the exam.

After you’ve notified them, re-apply for the exam through Pearson VUE and pay the $200 exam fee.

You’ll get a new ATT.

From there, you can schedule your exam.


NCLEX PN Exam Conclusion

The NCLEX PN exam is written by NCSBN and administered by the State Board of Nursing.

Nursing students who pass the exam become licensed practical nurses.

And because we know how important this exam is, we’ve given a thorough overview of what the exam is about.

We’ve gone further and answered the frequently asked questions.

With this information, you can start your exam prep knowing what’s expected of you.

That said, check out our “NCLEX PN exam prep” article for strategies to effectively prepare for this exam.



How hard is the PN NCLEX exam?

The difficulty level of the NCLEX PN depends on how you answer the questions. Since it’s computer adaptive testing, the questions will get harder the more you give correct answers. Also, the number of questions you’ll answer will reduce. If the questions become simpler, you are not performing well.

How many questions are there?

The minimum number of questions you can answer in the NCLEX PN test is 75. The maximum is 145. Now, no matter how many questions you answer, there’ll be 15 experimental questions that don’t go toward your final score. These questions are used to test future exam questions.

How many hours is the NCLEX PN exam?

The exam takes 5 hours. You’ll listen to a tutorial at the beginning. There are two optional breaks in the exam. The first break is 2 hours after the test begins. The second one is 3 hours and 30 minutes after the test starts. That’s 90 minutes after the first break.

Is the NCLEX PN easier than RN?

The NCLEX RN covers a bigger scope of practice compared to NCLEX PN. Hence, it’s expected to be more challenging. Further, one is for PNs and the other for RNs. That said, the two exams test different things, given that what LVNs/LPNs are allowed to do differs from RNs’ work scope.

What is a passing score on the NCLEX PN?

There’s no set passing score. Since NCLEX uses CAT, the system stops administering questions when it’s 95% sure that your nursing abilities are below or above the passing standards. You may answer more questions or fewer, depending on your competency level.

What is the NCLEX PN exam?

The NCLEX PN exam is written by NCSBN and administered by the State Board of Nursing. The exam is designed to test the knowledge and abilities of practical nurses to practice nursing safely. It determines if aspiring LVNs have the essential skills required to work in the nursing field.

Why is the NCLEX PN exam important?

The NCLEX PN is important because it tests whether candidates have what it takes to practice as vocational nurses/practical nurses. The exam opens entry-level opportunities in the nursing field. LPNs interested in climbing the career ladder can later take NCLEX RN to become registered nurses.

When does the NCLEX exam end?

The exam ends when one of the following occurs:
A candidate has demonstrated minimum or lack of minimum competency and answered the minimum number of questions (75).
A candidate has answered the maximum number of questions (145).
A candidate has used the maximum time allowed (5 hours).

What if I fail? Should I test again?

Failing the exam means you didn’t demonstrate your ability to provide practice nursing care, which leaves you with an option to retake the exam after 45 days of the initial administration. Use the performance report to analyze your performance and create a study plan. Start your exam prep again.

How many people pass the NCLEX PN on their first try?

According to the NCSBN, 80% of the candidates passed the NCLEX PN test in 2021 on their first attempt. Eight in every ten test-takers pass the exam. That means you can also pass. Review the test plan and devise a study plan. Take many practice questions before the exam day.

What types of questions are on the NCLEX PN exam?

The NCLEX PN majorly has multiple-choice questions. There are also alternate format questions such as fill-in-the-blanks, hot spot, multiple-response, drag-and-drop, and chart/exhibits. Start familiarizing yourself with the exam questions by taking practice exams. Use NCLEX PN practice tests that mimic the actual exam. That’s computer adaptive testing.

How do I register for the NCLEX PN exam?

To register for the NCLEX PN, you’ll first apply to your Board of Nursing. From there, register for the exam on Pearson VUE. You can register using your mobile or online. Once you’ve completed the registration, make a payment and wait for a confirmation email.

How much does the NCLEX PN cost?

The NCLEX PN exam costs $200. However, there may be extra charges if it’s an international schedule. Additional fees may also be there if you change the exam type, language, or regulatory board. Be sure to confirm the cost with your State Board of Nursing.

How do I study for the NCLEX PN exam?

– Create a comprehensive study plan
– Assemble the study resources you’ll need, like a review book, study guides, cheat sheet, and a Qbank. You can purchase a prep course.
– Review the study materials starting with the review book, to understand the foundational knowledge
– Take NCLEX PN sample questions

How Many times can you fail the NCLEX PN?

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, you can take the exam eight times a year. The only requirement is to wait 45 days before you retake an exam. Now, that doesn’t mean you take the exam eight times. Take your time to prepare before a retake.

How to retake the NCLEX PN Exam?

First, notify your State Board of Nursing of your intention to retake the exam. The next step is to re-register for the exam through Pearson VUE and make another payment of $200. You’ll get a new ATT. Start your preparation for the exam day.

What’s the best place to start studying for my NCLEX PN? 

– Start by taking a full-length practice exam to understand the scope of the exam, question structure, and so on.
– Break your study plan to focus on your weakest areas
– Use flashcards and cheat sheets to reinforce the sections learned
– Take end-of-topic quizzes to test your understanding further

Is it hard to pass the NCLEX PN?

With a passing rate of 80%, we can say that it’s not hard to pass the exam if you prepare thoroughly. Remember, the NCLEX PN tests whether you can provide safe and effective patient care. As such, you need to bring your A-game to pass this exam.

Who is responsible for writing the NCLEX PN?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). The NCSBN regulates the practice of nursing. Hence, it protects the public from unsafe and ineffective nursing. The exam tests candidates on their knowledge, skills, and abilities to provide safe and effective nursing care.



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