The National Council Licensure Examination

The NCLEX, or National Council Licensure Examination, is an examination utilized for the licensure of nurses in the United States. The NCLEX falls under two types, the NCLEX PN exam(National Council Licesure Examination-Practical Nurse) and the NCLEX RNexam (National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse). In order for a nursing graduate to begin practicing nursing, he or she must take the NCLEX. A nursing license allows a nurse to practice in the state where he or she has met the necessary requirements.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc, or NCSBN, own and develop the NCLEX exams. Composed of boards of nursing found across the 50 states of the USA and four U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin islands), the NCSBN administers the examinations on behalf of its members.

Each board of nursing requires a licensure candidate to pass the appropriate NCLEX accreditations, the NCLEX RN exam for registered nurses, and the NCLEX PN for vocational or practical nurses. This is to ensure the public's protection. NCLEX exams are designed to assess the knowledge, skills and abilities that are crucial for ensuring safe and effective nursing practices at the entry-level.

The passing of the NCLEX RN is required by all US states and territories in order to practice as a registered nurse or RN. It utilizes the five-step nursing process, and each question will fall under any one of the following: assessment, analysis, planning, intervention and implementation, and evaluation.Similarly, all US states and territories require a practical nurse or vocational nurse to have passed the PN exam.

NCLEX PN exam have NCLEX PN questions that are based on client needs:

•    Safe Effective Care Environment

o    Management of Care
o    Safety and Infection Control

•    Health promotion and Maintenance
•    Psychosocial Integrity
•    Physiological Integrity

o        Basic Care and Comfort
o        Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
o        Reduction of Risk Potential
o        Physiological Adaptation

Like the NCLEX PN questions, the NCLEX RN exam is also based on client needs:

•    Safe and Effective Care Environment Management of Care
•    Safety and Infection Control
•    Health Promotion and Maintenance
•    Psychosocial Integrity
•    Physiological Integrity Basic Care and Comfort
•    Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies Reduction of Risk Potential
•    Physiological Adaptation

NCLEX examinations are conducted via computerized adaptive testing or CAT format and currently made available by Pearson VUE through their network of Pearson Professional Centers. During the examination, the computer selects a question based on how an individual answered the previous questions.

The NCLEX is composed mostly of multiple-choice questions, though in recent years, questions with different formats have been introduced into the exam. Examples of new formats include identifying and drawing a body part, selecting multiple correct answers, calculating for medicine dosages, and ordering of steps in a procedure. Questions also fall under three categories: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Level 1 questions are the most basic questions, and test the candidate’s knowledge and understanding. Level 2 requires a higher level of thinking, and usually involves application and analysis. Level 3 is the most complex, as it requires the individual to judge, evaluate, and combine information to come up with their choice of the best answers.

The NCLEX is classified as a criterion-referenced examination, which compares an individual's knowledge to a preexisting standard instead of being compared to the performance of other exam takers. The coverage of the exams is extensive, and the NCLEX candidate will be scored according to their ability to use critical thinking when making decisions regarding nursing care.