Frequently Asked Questions about NCLEX-RN

Increase font size
Decrease font size

(For complete information about NCLEX_RN, read the NCLEX Candidate Bulletin Information)

What is NCLEX-RN?                                                                                   

  • The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses is designed to test essential knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for safe and effective practice of nursing at the entry level. Entry into the practice of nursing in the United States and its territories is regulated by the licensing authorities within each jurisdiction. To ensure public protection, each jurisdiction requires a candidate for licensure to pass an examination that measures the competencies needed to perform safely and effectively as a newly licensed, entry-level registered nurse. The exam is developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and is the same no matter which state you are in or where you plan to work.

How is the exam administered?

  • The NCLEX-RN exam is in a computerized adaptive testing format. Each test is tailored to the examinee. Every time the examinee answers a question, the computer re-estimates the examinee’s ability. With every additional answer, the ability estimate gets more precise. Based upon the most recent, revised ability estimate, the computer selects the next item to be presented, such that the examinee will find it challenging (not too hard, not too easy).This way an adaptive test presents the examinee with the items that will be the most informative for measuring ability. It also reduces the number of easy items that high-ability examinees receive and reduces the number of difficult items that low-ability people receive.

How many questions will be on the exam?

  • This is an individual matter. You may have as few as 75 or as many as 265 questions on the exam, depending on how you are answering the items. The computer will shut off when you have either passed or failed. You will not know at that point how you have done. You have a maximum of six hours to complete the exam.

How Do I Sign Up?

  • During your last semester in the School of Nursing, you will attend an NCLEX information session conducted by the academic counselors. You will receive instructions on how to register to take the NCLEX-RN examination.
  • Basically, there are three eligibility requirements for taking the NCLEX exam:
  1. Register with the Board of Nursing in the state for which you wish to be licensed. (For N.C., refer to the “New Graduate Resources”)
  2. Register for the NCLEX-RN examination with Pearson Vue
  3. Complete the nursing curriculum.

Register with the Board of Nursing. Right now, you can begin the process of exploring the licensure requirements for the state in which you will be working. Be sure to meet that board of nursing’s application deadline.  Go to the board of nursing website for the specific state (for North Carolina: Find out if there are special requirements and attend to those as soon as possible. For example, in order to apply for licensure in North Carolina, you will need a criminal background check that can take several weeks. This involves live scan fingerprinting (digital fingerprinting and transmission of the impression directly to the SBI and FBI).

If you plan to practice in a state other than N.C., you may want to investigate the Compact State Agreement for Multistate Licensure [Video]. Having a multistate license allows you to practice in any of the states that are part of the Compact agreement. Watch this short video that explains the agreement:

Register with Pearson Vue. You also need to apply to take NCLEX with the test vendor (Pearson Vue). You can register with Pearson Vue using one of the following methods: on the web, by mail, or by telephone. If you provide an e-mail address when registering for the NCLEX Examination, you will receive all subsequent correspondence from Pearson VUE only through e-mail. If you do not provide an e-mail address when you register, then all correspondence from Pearson VUE will arrive only through U.S. mail.

Complete the nursing curriculum. Before you are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN examination, you must have completed all required courses in the nursing curriculum at UNC Chapel Hill. Soon after final exams are over and grades are submitted, OASS will send a notification of program completion to the board of nursing in the state where you are seeking licensure.

Authorization to Test (ATT). After the board of nursing declares that you are eligible to test, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT). DO NOT LOSE YOUR ATT!!!! You must have your ATT to schedule an appointment to take the NCLEX examination and you must present your ATT at the test center to be admitted to the examination. You will not be admitted to the examination without your ATT and you will be required to re-register and re-pay to take the examination.

How much does it cost?

  • The total cost of licensure in most states will be approximately $300.00. The NCLEX exam itself costs approximately $200.00; this is paid to Pearson Vue at the time you register. Each state has its own fee for licensure; this fee is due at the time of application. (In North Carolina, it is around $75.00 + $38.00 for Criminal Background Check through Live Scan.)

 When can I take NCLEX? How soon after graduation?

  • The earliest testing appointment is typically about 3 weeks following graduation. An appointment to take the NCLEX can be made after the ATT is received. Once this is received, it is imperative to test within the dates specified by the ATT.

Where do I go to take the NCLEX exam?

  • The NCLEX exam is administered by Pearson Vue. There are over 200 locations in the U.S. and 18 locations internationally. You can take the test at any Pearson Vue testing center, regardless of the state in which you will be licensed.

How will I know if I passed?

  • For quality control purposes, every computerized NCLEX examination is scored twice; once by the computer at the test center and then the result is verified after the examination record has been transmitted to Pearson VUE. Although the examination is scored as the candidate completes each item, NO RESULTS are released at the test center. In fact, test center staff do not have access to the examination results. Examination results are available ONLY from a candidate’s board of nursing and will be mailed to candidates approximately one month after taking the examination. DO NOT CALL the board of nursing, NCLEX Candidate Services, the Pearson Professional Centers or NCSBN for examination results. In most cases, you can check the Board of Nursing website and find out if you passed within two or three days. In N.C., go to and enter your name. If you passed, you should show as having a license. You can also use the NCLEX “Quick Results Service” available through NCSBN; you will get results in 48 hours using this service (cost is around $10).

What if I don’t pass the first time?

  • In all but 4 states, students are allowed to retake NCLEX after 45 days if they did not successfully pass their first attempt. Each state has its own policy about the number of times a student may take NCLEX and at what point additional education is needed before being allowed to retest.
  • As soon as you know that you did not pass the exam, immediately contact one of the Academic Counselors in the School of Nursing for help in creating an individualized study plan. The counselors are very supportive and will provide information and encouragement.

Do I need to take an NCLEX review course?

  • All students should plan to take a live review course, if possible. You will hear more about review course options in during your last semester. Live review courses range in price from $350 to $400, so plan ahead with your finances. Graduation gifts of money can go toward a live review course.

What NCLEX review courses are available?

  • There are a number of live and on-line review courses. These include, but are not limited to: ATI Live Review, Virtual ATI (on-line), Hurst, Kaplan, and NCSBN. Representatives from the major NCLEX review companies will visit the School of Nursing during your last semester to present information about their courses.

When should I begin reviewing for NCLEX?

  • Begin reviewing as soon as possible. During your final semester in the nursing program , make a point of doing as many practice questions as possible through the numerous on-line ATI assessments.
  • Purchase an NCLEX review book such as the Saunders’ Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination and use this book to do additional practice questions.
  • The Academic Counselors will provide you with a recommended plan for concentrated NCLEX review. This plan is intended to cover approximately three weeks and guides you through the various content areas.
  • The Academic Counselors are available to help you develop an individualized study plan.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing:
N.C. Board of Nursing: