How Long Is The NCLEX? – 2023 Ultimate Guide

How Long Is The NCLEX

As part of your NCLEX prep, you have to know how long is the NCLEX exam. Knowing what to expect on the actual day of the exam will help you become confident in answering the questions that test your critical thinking skills. In this article, we will provide you the essential information about the NCLEX time limit. 

How Long Is the NCLEX RN Exam?

The test-takers of the NCLEX exam have a total of six hours to finish it. This designated time already includes a brief tutorial, two pre-programmed scheduled breaks, and any unscheduled breaks that you may need. Keep in mind that the first scheduled break will be after the first two hours of the test.

When Should I Take a Break?

As mentioned above, you have two pre-programmed scheduled breaks and any unscheduled breaks you may need. However, these break times depend on your discretion whether or not you want to utilize them. If you feel that a break may disrupt your testing momentum and focus, or, perhaps you are in a great condition to continue with the test, then you can skip the breaks.

On the other hand, if you find the need to consume your break times due to mental exhaustion or frustration, do not hesitate to utilize them. Remember, break times allow you to breathe and relax thereby making you retain focus. Besides, those who utilized the breaks do not feel fed up, especially when they are already in the middle of answering difficult questions.

We also recommend that you stay in shape, eat healthily, and hydrate enough so you’ll have the stamina that can endure the lengthy test.   

What Are the Categories in the NCLEX RN Exam?

The NCLEX RN exam operates based on the framework called “Meeting Client Needs,” hence the use of computer-adaptive testing (1) which tailors questions based on the ability of the test-taker.

There are four major categories found in the NCLEX exam with two of them having sub-concepts. Each category tests various nursing actions, all of which aim to test the examinee’s ability to analyze nursing situations. 

Here are the four main categories:

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

What Are the Types of Questions?

The questions in the NCLEX-RN exam include both the traditional four-option multiple-choice and the alternate format questions. The former has three components that are as follows:

  1. The stem of the question provides the situation of the client and other relevant information. This portion may include a question or an incomplete statement, which you have to answer.
  2. Three wrong answers commonly treated as “distracters.”
  3. The correct answer.

As for the alternate format questions, the different types include the following:

  1. Multiple Response Questions
  2. “Hot Spot” Questions
  3. Fill-in-the-blank Questions
  4. Drag-and-drop Questions
  5. Chart/Exhibit Questions
  6. Audio Item Questions
  7. Graphic Questions

The last three types of alternate format questions are variations of the traditional multiple-choice style.

The minimum number of questions in the NCLEX exam is 75, with 15 questions that are experimental and 60 questions that are the real-scored ones. The maximum number of questions is 265 (2). 

How Long Should I Take to Answer a Question?

Taking note of how many hours is the NCLEX exam, you should know by now that you should spend 60 seconds per question. Spending a minute per question will help you practice your pacing per question against the total amount of time allotted for you to finish the test, especially if you’re considering to utilize the break schedules.

Of course, we are not telling you to rush as it may cause you to answer hastily, but we want you to be efficient in answering. Questions that require calculations may require additional time, but you have to bear in mind that the average time you have for every question is only a minute.

If you’re stuck on one particular question because you’re struggling with it, we recommend that you try your best to choose the closest possible correct answer and move forward immediately. Do not spend so much time on one question as it may lead you to rush in answering the remaining questions when time is running out.

Also, keep in mind that the NCLEX exam is different compared to other standardized tests. In the ACT, for example, when you’re having a hard time with a question, you can leave it for the meantime and go back to it after all the other questions have been answered. 

In NCLEX, you have to give your best on every question because you don’t have an option to leave it while you go through other questions. Remember that the test is computerized, not using a pen and paper. 

Hopefully, the NCLEX rules and exam details we have provided are helpful enough to make you test-ready. Indeed, knowing the testing rules and time limits will guide you on the kind of pacing you have to practice in order to pass the test. 

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