NCLEX Test Sections 2023: Comprehensive Format Breakdown

To study the NCLEX effectively, you need to know what different NCLEX topics are covered in the exam. Doing so is the best way to narrow down the subjects you need to study. 

Knowing the distribution of content will also help you study efficiently. Remember that each category in the NCLEX manifests the client needs involving all life spans and different situations.

In this article, we will give you the NCLEX breakdown that can serve as your guide as you prepare for the test.

Is There an Official NCLEX-RN Test Plan?

There is an official test plan (1) from the National Council for State Boards of Nursing. It serves as the NCLEX blue print that is updated every three years to reflect the recent changes in nursing environments and to be fair and comprehensive with the entry-level nursing competency.

Also, this test plan contains the following:

  1. Description of the NCLEX categories
  2. Nursing activity statements
  3. Sample NCLEX test items
  4. Detailed samples of the content
  5. Item writing guide

Familiarizing this test plan is equally important as knowing the NCLEX content areas as this will help you cover every lesson you need to review. Below, we will give you a concrete idea of what to expect in the examination.

The length of each category may be altered during the test as it depends on the candidate’s ability to keep up with the types of questions.

What are the Categories in the NCLEX-RN Examination?

There are four main NCLEX categories, two of which have subcategories. We will also show you the expected percentage of the NCLEX content distribution of each category.

Safe and Effective Care Environment – 26% to 38%

In this main category, nurses must be able to provide a safe care environment that is both beneficial to the patients and the clinicians. Below are the subcategories of this main category.


a. Management of Care – 17% to 23%

The aim of this subcategory is to help nurses improve healthcare delivery to patients and other healthcare workers. Some of the nursing actions expected from the candidate are advance directives; advocacy; assignment, delegation, and supervision; and case management; among others. 

b. Safety and Infection Control – 9% to 15%

This subcategory helps nurses become knowledgeable and efficient in protecting patients and other healthcare individuals against environmental and health hazards.

In this portion, the nursing actions required include but not limited to accident and injury prevention, error prevention, emergency response plan, and proper handling of hazardous and infectious materials.

Health Promotion and Maintenance – 6% to 12%

The goal of this NCLEX topic is to help nurses integrate health promotion and maintenance. The critical nursing actions involve in this section are early detection of health problems, illness prevention, client education on attaining optimal health, and understanding the principles of growth and development.

Psychosocial Integrity – 6% to 12%

This test area focuses on promoting and supporting the emotional, mental, and social well-being of the patient who is experiencing chronic or acute mental illness, or undergoing stressful situations.

Physiological Integrity 38% to 62%

In this NCLEX section, nurses should be able to display knowledge and critical thinking ability in promoting health and wellness through the delivery of care and comfort, decreasing client-risk potential, and directing the modifications of health.

Below are the subcategories of this main category.


Basic Care and Comfort – 6% to 12%

This involves the assistance of nurses to the patients in the performance of activities in their daily lives. The nursing concepts tested on this subcategory include assistive devices, elimination, and mobility. 

Reduction of Risk Potential – 9% to 15%

This part trains nurses on how to decrease the likelihood of patients acquiring complications or health issues related to procedures, treatments, or existing conditions.

Some of the concepts you should prepare for in this NCLEX section are changes and abnormalities in vital signs; diagnostic tests; laboratory values; and potential for alterations in body systems.

Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies – 12% to 18%

This portion involves the administration of parenteral treatments and medications.

The NCLEX subjects included in this part are adverse effects, contraindications, and total parenteral nutrition, among others. 

Physiological Adaptation – 11% to 17%

This is the NCLEX content that talks about how to provide care for patients suffering from acute, chronic, or life-threatening illnesses. Some of the topics that will be tackled are alterations in body systems, pathophysiology, and illness management.

What’s Next?

There are a lot of NCLEX topics you need to familiarize with. On top of this, it’s also vital that you practice your ability to think critically when faced with nursing situations that involve all those NCLEX subjects mentioned.

When you know these nursing concepts by heart, you will surely know how to handle various healthcare situations, which is the most important target of NCLEX, along with ensuring you are competent enough to be an entry-level nurse.

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