Becoming an RN isn't exactly a simple process. You have three educational options to earn the qualifications to sit for the licensing exam, and each type of program may have different test requirements for admission. Then there’s the licensing exam itself. Even if you had test anxiety when you started, by the time you finish, you’ll be an old hand at examinations related to becoming an RN.
College Pre-Admission Testing
Before you can even get into college to start your RN degree, you’ll need to complete some testing. Colleges and universities have different requirements, but most require either the SAT or ACT test for admission. Both test your verbal and mathematical abilities, but the ACT also includes a portion related to scientific reasoning. Other precollege tests include the PLAN, which is similar to the ACT and includes science reasoning, and the SAT II, which is subject specific.
Nursing programs often require an additional test, called the NLN PAX RN exam. That mouthful of initials stands for National League of Nursing Pre-Admission Examination Registered Nurse, a wide-ranging exam that covers multiple subjects. Northwest State Community College recommends a student not take the exam unless she's completed biology, chemistry, math and English courses. The exam tests verbal skills, mathematics and science. Among the test topics are basic calculations, reading comprehension, algebra, geometry, general biology, chemistry and physics. You must generally take these tests within a few years of entering a nursing program. At Bluegrass Community & Technical College, for example, the time limit's three years.
Once you’ve jumped over all the other hurdles, finished your classes and graduated, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed. NCLEX-RN stands for National Council Licensure Examination Registered Nurse. You can't take an NCLEX exam on paper or by oral testing. Instead, you'll use a computer to take a test with a computerized adaptive testing format. What that means is that the program adjusts the difficulty of the questions according to your previous answers. You'll have six hours to finish the test, including the sample testing and break times.
The NCLEX measures your knowledge of nursing and ensures you have adequate skills and abilities to practice safely as an entry-level nurse. All questions have multiple-choice answers. The computer won't score the first 15 questions; it will use them to determine how to adjust the questions on which it will score you. The total number of questions could vary from 75 to 265. If you’re really sharp and know the material, you’ll probably answer fewer questions, because the program can assess your overall knowledge based on your previous correct answers.
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.