You are kind, empathetic, and love caring for those around you; hence, it wasn't a surprise that you chose nursing as your field of study. Now there is just one last hurdle you must pass before getting the license to practice as a Practical nurse: the NCLEX-PN exam.

Now that you have started researching the exam, you will begin preparing for it soon. But before preparing, it is essential to understand the exam. Hence we will talk about the NCLEX-PN exam, how it differs from RN, the number and the types of questions you can expect, subject categories, and much more!

What is NCLEX-PN Exam?

NCLEX-PN is the acronym for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses. NCLEX-PN exam is for those who want to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and hold a Practical Nursing Diploma. Each state's board of nursing administers it; thus, it is also called "The Boards."

The exam aims to access your knowledge and expertise in the essential skills required to practice nursing safely. In contrast, those with an Associate's or Bachelor's degree who want to become a registered nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN.

What are the differences between NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN exams?

Regarding the format of the exams, both are pretty similar as they have tiny differences regarding the number of questions and the exam's time limit. However, significant differences are present in the content of those questions.

Though both LPN and RN provide care to the patients, the scope of Practice for RN is higher, and the NCLEX-RN questions reflect that. Also, as the RNs can oversee the LPNs, the NCLEX-RN contains more questions on Management. At the same time, the NCLEX-PN has questions that focus on coordinating between healthcare professionals. Therefore, though the test differs in some aspects, they both provide a rigorous evaluation of your competency for practicing nursing at your credential levels.

The number of questions and time for the exam:

While taking the exam, you may have to answer a minimum of 85 questions to a maximum of 205 questions. The number of questions given to each student may differ; hence, there is no fixed time per question, but you will have to complete the exam in 5 hours.

The number of questions and time for the exam

The exam will be in the Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) format. This form of testing ensures that the exam is neither too hard nor too easy for you, along with maintaining the minimum standards required for passing the exam. The very first question you get on the test will be very easy. After that, you will receive a more challenging question if you answer the question correctly; otherwise, you will receive an easier question. Continuing this throughout the test determines your level of competency. You will receive a certain number of questions depending on how many questions the test requires to judge your competency level.

Types of Questions:

Most questions will be multiple choice questions with four choices; however, there as alternate types of questions as well. These alternate types of questions may include multiple-response, fill-in-the-blank, hot spots, chart/exhibit, and drag-and-drop.

Category of questions according to NCLEX Client needs.

NCLEX-PN exams follow the "Meeting Client Needs" framework. It includes the following four categories.

  1. Safe and effective Care Environment: About 18-24% of all exam questions will be related to this subcategory. This category of NCLEX-PN consists of two subcategories:
    • Coordinated Care: About 18-24% of all exam questions will belong to this subcategory. The nursing actions included in this subcategory are-
      1. Advanced Directives,
      2. Advocacy,
      3. Client Care Assignments,
      4. Client Rights,
      5. Concepts of Management and Supervision,
      6. Confidentiality,
      7. Continuity of Care,
      8. Establishing Priorities,
      9. Ethical Practice,
      10. Informed Consent,
      11. Legal Responsibilities,
      12. Quality Assurance,
      13. Referral Process,
      14. Resource Management.
    • Safety and Infection Control: About 10-16% of questions will be related to this subcategory. The nursing actions in this section include-
      1. Accident/Error Prevention,
      2. Handling Hazardous Materials,
      3. Home Safety,
      4. Injury Prevention,
      5. Emergency Response Plan,
      6. Medical and Surgical Asepsis,
      7. Incident Reporting,
      8. Safe Use of Equipment,
      9. Security Plan,
      10. Standard/Transmission-Based/and other Precautions,
      11. Use of Restraints and Safety Devices.
  2. Health Promotion and Maintenance: About 6-12% of questions will belong to this section. The nursing actions included in this section are-
    • The Aging Process,
    • Ante/Intra/Postpartum and New-born Care,
    • Data Collection Techniques,
    • Developmental Stages and Transitions,
    • Disease Prevention,
    • Immunizations,
    • High-Risk Behaviours,
    • Lifestyle Choices,
    • Self-Care,
    • Health Promotion Programs.
  3. Psychological Integrity: It accounts for about 9-15% of the exam questions. This category covers nursing actions such as-
    • Coping Mechanisms,
    • Grief and Loss,
    • Mental Health Concepts,
    • Spiritual Influence on Health,
    • Sensory/Perceptual Alterations,
    • Stress Management,
    • Support Systems,
    • Therapeutic Communication,
    • Chemical Dependency,
    • Behavioural Management,
    • Crisis Intervention,
    • Coping Mechanisms,
    • End of Life Care.
  4. Physiological Integrity: This category includes four subcategories:
    • Basic Care and Comfort: The percentage of questions from this subcategory is 7-13%. The subjects in this subcategory include-
      1. Assistive Devices,
      2. Elimination,
      3. Mobility,
      4. Non-pharmacological Comfort Interventions,
      5. Nutrition,
      6. Oral Hydration,
      7. Personal Hygiene,
      8. Rest and Sleep.
    • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies: This category will make up about 10-16% of exam questions. This subcategory includes actions such as-
      1. Adverse Effects,
      2. Expected Effects,
      3. Medication Administration,
      4. Pharmacological Pain Management,
      5. Side Effects.
    • Reduction of Risk Potential: It will account for 9-15% of your exam questions. This subcategory includes-
      1. Diagnostic Tests,
      2. Laboratory Values,
      3. Potential for Body System Alterations,
      4. Potential for Complications of Diagnostic Tests,
      5. Treatments,
      6. Procedures,
      7. Therapeutic Procedures,
      8. Vital Signs.
    • Physiological Adaptation: This section will be 7-13% of your exam questions. This subcategory will test you on topics such as-
      1. Alterations in Body Systems,
      2. Basic Pathophysiology,
      3. Fluid and Electrolyte Imbalances,
      4. Medical Emergencies,
      5. Unexpected Responses to Therapies.


Now that you understand the test, you are one step ahead in the journey to passing the exam. You must work hard and smart to prepare for the NCLEX-PN, and you will have your practical nurse license in no time!

And if you need extra help with preparing, you can check out our NCLEX-PN course, which will provide you with proper guidance and high-yield question banks that will make your preparation super easy!