New Changes on the NCLEX-RN Test Plan

New Changes on the NCLEX-RN Test Plan.  What Can You Expect to See?

changes to nclex-rn test plan

Are you preparing for the NCLEX-RN test plan?  There are some changes that have been implemented to the test plan.  Here’s what you need to know!

In 2016, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has made several changes to NCLEX-RN test plan, which have been in effect since April 2016.  Preparing for this exam can be extremely stressful, but understanding the test format plays a role in how well you perform on the test, so here is a quick overview of what to expect.

What will I see on the new NCLEX-RN test plan?

The NCLEX test plans are standard outlines of the content that you are tested on in the NCLEX.  An outline of the new NCLEX-RN information and test plans for candidates and educators can be found on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website.  These plans go into depth of what you will see and can provide you with sample test questions, information regarding the test format and how it is scored, nursing activities for each category, and a tutorial about the types of questions you’ll should expect to see on the exam.  Basically the test plans are there to help prepare you so that you are familiar with this exam and know what to expect.

How can I prepare for the NCLEX-RN?

The test plans provide you with different lists and categories of what you should know for the test to help you maximize your time and efforts. For example, if you’re interested in learning more about lab values, the laboratory value section provides you with key concepts you should know and study prior to taking the test. Some of these concepts include patient education regarding laboratory tests and procedures, obtaining blood specimens through a central line, and when to notify a healthcare provider regarding critical lab values.

In comparison to the 2013 test plan to the current one, the differences are very minimal. However the terminology and number of questions per category have remained the same.  The most altered section on the exam was made to the Management of Care section, including the addition of organ donation and advanced directives/self-determination/life.

What score do I need to pass the exam?

Every three years, the NCSBN Board of Directors reviews the NCLEX-RN test plan, exam, and passing standards to reflect any changes in the field of nursing and entry level competence requirements, as nursing guidelines tends to change with the time.  In April 2013, the passing standard was increased from -16.00 logits to 0.00 logits. This year, the NCSBN voted to keep this passing standard of 0.00 logits, which will remain in effect through March 21, 2019.  All registered nurse candidates must answer a minimum of 75 questions. The maximum number of items that a registered nurse candidate may answer is 265 during the allotted six-hour time period. The maximum six-hour time limit to complete the examination includes the tutorial, sample questions and all breaks. Candidates may be administered multiple choice items, fill-in-the-blank, and ordered response. All question types may include background information in the format of charts, graphics, tables, audio and video. All questions go through an extensive review process before being used as items on the examination.

How will questions be distributed on the test?

It is important to know how many questions of each section of content you will tested on.  Below is a breakdown of the percentage of each question type you can expect to find on the new exam: safety and infection control (12%), management of care (20%), reduction of risk potential (12%), pharmacological and parenteral therapies (15%), basic care and comfort (9%), physiological adaptation (14%), health promotion and maintenance (9%), and psychosocial Integrity (9%).

Be aware that the NCLEX-RN exam will be formatted on an individual basis as you are taking the test.  This means that the length of test and the percentage of the questions given will also vary on an individual basis. The changes to the NCLEX-RN are not something to panic about, so relax!  If you research the new changes on the NCSBN website, you will be more familiar with the format which can help decrease test anxiety.


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Jacqueline Molina
Jacqueline Molina is currently a junior in the nursing program at SUNY Morrisville. She has recently relocated from her native Long Island to Syracuse, New York, to embark on her nursing career. She attended SUNY Albany from 2004 to 2008, majoring in English with a double minor in Education and Spanish. From there, she attended CUNY Queens College and earned two master’s degrees—one in English and one in Education. She was a New York City high school English teacher for three years before making the decision to change careers and follow in the footsteps of her grandmother, a nurse manager in a leading Long Island hospital. Long term, Jacqueline hopes to become a successful oncology nurse and nurse educator. She enjoys rollerblading, bacon, traveling, and exploring the outdoors with her boyfriend and three dogs.