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NCLEX-RN for exam writers

 The following Q&As provide information about:

  • registering for the NCLEX-RN exam
  • preparing for writing the exam
  • re-attempting the exam
  • the exam's content, format and purpose.


How do I schedule an appointment to write the NCLEX-RN?

You schedule your appointment by contacting Pearson VUE, the exam administrator. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Review the College's registration requirements and apply to the College. (If you are an internationally educated nurse, you will apply to the College after the National Nursing Assessment Service has completed its assessment and informed you of next steps.) 
  2. Wait to hear from the College that you are eligible to write the NCLEX-RN.
  3. Go to Pearson VUE’s NCLEX-RN registration page to register and schedule your writing time.
  4. Pay the required fee at the time you schedule your exam.

How do I request accommodations for writing the exam?

Submit any requests for accommodation and supporting documents to the College before booking your writing time with Pearson VUE.  Please visit Requesting Accommodations.

What name should I use to register for the exam with Pearson VUE?

Be sure to give Pearson VUE the same name that you provided to the College when applying for registration. The name you give to the College and Pearson VUE must match the identification you present at the test centre when you arrive to write the exam. A difference in the name you provide could delay your testing.

Where are Ontario's NCLEX-RN test centres?

Ontario's permanent test centres are located in Hamilton, London, Ottawa and Toronto. Temporary test centres are in Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Windsor. Temporary test centres are also set up in different locations throughout the year. Use Pearson VUE’s Test Site Locator to find the one nearest you.

I'm applying for registration in Ontario. Does this mean I must write the NCLEX-RN exam in Ontario?

No. You can write the NCLEX-RN at any Pearson VUE test centre that offers the exam. However, there is an additional fee for this if you write outside of Canada or the U.S. See the "International Scheduling" section of the 2015 NCLEX-RN Candidate Bulletin.


Will my Ontario nursing education prepare me for the NCLEX-RN?

Yes. Your Ontario nursing education should prepare you to write the NCLEX-RN because the exam tests competencies that nurses need at the beginning of their nursing careers in Ontario. 

Are there any NCLEX-RN resources to help me prepare?

Test Plans provide information about the exam structure, content areas and administration. The online Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination course allows you to prepare at your own pace. (There is a cost to use this resource.) You should also familiarize yourself with the exam's computer-adaptive format.

See the full list of NCLEX-RN resources.

Should I take an NCLEX-RN prep course?

Your nursing education and the resources above should be enough to help you prepare for the NCLEX-RN. Third-party vendors offer NCLEX-RN preparation courses, but they are not associated with, or endorsed by, the College. Since no third party has access to the NCLEX-RN question bank, exam writers should be wary of any party claiming to have such access. We are aware of “American” content in some preparation courses. However, the exam does not test your knowledge of a particular health care system, history or legislation.


What are the test centres like?

For information about Pearson VUE’s test centres and what you can expect on the day of your exam, read the “The Day of the Exam” section in the 2015 NCLEX-RN Candidate Bulletin.

How and when will I receive my results?

The College will mail you your exam results. In most cases, we send results within one week of writing the exam.


What happens if I don't pass the NCLEX-RN the first time?

There is no limit to the number of times you can write the NCLEX-RN until you pass. Each time you are not successful, Pearson VUE will send you a Candidate’s Performance Report (CPR). This document provides information about how you did in each section of the exam, indicating whether you performed above, near or below the passing standard. Find more information about CPRs on NCSBN’s website.

Review the list of NCLEX-RN resources.

How many times can I attempt the exam?

There is no limit to the number of times you can write the NCLEX-RN until you pass. You can take the NCLEX once in any 45-day period (up to a maximum of 8 times per year). However, you will also need to meet all other requirements to become registered to practise as a nurse in Ontario.

I've already failed the NCLEX-RN three times in another country. Can I apply to write it again in Ontario? 

Yes. If you meet the exam eligibility requirements, there is no limit to the number of times you can rewrite the NCLEX-RN. To do so, apply to the College. The College will assess your application to determine if you meet the requirements for registration. You will still have to pass the exam and meet the other requirements for registration.

Since there is now no limit to the number of times I can write the NCLEX-RN, will the College re-open my RN application if I previously failed the exam three times?

The College is sending letters to those who are eligible to have their application re-opened. If you would like the College to re-open your application, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • You met the current program requirement, which took effect on January 1, 2013
  • You wrote and failed the NCLEX-RN on, or after, January 1, 2015
  • The College's Registration Committee previously refused your application for registration as an RN, after you failed the registration exam the third time on, or after, January 1, 2015
  • The College receives your Request to Reopen My RN form within 60 days of the date on your letter

If you qualify for, and choose to have, your application re-opened, you will not have to pay a new application fee if you make your request within 60 days of the date on your letter.

If you do not qualify to have your application re-opened, you may consider reapplying with a new application. (If you are an internationally educated nurse, you will need to begin your application process with the National Nursing Assessment Service). You will still be required to pass the exam and meet all other requirements to be registered to practise as a nurse in Ontario.

You do not need to complete a new nursing program to reapply. The College will determine if your education meets program expectations.

I submitted a Request to Reopen my RN application form. When will I hear back about this request?

Once the College receives your form, we will determine if you qualify to have your application re-opened. Then, we will send you a letter about next steps. The process of re-opening an application can take up to 45 days.

What is the rationale for the eligibility criteria dates to re-open an application?

A January 1, 2013 date for exam eligibility is the cut-off date for re-opening applications. This is because regulatory changes were made on that date, which are part of the current requirements for entry to practice. January 1, 2015 is when the NCLEX-RN was implemented.

I failed the CRNE three times in the past. Can I write the NCLEX-RN now?

Yes. If you meet the exam eligibility requirements, you can write the NCLEX-RN. There is no limit to the number of times you can write this exam.

First, reapply to the College. The College will determine if you meet the current requirements for registration. You will still have to pass the exam and meet the other requirements for registration.

You do not need to complete a new nursing program to re-apply. The College will determine if your education program meets expectations.

How often can I write the NCLEX-RN?

You can take the NCLEX once in any 45-day period (up to a maximum of 8 times per year).


What does the NCLEX-RN test?

The NCLEX-RN does not test everything that is taught during a four-year baccalaureate nursing program. Rather, the NCLEX-RN tests entry-level skills, knowledge and judgment – what nurses need to know to provide safe care at the beginning of their careers. For example, it asks questions about pain management; medication administration; basic care and comfort; infection control; health promotion and maintenance; and concepts such as maintaining confidentiality of patient information.

In addition, all drug names are generic and refer to medications that entry-level nurses are expected to know. Measurements are provided in metric.

Does the NCLEX-RN include questions specifically about Canadian or American health care systems or legislation?

No. The NCLEX-RN does not test knowledge of health care systems, history, cultural issues, or government policy and laws. Not only do such items vary by province and territory in Canada, they vary across the U.S. While nurses have to know about the health care system they work in, including its legislation, testing for that knowledge is not the purpose of the NCLEX-RN.

Applicants to the College write a Jurisprudence Exam that tests for this knowledge.

Is the content of the NCLEX-RN reviewed by Canadian nurses?

Yes. Canadian nurses, including clinical educators, review the content of the NCLEX-RN. They continue to review and develop the exam to ensure it meets our needs as regulators and the needs of the public for safe nursing care. 

What is computer-adaptive testing?

Computer-adaptive testing (CAT) is the format of the NCLEX-RN. CAT programs determine the level of difficulty of questions they present to writers, based on how well writers responded to the preceding question. For example, if a writer responds correctly to a question of medium difficulty, the next question will be slightly more difficult. This video provides you with more information about the CAT format of the NCLEX-RN.

How many questions does the NCLEX-RN have?

There is no set number of questions. It depends on how long it takes the algorithm to determine whether the writer is consistently performing above, or below, passing level. The fewest number of questions needed to determine this is 75; the most is 265.

How is the French version of the exam developed?

The process of developing the French version of the NCLEX-RN is rigorous. Canadian translators use federal government-level standards to translate the questions. Translations are reviewed by Canadian nurses who are fluent in French and English, and who work in bilingual health care settings or facilities. Any items they do not approve are removed from the French version.

All items that appear on an English version of the exam at any given period have been translated into French. We have not translated all items in the exam bank, which number in the thousands. This method ensures both versions have identical items and measurements.


Why did Ontario start using the NCLEX-RN?

As Ontario’s nursing regulator, the College is accountable for ensuring that it grants registration only to those who demonstrate the nursing knowledge to provide safe care. We regularly review processes for assessing this knowledge to determine the most accessible, fair and efficient approaches.

The NCLEX-RN meets our requirement for being a valid exam. It also meets the needs of writers, such as givng them year-round access to the exam and faster results. For more information about developing and administering the NCLEX-RN, see the Canadian Educators & Students FAQs.

Why do we have a registration exam?

Registration exams such as the NCLEX-RN contribute to patient safety. The NCLEX-RN tests whether the writer has the knowledge, skill and judgment to provide safe care during their first year of practice. As the provincial regulator of the nursing profession, we are accountable for ensuring that only those who demonstrate the ability to apply nursing knowledge and provide safe care are able to practise in Ontario.

I passed the NCLEX-RN. Do I still need to meet the nursing education requirement?

Yes. The NCLEX-RN tests entry-level knowledge. It does not test your knowledge of all the entry-to-practice competencies required to practise as a nurse in Ontario.

Nursing education is a separate requirement that allows the College to determine you possess the required nursing knowledge, skill and judgment from your combined education and nursing experience.

Together, the NCLEX-RN and nursing education requirement enable the College to determine that you can competently and safely practise as a nurse in Ontario.

Page last reviewed February 21, 2017