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Q&As about the NCLEX-RN for exam writers

 The following questions and answers will provide you with information about:

  • registering for the exam
  • how to prepare for writing the NCLEX-RN
  • what to do if you are attempting the exam for an additional time, and
  • the NCLEX-RN’s content, format and purpose.

REGISTERING FOR THE NCLEX-RN

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

Scheduling your appointment to write the NCLEX-RN is done through Pearson VUE, the administrator of the exam. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Review the College of Nurses of Ontario’s (CNO’s) registration requirements and apply to CNO. (Note: If you are an internationally educated nurse, you will apply to CNO after the National Nursing Assessment Service has completed its assessment and informed you of the next steps.) 
  2. Wait to hear from CNO 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-writing time.

How do I request accommodations for writing the exam?

Requests for accommodation and supporting documents should be submitted to CNO before booking your writing time with Pearson VUE.  Please visit the Requesting Accommodations page.

What name should I give to Pearson VUE when registering for the exam?

Be sure to give Pearson VUE the same name that you provided to CNO when applying for registration. The name that you give to CNO 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've provided could delay your writing of the exam.

Where are Ontario's NCLEX-RN test centres?

Ontario's permanent test centres are located in Hamilton, London, Ottawa and Toronto and temporary testing centres are located in Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Windsor. Temporary testing 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-writing centre where it is offered. However, there is an additional fee to do this if you write outside of Canada or the U.S. See the "International Scheduling" section of the 2015 NCLEX-RN Candidate Bulletin.

PREPARING FOR THE NCLEX-RN

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 it tests competencies that nurses need at the beginning of their nursing careers in Ontario. Resources are available to help you study for the NCLEX-RN.

What NCLEX-RN resources are available?

Test Plans provide information about the exam structure, the content areas that will be tested and administration of the exam. The online Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination course provides a review of the exam and allows you to prepare at your own pace. (Note: there is a cost to use this resource.) You should also familiarize yourself with the computer-adaptive format of the NCLEX-RN.

See the full list of NCLEX-RN Resources.

Should I take an NCLEX-RN prep course?

Your nursing education and the resources mentioned above should be enough to help you prepare for the NCLEX-RN. While third-party vendors do offer NCLEX-RN preparation courses, these courses are not associated with or endorsed by the College of Nurses of Ontario. No third party has access to the NCLEX-RN question bank, and exam writers should be wary of any party claiming to have such access. We are aware of “American” content in some preparation courses. However, please note that the exam is not testing your knowledge of a particular health care system, history or legislation.

WRITING THE NCLEX-RN

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-writing centre where it is offered. However, there is an additional fee to do this if you write outside of Canada or the U.S. See the "International Scheduling" section of the 2015 NCLEX-RN Candidate Bulletin.

What are the test centres like?

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

How and when will I receive my results?

You will receive exam results by mail directly from CNO. In most cases, results are sent to writers within one week of writing the exam.

RE-WRITING THE EXAM

What happens if I don't pass the NCLEX-RN on my first attempt?

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

You will also want to review this list of NCLEX-RN resources.

How many times can I attempt the exam?

You have no limit on the number of times you can write the NCLEX-RN until you pass. You can take the NCLEX once in any 45-day period (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, you can write the NCLEX-RN, and there is no limit on the number of times you can write the NCLEX-RN. To do so, you can apply to CNO. CNO will assess your application to determine if you meet the current requirements for registration. You will still have to pass the exam and meet the other current requirements for registration.

Given the recent change to no-limit on the number of writes for NCLEX-RN, will the College of Nurses of Ontario reopen my RN application if I recently failed the exam a third time?

The CNO will be sending a letter to all those who are eligible to have their application reopened. To have CNO reopen your application, you must meet all of the following criteria:

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

If you qualify for and choose to have your application reopened, 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 reopened, 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 needed to be registered to practise as a nurse in Ontario.

You do not need to complete a new nursing program to re-apply. CNO will assess your current education program to determine if it meets current program expectations.

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

Once we receive your form, we will determine if you qualify to have your application re-opened and we will send you a letter advising you of next steps. The process of having an application reopened can take up to 45 days.

What is the rationale for the eligibility criteria dates to reopen an application?

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

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

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

You do not need to complete a new nursing program to re-apply. CNO will assess your current education program to determine if it meets current program expectations.

How often can I write the NCLEX-RN?

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

EXAM CONTENT AND FORMAT

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 focuses on testing 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 such concepts as maintaining the 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 states in the U.S. While a nurse working in any specific jurisdiction would have to know about the health care system in which they are working, including its legislation, testing for that knowledge is not the purpose of the NCLEX-RN.

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

Do Canadian nurses review the NCLEX-RN exam’s content?

Yes, Canadian nurses, including clinical educators, participated in reviewing the content for the NCLEX-RN currently in use. They continue to participate in its review and development 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 exam. In CAT, the program determines the level of difficulty of the question it presents to the writer based on how well they responded to the preceding question. For example, if a writer responded correctly to a question of medium difficulty, the next question presented will be slightly more difficult. This informative video will provide you with more information about CAT and its use in the NCLEX-RN.

How many questions does the NCLEX-RN contain?

There is no set number of questions in the NCLEX-RN. The number of questions a writer is asked will depend on how long it takes the algorithm to determine whether they are consistently performing above or below the passing level. The fewest number of questions needed to determine this is 75; the most questions a writer will be asked is 265.

How is the French version of the exam developed?

The process of developing the French version of the NCLEX-RN is rigorous. Translation of NCLEX-RN questions is done by Canadian translators using Federal government-level translation standards. The translations are reviewed by a panel of Canadian nurses who are fluent in French and English. These nurses are required to work in bilingual health care settings or facilities. Any items that are not approved by this panel are removed from the French version of the NCLEX-RN.

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. The method chosen is to build an English-language version of the NCLEX-RN and then translate the entirety of those items into French, thus ensuring identical items and measurements between both versions.

PURPOSE OF THE EXAM

Why did Ontario change to the NCLEX-RN?

As Ontario’s nursing regulator, we are accountable for ensuring that registration is granted to only those who demonstrate the nursing knowledge to provide safe care. We regularly review processes for assessing this knowledge in order to determine the most accessible, fair and efficient approaches. The NCLEX-RN met our requirement for being a valid exam that also met the needs of writers, such as year-round access to the exam and faster issuing of exam results. For more information about the development and administration of 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 needed 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 practice in Ontario.

Page last reviewed January 05, 2017