Nursing Students! Here’s What You Need to Know About The NCLEX-RN Exam


The National Council Licensure Examination has one purpose: To determine whether you meet industry standards and can begin practicing as an entry-level nurse in Canada.

In 2015, the NCLEX-RN replaced the CRNE as Canada’s national examination for those applying to become registered nurses, in an attempt to harmonize Canadian nursing education with US standards. Although students have the option to begin working right out of school under a temporary general nurse permit, the permit is conditional upon the passing of this exam.

Students who pass the NCLEX-RN attain licensure as a Registered Nurse, which allows you to seek opportunities at hospitals all over the country. By passing the NCLEX, you show that you possess the minimum level of knowledge necessary to practice nursing safely as an entry level practitioner.

Here’s what you can expect..

Before the Exam

Prior to graduation, you will receive two applications from your nursing school:

  • An application for licensure with a board of nursing (BON)
  • An application for the NCLEX-RN Exam

On a predetermined date, you will be required to submit the completed licensure form and fees to your nursing school. When you receive the receipt of authorization to test from your board of nursing, your test date and time will then be scheduled. Testing is available year-round and you can use a test site locator on your provincial BON to find the location nearest you!

Third-party sellers offer NCLEX-RN prep courses, however they’re not associated with or endorsed by any BON or the exam provider. No third party has access to the NCLEX-RN questions, so proceed with caution with any party claiming to having this access!

The Exam Itself

You can expect the NCLEX-RN to be notably different from the testing in nursing school. Nursing school exams are knowledge-based, but the NCLEX-RN tests how you can use critical thinking skills to make nursing judgments – your nursing education should be enough to help you prepare.

Although the exam is designed to test what you’ve learnt in school, questions will cover all levels of cognitive abilities – from basic nursing knowledge to comprehension, application, analysis, and evaluation – the higher levels, such as application, which require critical thinking and an ability to solve problems.

The NCLEX-RN is organized into four main categories:

1) Safe and Effective Care Environment
2) Health Promotion and Maintenance
3) Psychosocial Integrity
4) Physiological Integrity

The questions are multiple-choice (for the most part) with four answer choices. Question types can include drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blank, or “select all that apply”. You have 6 hours to finish the exam after a short tutorial, where you will be required to answer a minimum of 75 questions to a maximum of 265 questions. The exam ends when the computer can calculate that your performance is either higher or lower than the passing standard, regardless of the number of questions answered or the amount of time that has passed.

Now What?

The exam itself is pass or fail. Since it is computerized, “unofficial” results from your Board of Nursing can sometimes be obtained within hours after for a set fee, but this “quick results” service is not typically available for candidates seeking licensure in Canada.

Finalized marks, however, take approximately four-six weeks to get sent out. To ensure that the passing standard accurately reflects the level of ability required, every NCLEX exam is scored twice: once by the computer at the test center and again after the examination.


The NCLEX-RN exam is fairly generous when it comes to the re-test policy. The exam is still being revamped to accurately test abilities of Canadian students, but students who fail their first exam will have another two attempts. If you didn’t pass the exam, you’ll receive a NCLEX Candidate Performance Report (CPR). The CPR is a distinct document that shows how you performed in each of the test categories – so it can be used as a guide to prepare you before a retake!

Students will often find positions in hospitals directly out of school with the use of a temporary general nurse permit. Since jobs for student nurses are plentiful, failing the NCLEX might not necessarily result in termination from your workplace. However, you do have to let your employer know and then must then wait a minimum of 45 days between taking your next NCLEX.

There you have it! A quick overview of what to expect before continuing on your journey to nursing. The NCLEX can be a challenging hurdle for any nursing student. But, with the right tools and preparation you’re ensured to do well!