How Many Questions Are On The NCLEX? Passing Criteria

If you want to be a registered nurse, you’ll have to pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination). The NCLEX is a standardized test that all nursing graduates need to pass to secure their nursing license. So, are you on the fence about how many questions are on the NCLEX? Let’s find out!

How Many Questions Are On The NCLEX?

The NCLEX test has a minimum of 75 questions. The NCLEX-RN may include up to 145 questions, while the NCLEX-PN may go up to 205 questions.

You don’t need to answer all possible questions, but there are a minimum number of questions that you must answer during your exam period. For the NCLEX-RN, you need to answer at least 75 questions, and for the NCLEX-PN, the minimum is 85 questions.

The NCLEX test has 75 up to 145 or 205 questions, depending on whether it's NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN.
The NCLEX test has 75 up to 145 or 205 questions, depending on whether it’s NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN.

The NCLEX is a pass/fail test that measures your  knowledge, abilities, and skills in four big categories:

  • Safe & effective care environment.
  • Health promotion & maintenance.
  • Physiological integrity.
  • Psychosocial integrity.
  • How scoring works.

The NCLEX exam features two types of questions. Multiple-choice questions are where you get a question with four possible answers, and then you should pick the right one. Alternate-format questions come in different types, like choosing more than one answer, filling in a blank, or putting answers in the right order.

The number of questions you get will depend on your performance. If you consistently answer correctly, the system will give you more challenging questions. On the other hand, if you encounter difficulties, the system will provide easier questions.

As you progress through the exam, the computerized system assesses your answers. CAT (computer-adaptive testing) technology is used to determine how difficult questions you get based on your responses.

The test will end once you have answered a sufficient number of questions that allow the system to ascertain with 95% certainty whether you have either passed or failed to meet the passing criteria.

The NCLEX exam uses CAT technology to determine how difficult questions you get.
The NCLEX exam uses CAT technology to determine how difficult questions you get.

That means if you quickly answer many questions correctly or incorrectly, you’ll experience a shorter testing duration than folks hovering near the passing threshold. They must answer more questions for the system to determine whether they pass or fail accurately.

How Many Questions Do I Need to Answer Correctly to Pass the NCLEX?

An NCLEX test will end under one of the following three conditions:

  • If the system determines with 95% certainty that your ability is above or below the passing standard, regardless of the number of questions answered,
  • Time Limit: If you run out of time (you have up to 5 or 6 hours to finish your exam),
  • If you’ve answered the maximum number of questions,

So it’s not about the raw number of questions you answer correctly but whether your overall performance demonstrates competency above the passing threshold. By the way, you must answer each question given to you, and you can’t skip or return to previous questions.

Time Allotted For Tests

You have up to 6 hours to finish the NCLEX-RN exam, while you receive up to 5 hours for the NCLEX-PN exam. These time allotments include instruction time before answering questions and the time given for any breaks during the testing period. Depending on how many questions you answer and how accurately you answer them, you might finish the test in just 2 hours.

During the exam, you can take two breaks. These breaks are after you’ve completed 75 and 130 questions, respectively. The time spent on these breaks does not deduct from the overall exam duration.

Since you can’t predict the exact number of questions you’ll have to answer, it’s wise to plan your time as if you’ll face the maximum number of questions. That way, you’ll be prepared to tackle all possible questions without the risk of running out of time.

The Importance Of NCLEX Practice Questions

Whether it’s your first test or you’ve sat for it multiple times, taking mock tests should be an essential part of your study plan. There are five big benefits to doing this.

Get Familiar With the Exam’s Style

The NCLEX-RN exam includes a couple of question types, including:

  • Multiple choice questions.
  • Drag and drop.
  • Audio or video.
  • Chart or graphics.
  • Hot spot.
  • Fill in the blank.
  • Select all that apply.
  • Ordered response.

So practicing with NCLEX sample questions helps you get used to the exam’s format and question styles, as well as learn how to tackle different types of questions effectively.

NCLEX practice tests help you become familiar with the exam’s format.

Improve Your Time Management Skills

The NCLEX test is indeed time-sensitive, so it’s important to manage your time well to make sure you can finish it on time. Developing a strategy to pace yourself during the practice exam can help. Being good at time management can lower stress and anxiety during the exam as well, making you feel more confident about finishing on time.

Prepare for Retakes

Despite comprehensive preparation, there’s always a chance you need to retake the exam. So engaging in NCLEX practice tests can help you significantly improve preparation for potential retakes, thereby diminishing the likelihood of incurring the cost and time for additional attempts.

Show Your Strengths or Knowledge Gaps

Taking an NCLEX practice test also helps you identify your knowledge gaps. NCLEX questions assess your ability to apply what you’ve learned instead of regurgitating knowledge, helping you see your strengths and areas for improvement.

Monitor Your Progress

Regularly taking NCLEX tests gives you a tangible measure of your progress over time. This feedback is crucial for evaluating study effectiveness and understanding readiness for the actual exam. 


This article has helped you answer the question of how many questions are on the NCLEX and beyond that. Embarking on your preparation journey early, leveraging educational resources, and dealing with NCLEX practice questions can significantly enhance your chances of success on the real exam.