NCLEX 101 for Foreign Nurse Graduates

The world needs nurses now more than ever and here you are, dreaming about working as a nurse in the “Land of Opportunity” — United States of America. If you graduated from a nursing school outside the USA, look no further! This is the perfect guide for questions you may have about starting your USRN journey.

Additionally, some may not be aware that Canada and Australia now use the NCLEX as their national examination for those applying to be a registered nurse. The process of application is similar, however each country has different requirements.


1. What is NCLEX?

The National Council Licensure Examination, or better known as NCLEX, is a nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States (since 1982), Canada (since 2015) and Australia (since 2020). There are two types, the NCLEX-RN and the NCLEX-PN.

The NCLEX is a computer-adaptive test, not a standardized exam as some may believe. Items are selected based on each candidate’s ability – the questions that are given to your friend may not necessarily be the same questions given to you. Each exam adheres to the test plan content area percentages.

The items fall across all difficulty levels (remembering, understanding, application, and analysis) and cover all areas of the test plan. NCLEX is not focused on specific nurse specialties. You cannot choose just one specialty like Pediatrics; you have to study all nursing concepts included in the test plan.

2. What are the requirements?

NCSBN does not maintain a list of requirements because each Board of Nursing (BON) has its own eligibility requirements to take the NCLEX. For foreign nurse graduates, these are some of the requirements that you may have to comply with depending on the state or country that you’re applying for:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • PRC license (Philippines)
  • Passport
  • High School Diploma
  • College Diploma
  • Birth Certificate
  • Work experience

For states that require a refresher course: Rachell Allen is categorized as a Review Course, not a Refresher Course. Our review course completion certificate is recognized by the States of California, Nevada, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, & Florida.

You may contact the NRB or BON where you are seeking licensure/registration for their requirements or seek help from the experts.

Feeling lost in the process? Let ApplyReady help you! They are our trusted agency when it comes to NCLEX application.

ApplyReady can assist you with your NCLEX Application and Visa Screen wherever in the world you may be. They have successfully assisted nurses from the Philippines, West and South Africa, China, South Asia and more!

You can get a free consultation if you are interested to learn about which state you can apply to and what costs to prepare for. Visit the website and fill up the form here: ApplyReady

3. What are the steps?

First things first: you have to figure out which BON to apply to, specifically one where you can comply with all the requirements. You risk not getting your eligibility if you miss any requirement or have errors in your documents.

Our team at ApplyReady will make sure that you can provide all the documents required before you start your NCLEX application to avoid inconveniences along the way. You will also be given an idea of the costs involved in the application which you’ll have to pay on top of the NCLEX fees.

After application, some states may require you to go through CGFNS which is an additional step referred to as the Credentials Evaluation Phase. Rachell Allen recommends starting your NCLEX preparation as early as the application phase. You will be more confident in taking the NCLEX if you know you are ready.

Next, you must wait for your eligibility. This process may take around four to twelve months so you’ll want to start processing way before your target test date. When you receive it, you may now register with Pearson VUE. If you have an account already, you can check available exam dates in your chosen location.

Once you are granted an Authorization to Test (ATT) to take the NCLEX, schedule your exam and continue your NCLEX preparation. Rachell Allen offers several review courses to suit your needs whether online or in-person.

It is also important to locate your test site because they can fill up quickly. Do not wait until your ATT is close to expiration to schedule your exam or you may have to reregister and pay another exam fee.

Summary of Steps to take the NCLEX

  • Learn about eligibility and then apply for licensure/registration with a BON
  • Receive eligibility.
  • Register and pay the exam fee to Pearson VUE
  • Wait to schedule until you receive the following from Pearson VUE: Acknowledgement of Receipt of Registration and Authorization to Test (ATT) 
  • Schedule your exam with  Pearson VUE

For more details, see the Candidate Bulletin.

4. How much is it?

The NCLEX fees can vary depending on which country you’re seeking licensure for. If you’re taking the exam outside the USA or making changes to your registration, there are additional fees. Refer to the table below:

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The only acceptable forms of payment to register for the NCLEX are a credit, debit or prepaid card.

Take note that these fees are only for the exam itself. BON application fees are different as mentioned in the previous section.

5. Where can i take it?

The NCLEX is offered at both domestic (USA) and international test centers. You can schedule an appointment for a domestic or international test center either online or over the phone by contacting Pearson VUE NCLEX Candidate Services.

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The list of available test centers outside of the U.S. is subject to change without prior notice.

You are able to take the NCLEX at any Pearson Professional Testing location, regardless of where you are applying for licensure/registration.

6. How do I prepare for it?

You are encouraged to review the NCLEX test plans before your exam. The test plans serve as blue prints to outline the content to be tested and guide the item writing process. Rachell Allen’s tried and tested review courses are all based on NCSBN guidelines to ensure that your answers will reflect what the NCLEX is looking for.

The test plans are updated every three years to reflect fair, comprehensive, current, and entry-level nursing competency. The test plan contains in-depth information regarding exam content, exam administration and item writing exercises. Prior to 2019, multiple versions of the Test Plan were created and available. The information contained in the previous versions can now all be found in one Test Plan. Access it here: NCSBN test plan

Purpose of the Test Plans

  • Guide candidates preparing for the exam
  • Inform the direction for item development
  • Facilitate classification of exam items

The Test Plan also includes

  • Definition of each Client Needs Categories
  • Nursing activity statements
  • Detailed content examples
  • Sample NCLEX items
  • Item writing guide

Rachell Allen equips students with the much needed solid foundation of nursing core concepts that you’ll need in order to answer passing-level NCLEX questions (analysis and application). Throughout the lectures, you will also be answering practice NCLEX questions and sharpen your critical thinking skills that will help you in decision-making. Thousands of passers have testified that with the right program and right attitude, you’ll surely get the right results. Check course schedules and prices at

7. Are there changes due to COVID19?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NCSBN introduced several carefully evaluated and tested modifications to the NCLEX examinations. These modifications expired on Sept. 30, 2020. Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, both NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN exams will retain some of the characteristics of the modified exam. The difficulty levels and passing standards of the exams have not changed, the exam was just shortened.

The modifications effective Oct. 1, include:

  • Pretest items have been reintroduced. Each candidate will get 15 pretest items in their exam.
  • Due to the addition of the 15 pretest items, the minimum length exam is 75 items and the maximum length exam is 145 items.
  • Maximum examination time is five hours.
  • The voluntary Next Generation NCLEX Special Research Section has been reintroduced.
  • The NCLEX Tutorial has been replaced with a general guide and test taking tips.

A more detailed explanation of the modifications can be found here and an overview presentation can be viewed here.

8. Is it true that the NCLEX is changing?

Beginning in July 2017, NCSBN started the Special Research Section as part of the NCLEX administration. By participating in the Special Research Section, candidates will be making valuable contributions to the future development of NCSBN examinations as well as to the enhancement of the nursing profession.

Learn more here: and wait for our next article where we’ll discuss the upcoming changes to the NCLEX!

All information stated in this article are from Rachell Allen, ApplyReady, and NCSBN.


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