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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:

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.

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. Are there changes to the NCLEX?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exam had a maximum of 265 items. However, for the Next Generation NCLEX, the maximum number of items starting April 1, 2023 is now 150. The difficulty levels and passing standards of the exams have not changed, the exam was just shortened.

The NGN doesn’t wander far from the existing NCLEX.

Majority of the minimum-length exam will still contain standard question formats such as the multiple response format where one has to choose 1 correct answer out of 4 options.

Keyword: ENHANCED. The Next Generation NCLEX is NCSBN’s enhanced examination designed to ask questions that go beyond assessing knowledge and skills, or what they like to call “BETTER QUESTIONS.” It is meant to determine the ability of nurses to use clinical judgment when faced with various clinical situations.


New question types were developed and approved by the NCSBN in order to better screen nurses entering practice. The candidate may encounter these questions as stand-alone items or in case studies.

The current NCLEX will follow these guidelines:

  • Pretest items have been reintroduced. Each candidate will get 15 pretest items in their exam.

  • The minimum length exam is 85 items and the maximum length exam is 150 items.

  • Maximum examination time is five hours.

7. How do I prepare for it?


It’s inefficient to keep answering practice NCLEX questions if you do not understand the concepts well, much like how useless it is to water a plant with an empty watering can. You need to have the right knowledge in order to apply them to NCLEX.

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.

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 live 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.

Rachell Allen courses are available in person and online. Check course schedules and prices at

8. Will I be able to pass the NCLEX even if I graduated several years ago?

Yes of course! Regardless of your age or where you were educated, you can pass the NCLEX with the right preparation. We’ve been able to help thousands of students all over the world pass the NCLEX, and some of them already failed the NCLEX several times before they tried Rachell Allen.

Rachell Allen has simplified a lot of complicated nursing concepts that’s why it’s easy to understand even if you’ve been out of nursing for a long time. We believe that every student just needs the right motivation and learning environment in order to realize their full potential. YOU could be the next success story, so what are you waiting for?

Read testimonials from real nurses on our social media accounts:

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

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