The NCLEX stands for the National Council Licensure Examination and it is the only test that, once passed, allows the practice of a nurse. There are two versions of the NCLEX: PN, for associate-degree nurses (though this becomes rarer and rarer) and the RN, for bachelor-degree nurses. Either one is the most difficult test of any nurse's life.
The test ranges anywhere from 75 to 265 questions. The length is based on how well the student answers the questions. If she gets a question right, she will be presented with a similar or more difficult question. If she gets a question wrong, she will be presented with a similar or easier question. Somewhere in between is a pass-fail line that the student must stay above in order to pass the exam.
Important things to note about the NCLEX:
There is a total time limit of six hours in order to complete the exam.
Out of the first 75 questions, 15 of them do not count. These are considered trial questions that the exam writers are considering as real questions. They don't, however, affect your final score.
90% of the NCLEX questions are multiple choice; the rest are comprised of fill-in-the-blank, arrange in order, or click-and-identify questions.
The people who write NCLEX questions are volunteers with their Masters or Doctorate in nursing.
If the student runs out of time while taking the NCLEX, the computer will use the last 60 questions answered to determine a pass or fail grade.
Now why fret about it? Because it's a damn hard test! In more than a few ways, it is unfair, especially to students who have always had problems with tests.
In recent years, the NCLEX has clearly surpassed what it was meant to be- a fair evaluation of the "basic competencies" to become a nurse. (How could a new nurse know the intricacies of burn wound care? Or how to administer chemotherapy?)
No matter how you fair, the NCLEX requires serious studying and preparation.