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The Anatomy of the NCLEX


Find out what topics nursing’s most important test will ask you.

Passing the NCLEX is one of the most important landmarks of a nurse’s career, and learning what’s on it and what to expect is an essential part of becoming a nurse. The NCLEX test plan is comprehensive and divided up into various sections and subsections, each of which focuses on different aspects of nursing.

Bear in mind that the NCLEX is always different because of the exam’s computerized adaptive testing technology. We can give you a range of how broad certain areas of the test might be, but depending on the algorithm or your performance, certain sections or subsections could be larger or smaller.

Related resource: How the NCLEX Works

Safe and Effective Care Environment

Good care happens in a well-run care environment. This section of the test focuses on maintaining a proper care delivery setting and is divided into two subsections.

Management of Care

17–23 percent. This is the largest single subsection of the NCLEX. It’s where you’ll find questions about how to provide healthcare in the right way. You’ll be asked about:

  • Ethics.
  • Legal rights and responsibilities.
  • Case management.
  • Organ donation and client consent.
  • How to effectively assign, supervise, and delegate care.
  • Client rights.

Being a nurse is not just knowing about how to provide healthcare; it’s also about conducting yourself in the right way.

Safety and Infection Control

9–15 percent. Preventing hospital-acquired infections or other complications is a daily challenge for healthcare workers. Here you’ll be asked about precautions relating to:

  • How to handle hazardous or infectious material.
  • How to take precaution against transmission.
  • How to prevent accidents and injuries.
  • How to respond to emergencies when they do happen.
  • How to use equipment safely.

Related resource: 5 NCLEX Test Taking Strategies

Health Promotion and Maintenance

6–12 percent. Knowing about health, prevention, and human life cycles are all integral parts of nursing. This section of the NCLEX will quiz you on birth, newborn care, and aging. It covers screening, disease prevention, healthy lifestyle choices, and potential risk behaviors.

Psychosocial Integrity

6–12 percent. Nursing has a large mental and social component to it. This is where you’ll find questions about chemical and substance dependencies and disorders, mental health, and abuse. Other important subjects include cultural awareness, family dynamics, and stress management.

The Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies subsection covers medications and how to administer them.

Related resource: Nursing Lab Values to Know

Physiological Integrity

This is the largest section of the NCLEX, sometimes taking up well over half of the test. And for good reason: Physiological integrity is all about your ability to deliver proper nursing care. It’s broken into four subsections:

Basic Care and Comfort

6–12 percent. Nurses oversee patients’ basic needs in a hospital or clinic. This section focuses on daily issues like personal hygiene, sleep, nutrition, hydration, and mobility.

Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies

12–18 percent. This is where you’ll be tested on drugs, therapies, and their effects and side effects. You might find questions about chemotherapy, blood products, and pain management. You’ll also be asked about drugs, what they do, and how to administer them, be it orally or through a venous access device.

Related resource: Ask an Expert: Guide to the NCLEX

Reduction of Risk Potential

9–15 percent. It’s in everyone’s best interest to reduce the likelihood of complications, hospital-acquired infections, or more health problems. This subsection will ask you about:

  • Monitoring a patient’s vital signs.
  • Reading laboratory values.
  • What to watch out for after surgery.
  • How to assess specific bodily systems.
  • What to look for after major changes in patient health.

Physiological Adaptation

11–17 percent. Nurses deal with heavy, life-threatening events. This subsection will quiz you on how to respond to an emergency, manage illnesses, and how to address a patient’s unexpected response to a therapy.

At Ameritech, we’re devoted to equipping students with the knowledge and confidence they need to pass the NCLEX and become working RNs. For a deeper dive into the NCLEX be sure to download our free e-book, “49 Proven NCLEX Strategies.” Happy studying!