Differences between the NCLEX RN and PN tests

Do you need to take the NCLEX RN or PN? Do you know what the differences between the two are and why it matters? RN and LPN are both nursing license that practice in healthcare settings. They have similar scopes of practices but there are some differences. The LPN focuses more on bedside care and is unable to assess a patient and the RN is trained to use more critical thinking to look at the overall bigger picture of the patient’s health.  Both RNs and LPNs are needed in health care but it is important that you know which is the right path for you and which exam you will be preparing for.




The NCLEX RN is the exam that you take after graduating from a program that has prepared you to become a registered nurse or an RN.  You can expect to have between 75 and 265 questions on the NCLEX RN test. RN questions focus on managing a patient’s care and the ability of the RN to think critically in addition to the health promotion, psychosocial and safe care. RN’s manage parenteral nutrition and administering blood products and questions reflecting this may be on the NCLEX RN exam, they would not be found on the PN exam.




You take the NCLEX PN after graduating from a practical or vocational nursing program that will give the title of LPN or licensed practical nurse. There are between 85 and 205 questions on the NCLEX PN test. An LPN works under the supervision of an RN or an MD and the questions on their exam focus more on coordination of care rather than management of care. Questions that would pertain to patient care and CPR would be the same on both exams. There are more similarities than differences between the NCLEX RN and PN because they are both dealing with the same principles of patient care.

Approaching your RN or LPN Studies

You will approach and prepare for taking both the NCLEX RN and PN the same way. You will research and attend a program that is a right fit for you. After graduating from your nursing program you will study for your NCLEX because it will be your entry into working as a professional nurse. Each state will have its own rules and regulations for the scope of practice for working as an RN or an LPN. Always make sure you are familiar with your state’s guidelines for practicing under your license.


  • Kiley

    Kiley is a nurse who has worked in a variety of settings in the healthcare field. She is currently working as a remote chart reviewer while exploring the world. Kiley also has a background in education and wants to support and educate the next generation of nurses while they navigate the NCLEX. She is passionate about traveling and can often be found in a cafe somewhere in the world reading a book.