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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.

About 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.

6 Responses to “Differences between the NCLEX RN and PN tests”

  1. Leonor Lopes says:

    I worked for 25 years in the hospital of the Brazilian government. Now I am Citizen in the USA I want to work in hospital here too, I live in Texas, I was nursing assistant did everything, that the doctor prescribes for the treatment to the patient, all types of parenteral or oral administrations, probes, in emergencies or maternity, room operation, recovery exams,outpatient clinics, wards, etc. I ask myself what is the chance of me working here in the US?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert Magoosh Test Prep Expert says:

      If you were a nursing assistant in Brazil, you have a very good chance of qualifying to be a nursing assistant in the USA. You may need to take a refresher Certified Nursing Assistant course, but CNA training takes only a few weeks and is relatively affordable. This article may help you figure out what the CNA training requirements are in Texas. But you may also want to contact local employers and ask them if you will need retraining, based on your resume.

  2. Marissa says:

    Hi, I know you haven’t posted any information about the prometric test required for nurses apply for jobs in Saudi Arabia. However if you have any information how about how different or similar the prometric test is from the NCLEX could you please provide me with any information you may have. 

    Kind Regards. 

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert Magoosh Test Prep Expert says:

      Hi Marissa,

      We don’t have any specific experience with the Prometric exam for the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, but I can tell you a bit about what I’ve heard. The Prometric exam is supposed to be based off of the NCLEX and covers similar materiall. I’ve heard that it is easier than the NCLEX (here’s a blog post with a nurse’s experience with the Prometric exam vs. the NCLEX). Besides that, we don’t really have much knowledge of or experience with this exam. Sorry we can’t be more helpful!

  3. Erin says:

    I noticed you mentioned that LPN’s
    are UNABLE to assess pts. I don’t find that at all to be true. Most of what i do for work as a home-health and community health nurse is observe, ASSESS, consider, apply interventions, and REASSESS.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert Magoosh Test Prep Expert says:

      Having worked as a nurse’s aide before, I agree with what you’re saying– LPNs do make judgements and fill out charts and reports on patient status.

      However, the kind of “assessment” Kiley’s referring to appears to be a little different. From what I can tell, Kiley is referring to formal assessment of the patient– the kind of official reports that are used directly in diagnoses, prescriptions, formal hospital reports, etc…. LPN assessments are generally less formal and have fewer direct official uses.

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