Exams You May Need

Part of completing the prerequisites you need for nursing school is preparing for some entrance exams. Because nursing school is a college-level program, many nursing schools require exam results as part of the admissions process. Taking these exams shows that you have the capability to study and to sit for a test that may be stressful, but positive test scores can boost your chances of admission.

Find out what tests are required for entrance to the nursing schools you wish to apply to. There are several different types of exams, and some schools may require only one test. By finding out the requirements ahead of time, you can save yourself from having to study and take many tests, unless the schools you choose all require different exams for admission.

Once you determine what entrance exams you need, look for a study guide that will help prepare you for the test.

Find out testing dates and locations and use that information as a goal for studying. When you know what your deadline is for your test, you can budget your studying time to break down the learning process into parts. Because these exams are comprehensive and contain a lot of material, give yourself an adequate amount of time for studying to be fully prepared on the day of the test. You may want to consider taking a course that is designed to prepare students for specific tests.

Common undergraduate admission exams include the American College Testing (ACT) exam, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Some types of tests are necessary for graduate students or for licensing to practice as a nurse. These include the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS®) and the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

Taking the time to study and do your best on entrance exams can help to prepare you for the rigors of nursing school and for practicing as a nurse afterward. Although tests are important, they are not necessarily the only factor considered in some situations, such as admission to some nursing schools. In many instances, test scores are only one part of the admission process, so presenting yourself as a positive potential candidate for nursing school is also a plus in addition to preparing for these tests.


The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a type of exam that may be required before you begin nursing school, and you will most likely take the SAT while still in high school. Many nursing schools look at a combination of your SAT scores and your high school grade point average to determine if you might be a good nursing candidate. An excellent combination of these two factors shows a potential school that you have learned high school concepts and can apply them in a testing situation.

The SAT is administered in a testing setting, and you will make an appointment to find out what your testing date is. You then go to the location at your appointed time to take the exam, which is given over three hours and 45 minutes. There is a cost associated with taking the test, depending on where you live, which ranges from approximately $50 to $75.

The SAT tests three different areas to determine if you are prepared to study at the college level. Each section has a specific time limit for completing questions, so if you have not answered all of the questions in the allotted time, you must move on to the next section. The reading and comprehension section typically requires you to read a sentence or paragraph and answer questions to show that you understand the information. You may also be given sentences to complete to demonstrate the ability to finish a sequence.

A writing section often requires you to read part of a sentence or paragraph and then rewrite missing information or change the sentence structure so that it reads correctly. You will also be given a question or topic and then be required to write an essay during the given time allowed.

The mathematics portion is the third section of the SAT and consists mostly of multiple-choice questions and grid-ins, which are types of short answer questions. The math portion tests your abilities to comprehend mathematical concepts in areas such as algebra and geometry. You may use a calculator during the test. Each section of the SAT is worth 800 points, so the total of each section is your SAT score. The highest score you can receive is a 2400.

When applying to school, find out from the admissions materials if SAT scores are a prerequisite for the program. Not all nursing schools expect the SAT as part of entrance requirements. Schools that offer an undergraduate degree in nursing, such as four-year colleges and universities, most frequently require SAT scores. Many community colleges that offer an associate’s degree in nursing do not require SAT scores as part of the admissions process. Some students start their nursing education in community college and then transfer to a university later for a bachelor’s degree.

If you are returning to school to study nursing and have been out of high school for a while, the school may waive the SAT requirement. You may be expected to take a placement test, or if you have a degree in another field, the school may count your work in that area as part of prerequisites instead.

Once you have an appointment for the SAT, take time to study to do your best on the exam. You can find study guides that offer practice questions to prepare you for the day, and you may know other students who are also taking the test with whom you can work. Taking the SAT confirms your goal to work toward college, and doing your best on the exam can help toward getting into the school of your choice.


The ACT test, formerly known as the American College Testing exam, is a type of test that you may take to include as part of the admissions process to some nursing schools. The ACT is an optional test that you take while still in high school; you are given an appointment for a testing time and location to sit for the exam. Some schools look at your ACT scores as a prerequisite for their programs.

The ACT demonstrates what you have learned in your high school courses and shows that you can apply it to a testing situation. This ability is important to many colleges, as it shows that you can handle college-level coursework. The ACT is divided into four sections, with a fifth section based on writing skills, which is optional. You have two hours and 55 minutes to complete the test.

The English portion of the ACT is divided into 75 multiple-choice questions that require you to demonstrate your comprehension of the material in the areas of sentence mechanics, grammar usage and rhetorical skills. The reading section is composed of 40 multiple-choice questions with reading requirements in the areas of social studies, humanities, natural sciences, and prose fiction.

The mathematics segment consists of 60 multiple-choice questions in pre-algebra, elementary and intermediate algebra, plane geometry, coordinate geometry, and trigonometry. You have one hour to complete this part of the exam, and you may use a calculator. The science portion of the ACT is made up of 40 multiple-choice questions in the areas of earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics. You must also answer questions about data representation, conflicting viewpoints, and research summaries.

The optional writing test is taken after the other sections of the ACT are completed. This section tests your writing skills by requiring an essay written about a specific topic. The ACT score is based on a composite score of each section. The first four sections are scored individually between 1 and 36, and then an average of the four scores is taken. This composite score is the number that potential colleges look at when considering your application.

Historically, ACT test scores were required by nursing schools that were mostly located in the Midwest, with more schools on the east or west coasts requiring SAT scores. As of 2007, all four-year colleges and universities in the United States will accept ACT scores during admission, although not all schools require it. Most nursing schools that offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing expect an ACT score as part of the prerequisite package alongside your high school grade point average. Some community colleges and associate’s degree programs do not require an ACT test score for admission, but may have you take a placement exam that is specific for their school.

If you are returning to school to learn about nursing and have been in the workforce or you have a different degree, you may have ACT scores waived, depending on how long you have been out of high school and if you have any college transcripts or coursework to offer.

Because the ACT is a comprehensive exam that will test many of the concepts you have learned throughout high school, studying beforehand is important to attain a high score. Some classes are available that offer practice questions for test-takers to sharpen their skills in the areas that will be on the exam. By practicing and studying for this test, you can improve your chances of getting into nursing school and show your potential school that you can do your best.


The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a type of test administered to those planning to attend graduate school. Although the test is a general form of examination for many different types of study, it is frequently required for admission into many nursing schools across the country.

The GRE is administered at specific testing centers throughout the United States, and you must go by appointment. It is a computer-based exam in most locations, although occasionally it may be administered as a pencil and paper exam. The cost to take the GRE runs between $150 and $210, but some fee reductions are available. The test is administered over a period of four hours.

The GRE consists of four different sections, each of which is designed to test general knowledge in a specific area. The verbal section requires reading comprehension, sentence completion, reading analogies, and understanding antonyms. This section contains 30 questions, and you will have 30 minutes to complete them.

The math section allows 45 minutes for completion and contains approximately 28 questions. Also called the quantitative section, this area consists of multiple-choice questions that involve comparison of data and quantitative assessments at the level of high school math. Both the verbal and math sections of the GRE consist of multiple-choice questions, while the other fields require more writing.

The analytical writing section is split into two different segments, the “issue” and the “argument” areas. The issue task requires a written essay from a choice of topics. This section tests how well you can formulate a response to a question about a particular issue. The argument section requires another essay that is written in response to a statement of a specific point of view and to critique it. This section tests writing abilities and your capacity to formulate logic around the cited argument.

Some GRE tests contain an additional section that is considered experimental. The questions are designed to study testers’ responses, which will be used for formulating future tests. Students taking the GRE are unaware of which section is the experimental group, so answering all questions is mandatory.

The verbal and quantitative sections are scored on a scale between 200 and 800, while the analytical writing is scored based on a scale of 0 to 6. Because it is often a computer-based test, the questions can fluctuate depending on how well you answer. For example, if you are working in the multiple-choice section, your answers will continuously become more difficult with each correct answer. If you begin to answer incorrectly, your questions will change to become easier and to reflect this. The writing test is scored by a reader who peruses each essay and assigns a score based on the work.

If you are considering attending nursing school at the graduate level, check with your intended school to determine if you need to take the GRE. Not all nursing schools have graduate programs that require GRE test scores. In other situations, GRE scores may be a prerequisite for admission, but other factors are also considered, such as your undergraduate grade point average, your work history, or letters of recommendation.

If you know that you want to attend graduate school and you must take the GRE, allow plenty of time for studying. You may find some study guides specifically designed to prepare you for the test, which include sample questions. Remember that the GRE is another indication of not only how well you know the material, but that you can apply your knowledge during a testing situation, which is a quality some schools look for in future nurses.


Nursing schools are post-secondary institutions, requiring graduation from high school or its equivalent before admission. By taking required tests needed for admission to some schools, you can better prepare for the work of college and show potential nursing schools that you would make a good candidate. One test to consider taking is the Preliminary SAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

The PSAT is a precursor test to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which checks essential knowledge of the courses you have taken in high school. Your score on the SAT may be part of the admission process for some nursing schools. You may consider taking the PSAT/NMSQT as a method of preparing for the SAT. By taking this test, you will gain practice and have a better idea of how well you will do when taking the SAT to prepare for college.

The PSAT/NMSQT also places your information to be considered as a candidate for National Merit Scholarships. If you perform well on the test and your scores qualify you for one of these scholarships, you could receive money to help pay for nursing school. The test must be taken by 11th grade in order to qualify. The National Merit Scholarship is an award based on outstanding academic achievement as shown through your test results as well as your overall grade point average and your other accomplishments while in school. Each year, approximately 8,400 students receive National Merit Scholarships of varying amounts to help pay for college.

By taking the PSAT/NMSQT, you may also be eligible to receive other scholarships for college, as your test results can be forwarded to other programs that recognize students for academic achievement.

The test covers five sections that include reading, math and writing. You will have two hours and 10 minutes to complete the entire exam, although each section each has its own time limit. The reading section is divided into two segments composed of a total of 48 questions. The first section requires you to complete sentences using given information, while the second section tests your comprehension after reading a selected passage.

The math portion of the test also is divided into two areas, and you will answer 38 questions. The first segment is multiple choice, while the second section is short answer. All of the math questions cover such concepts as algebra, geometry, number functions, statistics, and analysis of data. You may use a calculator in this section. The writing section consists of 39 multiple-choice questions that require you to correct sentences and paragraphs and recognize errors within selected passages.

Your score for the PSAT/NMSQT will be between 20 and 80 for each section of the test. Additionally, you will receive a score that determines your eligibility for a National Merit Scholarship and a score that compares your results with those of other students in your grade who have also taken the test.

The PSAT/NMSQT is not required for entry to most nursing schools, although many schools do require an SAT score as part of admission. By taking the PSAT/NMSQT, you can practice for the SAT and better enhance your eligibility for nursing school. By studying the subjects you have learned in high school and practicing test questions with a study guide, you can prepare for nursing school and college in advance and possibly help with some of the financial costs as well.


The Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) is a type of exam required by some nursing schools as part of the admission process. Schools want to be confident that the students they accept will succeed and have the qualities of good nurses. One way to determine this is to test potential students for the aptitudes and skills of a good nursing candidate.

The TEAS is composed of four sections that check your academic abilities from high school and are necessary knowledge to practice nursing. The test is administered in either a computer-based format or via paper and pencil method. You will be given approximately three hours and 45 minutes to complete the exam.

Each section has a specific time limit for completion, and once the time has elapsed, you move on to the next area. You have 50 minutes to complete the reading section, which is composed of 40 questions. This section tests your comprehension by presenting specific passages that you must read and summarize, reaching a conclusion as to the overall theme of the passage.

The science portion of the test will cover basic concepts in various scientific backgrounds, including life science, chemistry, and anatomy and physiology, as well as scientific analysis. This section is composed of 30 questions and you will have 38 minutes to complete the work.

The math section is allotted 56 minutes for completion of 45 questions. These types of questions cover basic math concepts, such as whole numbers, decimals, fractions, percentages, the metric system, and basic algebra. You will most likely have covered these concepts by the high school level, and all of them are important, as you will be required to understand math regularly while working as a nurse.

The English portion of the exam tests your understanding of basic grammar and punctuation, spelling, and how to build a proper sentence. You will be given 65 minutes to complete this portion and there are 55 questions.

Each section of the TEAS is scored and your potential school can see your test scores to determine how well you achieved in each area. There is no passing or failing grade for the TEAS, rather your potential school will set a minimum standard score that is expected for their nursing program. If you do not meet their minimum requirements, you will be unable to attend.

The TEAS is not required at all schools, so check where you wish to apply to and see if this test is part of the admissions process. This test is required by various types of schools, including community colleges, diploma programs, and universities, although the minimum required score may vary. Additionally, the TEAS is not the only requirement for admission to nursing school. If the school you have applied to requires you to take the TEAS, they will most likely consider your scores as well as other important factors, such as grade point average, extracurricular activities, and letters of reference.

The TEAS is administered by appointment and you must register to find out the location and the time of the exam. You can prepare for this test by working through a study guide that may review pertinent information and provide sample questions. If you know someone else applying to the program, you could try to study together to solidify the concepts you will need to know for the test. Although this test is not the only requirement for nursing school, it does test your aptitude to be a nurse, and preparing for the test ahead of time will help to show your school that you are a good fit for them.


The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a licensing exam for nurses that is held in every state and is governed by each state’s board of nursing. The NCLEX is required for licensure and practice as a nurse. There are two types of tests, the NCLEX-PN, which licenses practical nurses, and the NCLEX-RN, which provides licensure for registered nurses. Nursing students typically take the NCLEX following graduation from nursing school.

The NCLEX is a comprehensive test that covers concepts you will have learned all throughout nursing school. Taking this test shows that you can remember the information you have learned and apply it to nursing situations. It is a multiple-choice exam that covers such subjects as infection control, disease detection, psychological or mental health nursing concepts, human growth and development, and the straightforward care of patients.

Each candidate will take a minimum number of questions for the test. The NCLEX RN requires a minimum of 75 questions, while the NCLEX-PN requires 85 questions. The test is administered by a computerized program, and once you have taken the minimum number of questions, you will continue to answer questions for the program to determine your proficiency at the material. If you have shown understanding of the material, you may be asked only the minimum number of questions. Alternatively, if the computer wants you to demonstrate more competencies, your questions will continue. Because of this testing method, each student will answer a different number of questions. Once the program assumes competency (or lack of), the test is completed. The maximum number of questions for the RN test is 265, while the maximum number for the PN test is 205. You have up to five hours to complete the test, with allotted time for breaks.

In order to take the NCLEX, you must first apply to your state board of nursing for licensure. To be eligible to take the test, you must first have graduated from a nursing school with a degree or diploma in nursing, and you must pay an application fee for the exam. The state will then do a background check to ensure that you have a clean criminal history. Once you are found to be eligible, you register to take the test with a testing center and then wait to receive your Authorization to Take the Test (ATT). The ATT comes in the form of a letter and you must have it with you when you go to take the NCLEX.

Once you complete the test, you will have to wait several weeks to find out the results. Your state board of nursing will mail your test results, and in some situations, you may check the state’s website. If you do not pass the test, you will receive a record of the areas on the test where you need improvement to help you with studying to retake the exam. You may take the NCLEX as many times as necessary to pass and practice as a nurse, although some states require that you wait a minimum period of time before taking the test again.

Studying for the NCLEX is essential in order to pass the test. Many nursing schools recognize the importance of the NCLEX and offer a course designed specifically for preparing students. You may also find study guides, both in text form and online, that can help to prepare you for this test. Because you will need this test for your licensure and cannot practice as a nurse unless you pass, the NCLEX is vital to your nursing career.