The difference between the NCLEX RN and the PN exam is not much. The content is basically the same. I couldn’t find much online on what the differences were. So, I just compared the test plans side-by-side.
The quick differences between the NCLEX RN and PN exam are:
- LPNs “collect data”, not “assess”
- RNs “assess”
- LPNs will delegate to the UAP only
- RNs will delegate to the UAP and LPN
- Only RNs get asked about blood, TPN and IV therapy
This blog post breaks down the simple differences in more detail.
# of Questions on Each Test
- RN exam: a student can get between 75 and 265 questions
- PN exam: a student can get between 85 and 205 questions
Nursing Content on the Exam
- Both exams cover almost identical nursing content (I’ll go into detail below)
- Each section of the test plan is about the same percentage for each RN and PN test
As you can see from both of the pie charts, the PN test and the RN test have the same sections and almost the same percents tested on for each section. So, it’s almost identical.
Specific Differences of the NCLEX RN and PN exam based on the 8 Sections of the Test Plan
Section 1: Management of Care vs. Coordinated Care
The RN test calls the first section Management of Care. The PN test calls the first section Coordinated Care. Both sections include the same content.
Here are the small differences:
The heading, Assignment, Delegation and Supervision, is on the RN test. Client Care Assignments is the heading on the LPN test. For each test, the questions would be worded differently based on which test you are taking.
- RN test: the questions are worded as “Which client would you assess or see first?”
- PN test: the questions are worded as “Which client would be reported to the RN?”
- The concept for each type of question is exactly the same: choose the most unstable client
- RN test: there are questions about delegating to the UAP and LPN
- PN test: there are questions about delegating to the UAP only
The heading, Case Management, is on the RN test. Resource Management is on the PN test. It’s the same content though.
Section 2: Safety and Infection Control
Both the PN and RN test has the exact same content on this section. These sections contain no differences.
Section 3: Health Promotion and Maintenance
On the RN test there’s a heading called Techniques of Physical Assessment. It’s called Data Collection Techniques on the LPN test. The content is exactly the same but how the questions would be worded are different.
- RN test: the word “assess” would be used
- PN test: they don’t use the word assessment. Instead the test will have “collect data” instead of assess.
In reality though, it means the same thing. So, just remember, LPN’s don’t “assess” on the test (they do in real life though).
Section 4: Psychosocial Integrity
There’s a couple differences in the wording of the topics. However, both tests include the same content.
Section: 5: Basic Care and Comfort
This section is exactly the same for both the RN and PN test!
Section 6: Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
On the PN test there is NO mention of blood, central venous access devices, total parenteral nutrition or IVs. So technically, RNs are getting tested on those topics only.
Section 7: Reduction of Risk Potential
There is NO “system specific assessments” on the PN exam, it’s only mentioned on the RN exam. That’s so weird because PNs should know how to do system specific assessments! Otherwise, the content is exactly the same for this section.
Section 8: Physiological Adaptation
There is NO hemodynamics or illness management on the PN exam. I find this very interesting because these sections include the EKG strips. However, I still think that there could be EKGs on the PN exam, so make sure you study those! Otherwise, this section is also basically the same content.
How to Prepare differently for the LPN or RN exam
In general, the same content is on each exam. The one main difference is that LPNs can skip studying blood, TPN and IVs. To be on the safe side, still study those topics for the PN exam.