South Dakota Registered Nurse License Exam

To obtain licensure in South Dakota, Registered Nurses are required to take a nursing exam known as the National Council for Licensure Exam-RN (NCLEX-RN) which ensures the candidate is prepared for entry level nursing practice.

Need for a Registered Nurse License: A Registered Nurse is required to be licensed to practice nursing in the state of South Dakota.

Who Grants a Registered Nurse License: Licenses are granted by the South Dakota Board of Nursing.

Qualifications to receive a License: Applicants must graduate from an approved and accredited nursing program (diploma, associate or baccalaureate degree) and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

Applying for State Licensure and the NCLEX-RN Exam: The application process consists of two parts which are completed together: 1) applying for South Dakota Licensure and 2) registering for the NCLEX-RN exam.
  1. First, complete and submit an Application for Licensure by Examination with the South Dakota State Board of Nursing by completing the application online.
    1. You will complete a fingerprint-based criminal background check, according to the instructions within the application.
    2. If you received your nursing education in South Dakota, your nursing school will need to complete the Certification of Education form. If you received your nursing education outside of South Dakota, you will need to have your nursing school send an official transcript (unofficial/electronic transcripts are not accepted) directly to the following address:
  2. Second, the NCLEX exam is administered by Pearson VUE. You must register to take the NCLEX exam, in addition to applying for Licensure. Registration can be done online via the Pearson VUE website. Alternatively, you may call Pearson VUE NCLEX Candidate services (toll-free) at1.866.49NCLEX (1.866.496.2539), Monday-Friday, 7 am to 7 pm, Central Standard Time.
  3. Once the South Dakota State Board of Nursing provides clearance to Pearson VUE, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) notice from Pearson VUE. This allows you to schedule your exam at a convenient Pearson VUE location, typically within 90 days from receipt of the ATT.
Fees: There are fees for both a South Dakota RN license and the NCLEX exam.

NCLEX-RN Exam Content: The NCLEX-RN exam is a computerized test which utilizes “adaptive testing.” This means that the computer will determine your level of competency throughout the exam and the number of questions will vary based upon your competency level. A minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265 questions are administered. At minimum, 60 questions will be scored and 15 questions will be practice questions. The test taker will not know which are scored and which are not. You will have a maximum of 6 hours to complete the exam.

There are two optional breaks after 2.5 and 3.5 hours, respectively.

There are four subject categories and several sub-categories for the NCLEX-RN exam. They are as follows:
  • Safe, effective care environment
    • Management of care
    • Safety and infection control
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Physiological integrity
  • Health promotion and maintenance
    • Basic care and comfort
    • Pharmacologic and parenteral therapies
    • Reduction of risk potential
    • Physiological adaptation
The percentage of questions per subject area and difficulty levels will depend upon each individual candidate.

The NCLEX-RN results are pass/fail. Official results from the NCLEX-RN exam are delivered by the respective Board of Nursing within 2-4 weeks from the exam date. Unofficial results may be obtained 48 business hours after the exam through Pearson Vue Quick Results. There is a small fee for this service. If you do not pass the exam, you will receive a diagnostic profile which outlines your performance on the exam and will need to retake the exam at a later date.

Who Administers the Exam: The NCLEX-RN exam is developed and approved by the National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). The test is administered at Pearson VUE testing locations.

License Renewal and Continuing Education Requirements: South Dakota RN licenses require renewal every six years and can be completed online. In order to renew, RN’s must provide verification of employment in nursing for a minimum of 140 hours in any 12 month period during the preceding six years, or a total of 480 hours during the preceding six years. Those who are not actively in practice have the opportunity to complete a Board approved refresher course.

Special Notice: South Dakota is a Compact State.  The Compact State agreement allows nurses who practice in specific states to have License reciprocity in those other participating states. Therefore, if your primary residence is within another Compact State, you need not apply for additional Licensure from the South Dakota Board of Nursing.

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For more information on licensing and exam prep, go to Tests.com's NCLEX-RN Test Guide.

And take Tests.com's free NCLEX-RN Practice Test.

For nursing exam preparation products and services, such as study guides, practice tests, flashcards and courses, go to Tests.com's 
NCLEX-RN listings.


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