How the NCLEX Really Works

We now live in a digital age.  Gone are the old-fashioned days of paper and pencil, and say hello to computer adaptive testing.  So what?  Why should we care?  Are there any advantages?

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Absolutely!  For starters, the tests are much shorter and faster now.  With standard written tests, you would have to answer every single question on the test.  With digital tests, the computer is able to accurately determine your performance to a near certainty without making you take all those questions.  Pretty cool, right?  Or maybe just downright frustrating and confusing…

Computerized grading is also 100% accurate… and fast!  In just a few days you can have your final results, compared to the months it took during the dark ages.

There is good and bad information out there regarding how the NCLEX works.  Let’s take a look at some of the common NCLEX rumors and get to the bottom of this!

 

Rumor #1:  Does getting cut off at 75 questions mean that I passed?

No

I have seen countless people say that if you get cut off at 75 questions that you definitely passed the test.  The truth is that you could have passed or failed.  The reason you were cut off was simply that the computer had met a threshold of certainty of your testing level.  What does that mean?  Basically, the computer has determined your performance average and has predicted that you will get the same results if you stop now or stop after 100 more questions.  If your performance is at or above the passing cutoff line, then you passed.  If it lies below it, you failed.

So if you passed your NCLEX and the got cut off at 75 questions then you did a great job.  If you failed at 75 questions, then you really made of mess of it.

 

Rumor #2:  Does getting cut off at 265 questions mean that I failed?

No

Similar to rumor #1, you can pass or fail at the 265 question mark.  If your final tally places you above the passing threshold, you passed, and if not, you failed.  Getting drawn out to 265 questions can mean multiple things, which leads us to rumor #3.

 

Rumor #3:  If I got all 265 questions, does the last question determine if I pass or fail?

Maybe… it depends

If you have been drawn out until the last question, it can mean one of two things.  Either the computer has not yet accurately predicted your testing level, or it has, but you’re so close to the cutoff line that it wants to give you a little more room to improve.

In the first case, maybe you have answered all of the questions so erratically that you’ve simply confused the computer.  In this case, regardless of if you answer the last question correctly, you could pass or fail depending on your total question tally and the weight of each question (i.e. fancy computer maths).  You can learn more about computer adaptive testing in this article.

On the other hand, you could be at the 50/50 pass/fail border, and if you get the last question correct, it will push you over the threshold and you will pass.

 

Rumor #4:  Are Select-all-that-apply (SATA) and prioritization the hardest NCLEX questions and weighted the most?

Yes

SATA questions are generally the hardest questions on the NCLEX.  The number of correct responses is unknown and getting partial credit is not an option, as it is either pass or fail.  Prioritization questions are also very difficult, as all of the responses are likely correct answers to a question, but rely heavily on critical thinking skills to find the correct order.

Because of this, SATA and prioritization questions are given the most weight when scoring the NCLEX final results.  It’s similar to saying a correct SATA question might give you 3 points while a correct easier question might give you 1 point.

 

Rumor #5:  If I mostly got SATA and prioritization questions, does that mean that I passed?

Maybe, it depends

Kind of like rumor #1, whether or not you passed will largely depend on whether or not you actually answered these questions correctly or not.  If you get all SATA and prioritization questions AND you think you aced them, you probably passed.  If you got all SATA and prioritization questions AND you think you got the majority of them wrong, you could have failed.

However, even if you have failed many of the SATA and prioritization questions, you could still pass so long as you are above the passing threshold, you just might get extended past the 75 question cutoff.

 

Rumor #6:  Does the Pearson VUE registration trick actually work?

Yes

Assuming your results were actually delivered (which can take some time after you walk out of the building) you can try the Pearson VUE trick.  If you go to re-register for your NCLEX after taking the test and get a pop-up stating “Our records indicate that you have recently scheduled this exam. Please contact your member board for further assistance.  Another registration cannot be made at this time,” then you have passed your NCLEX!  Congratulations!

 

So as you can see, there are a lot of complicated and possibly confusing elements to the NCLEX.  In the end, try not to fret so much about the number of questions you got cut off at, or the amount of SATA and prioritization questions you received, as they don’t necessarily indicate a pass or fail.  Don’t drive yourself crazy for the next few days that it could take to get your test back!  Instead just wait a few hours and try the Pearson re-register trick… that actually works 🙂

UPDATE: We've created a mega thread with all the NCLEX articles on the Nursejanx Forum for you to discuss: Click here to check it out!

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