Is the NCLEX Really an IQ Test?

One of the things I talk about in the book, Your Guide to NCLEX Success, is that the NCLEX could be passed by a smart person, even if they didn’t have a lot of nursing knowledge.  This is because many of the questions on the NCLEX can be considered analytical in nature and do not rely on cold hard facts to arrive at the correct answer.

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Take, for example, the following question:

This question has only 1 correct response. Option A is basically equivalent to Option B, and Option D is basically the opposite of Option C. Options B and Options D are also near equivalents. Option B can’t be right. What is the correct answer?

Option A

Option B

Option C

Option D

Now simply substitute the various lettered options with anything related to nursing and you have a generic NCLEX question.  Under these circumstances, I’m sure you can see how a clever person who’s good at taking tests could get this question right even if they only had minimal nursing knowledge.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the answer is Option C.


The NCLEX is based on Binet’s IQ test

The NCLEX uses computer adaptive testing (CAT) to figure out your level of ability.  It’ll throw questions of differing levels of difficulty at you based on how you answered previous questions in order to gauge this.  You can read more about this subject here:  What kinds of questions are on the NCLEX?

As it turns out, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), CAT testing was designed and modeled after psychologist Alfred Binet’s IQ test that he developed in the early 1900s!


Why is this a good thing?

You may be asking yourself, “How can this benefit me?”

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to magically increase your IQ in order to be smarter.  The good news is that even if you aren’t too bright, humans have demonstrated an ability for getting better at taking IQ tests with lots of practice.

This also means that the NCLEX can be passed without having the most comprehensive nursing knowledge known to man.  So if you’re coming out of nursing school and debating whether or not to dedicate your soul to crunching for this exam, perhaps your time may be better spent focusing on test taking strategies.

TL;DR:  If you train yourself to take IQ style tests, you can score better without actually getting smarter.


Teach me!

Thankfully, there are resources that can help people prepare for test taking.  Your Guide to NCLEX Success, is a great book filled with test taking strategies, specifically as they relate to the NCLEX.  You might want to check it out 🙂

Thanks for reading, please let us know in the comments if you have any tips to share!

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