Registered Nurse Certification

After enduring the 4-year classroom lectures and round-up of clinicals, you have successfully capped your nursing education to the finish line. Yet, your success is only halfway. There is still the NCLEX-RN to hurdle in order for you to be qualified and practice as a Registered Nurse.  Here are some important things that you need to know about NCLEX.

What is NCLEX?

NCLEX stands for National Council Licensure Examination and is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and ensures that your license is acceptable throughout the entire United State and its territories.

The test is based on the specialized knowledge that you should have at this point, and it tests your skills and ability to meet the various requirements that will be required within the nursing process. Because this is a test of basic competency, you will be able to demonstrate your abilities as an entry-level nurse on this exam. Those who have taken the test sometimes express difficulty in the questions and believed that the test itself is far more advanced to a new graduate.

NCLEX is not a test for the more experienced nurse, because you will not encounter questions about more sophisticated elements of the nursing profession, nor is it an indicator of how you will fare in the profession.

During the examination, which is computerized, you will answer anywhere from 75 to 265 questions, so there is a limit to the amount of material that will be covered on the test.

What is CAT?

As mentioned, NCLEX-RN is a computerized test, or better known as CAT (Computerized Adaptive Testing), because the computer adapts to your responses. You begin with a moderately difficult question, and if you answer it correctly, the next question will be slightly more difficult. If you answer incorrectly, the next question will be slightly easier. Essentially, the computer is selecting questions based on your abilities. The more questions you answer, the more the computer understands your responses and can tailor the questions for you. Thus, if you answer most of the questions correctly, you may have to answer only 75 questions, because they have increased in difficulty from the first question onward. If you have trouble with a large number of questions, the computer keeps trying easier questions until you answer correctly. At the most, you will be asked to answer 265 questions.

You cannot skip questions as you work through the test, since each question is predicated on the previous response. So you will have to spend time working on each question. However, if you can’t deduce the answer in any logical way, select any answer to move on to the next one. The next one will be easier and perhaps will restore your confidence. The entire testing period is five hours. This includes a brief tutorial, sample questions, and scheduled breaks during the testing period.

The Test Format

From the analyses of the NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing), the test plan used for NCLEX reflects the activities that an entry level nurse must be able to perform in providing clients in different settings that entails safe and effective nursing care.

The test plan is organized into four major categories based on client needs with two of the four categories are further divided:

  1. Safe and Effective Care Environment
    1. Management of Care
    2. Safety and Infection Control
  2. Heath Promotion and Maintenance
  3. Psychosocial Integrity
  4. Physiological Integrity
    1. Basic Care and Comfort
    2. Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
    3. Reduction of Risk Potential
    4. Physiological Adaptation

The test includes assessment of cognitive ability wherein the knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, and critical thinking skills of the examinee is evaluated. As a rule of thumb, NCLEX questions are constructed using the higher levels of cognitive ability. This means that most of the questions need critical thinking processes and decision making. As a registered nurse, you must possess the ability to analyze the situation at hand and utilize the best clinical practice (usually evidenced-based practice) in providing nursing care.

The examination also contains integrated processes that are fundamental in the practice of nursing. These are the application of nursing process, the aspect of caring, communication skills and proper documentation of care, and role of nurses in teaching and learning.

What is the passing score in NCLEX?

Recently, NCSBN announced a change in the passing rate of NCLEX-RN.  Effective April 1, 2013, the passing standard will now be 0.00 logits (previously it was -0.16 logits). This will stay in effect until March 31, 2016. This simply means that the test is now more difficult to pass. Furthermore, NCSBN expects that by increasing the passing standard, the pass rate for first time-U.S. educated nurses will decrease slightly.

This change in the passing standard is due to the continuous changes in the U.S. health care and nursing practice. NCSBN believes that and effective entry-level RN practice requires a greater level of knowledge, skills and abilities than was previously required. This would mean that the examinee has displayed the minimum ability in meeting the standards required by the NCSBN. The computer will stop once it has detected that the required standards has been achieved. On the same thought, the computer will also shut off if the examinee falls below the standard. There is really no indication for the examinee to conclude right after the examination that he/she has passed or failed the test when this happen. It is the computer’s job to analyze your ability to answer the questions being presented to you.

Related Exams and Resources:
NCLEX-RN Study Guide – An overview of the best study guides available.
NCLEX-RN Practice Test
How to Prepare for the NCLEX-RN Exam

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