Welcome to this article on how the NCLEX really works. You may have been researching how the NCLEX works only to find that there is a lot of bad information out there and you need to know what’s true and what’s false regarding NCLEX rumors. Good news, you’ve come to the right place
How does the NCLEX work?
Let’s start with a little background info, and talk about how the NCLEX works on a technical level. We now live in a digital age, and the old-fashioned days of paper and pencil are gone now many tests have transitioned to computer adaptive testing (CAT). You may be asking yourself, so what? Why should we care? Are there any advantages?
Absolutely! For starters, the tests are much shorter and faster now. With the old NCLEX written test, you would have to answer every single question on the exam. With the new NCLEX that uses CAT, the computer is able to accurately determine your performance to a near certainty without making you take all of the questions in the testing bank. It’s awesome!
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.
Here is a step-by-step of how CAT works from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN):
- Every time you answer an item, the computer re-estimates your ability based on all the previous answers and the difficulty of those items.
- The computer then selects the next item that you should have a 50% chance of answering correctly.
a. This way, the next item should not be too easy or too hard
b. The computer’s goal is to get as much information as possible about your true ability level
c. You should find each item challenging as each item is targeted to your ability
- With each item answered, the computer’s estimate of your ability becomes more precise.
There is good and bad information out there regarding how the NCLEX works, so let’s take a look at some of the common NCLEX rumors!
Rumor #1: Does getting cut off at 75 questions mean that I passed the NCLEX?
I have seen countless people say that if your NCLEX 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 because 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 threshold or cutoff line, then you passed. If it lies below it, you failed.
Bottom line: If you passed your NCLEX and 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.
Here’s a relevant post on the cutoff number
Rumor #2: Does getting cut off at 265 questions mean that I failed the NCLEX?
Similar to rumor #1, you can pass or fail the NCLEX at the 265 question mark. If your final score places you above the passing threshold, then you passed, and if not, then 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 on the NCLEX, 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 the NCLEX depending on your total score and the weight of each question (i.e. fancy computer maths).
On the other hand, if on the last question you are 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 the NCLEX. On the flip side, if you were on the pass/fail border and got the last question wrong, then you would fail the NCLEX.
Rumor #4: Are Select-all-that-apply (SATA) and prioritization the hardest NCLEX questions and weighted the most?
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. This can be comforting because if you get a fact-based multiple choice question on a drug you’ve never even heard of before, it might not matter that much regarding your overall testing performance.
Here’s a relevant post on the different types of NCLEX questions:
Rumor #5: If I mostly got SATA and prioritization questions, does that mean that I passed the NCLEX?
Maybe, it depends
Kind of like rumor #1, whether or not you passed the NCLEX 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 the NCLEX.
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 beyond the 75 question cutoff number.
Rumor #6: Does the Pearson VUE registration trick actually work?
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
Read more about the Pearson Vue trick here:
Here are some extra NCLEX facts:
- 75 questions is the minimum amount of questions that are on the NCLEX.
- 265 questions is the maximum amount of questions that are on the NCLEX.
- There are experimental questions that are being trialed on the NCLEX that DO NOT count for credit. You will not know which questions are real and being counted and which ones are experimental, however, you can get them right or wrong without affecting your score.
- The majority of students pass the NCLEX on the first try.
- The NCLEX requires an authorization to test (ATT) which involves your school and your state board of nursing before you can register for your exam.
- The Pearson Vue trick works for Canadian nurses as well as for those in the USA.
- You can take the NCLEX as many times as you wish, with the limitations of one exam every 45 days, and 8 exams per year.
Some of the most common Google searches after the NCLEX involve:
- If I got all 265 questions, does that mean I failed
- If I got cut off at 75 questions, does that mean I passed
- Can you pass the NCLEX with 265 questions
- NCLEX 265 questions pass rate
- 265 questions on NCLEX chances of passing
- nclex shut off at 265
- can you pass nclex with 265 questions
- 265 nclex questions did i pass
- 265 questions on nclex pass or fail
- can you fail nclex with 75 questions
- 75 questions on nclex pass or fail
And it goes on and on my friends…
Too many people assume these, but both will see success and failure, and how you answer the questions will matter the most. But after reading this, I’m sure you know better