The final hurdle for passing from nursing school into the world of registered nursing is the NCLEX examination.
No matter how much you have studied, your biggest fear will be failing the test once it shuts off automatically. Check out how the NCLEX is administered and scored to learn more.
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Can You Fail NCLEX in 75 Questions?
While it is certainly possible to fail the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN evaluation in only 75 questions, this rarely happens because most nursing students are far more prepared than they believe they are.
With new changes to NCLEX test-taking rules, the number of questions that will be on the test now ranges from 75 to 145, a change put into effect in October 2020.
How is the NCLEX Exam Scored?
Unlike paper tests or computerized tests that you may have taken in school, the NCLEX is administered and scored in a unique way. It’s scored through a system called a Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT).
CAT techniques help to prove that each nurse who passes is adequately prepared to provide high-quality care to his or her patients.
Questions are adapted based on how well the test-taker is doing on the test, becoming progressively easier or harder based on the number of questions that are answered correctly.
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A Computer Adaptive Test
Computerized Adaptive Testing uses the most modern technology along with statistical techniques to appropriately measure a test-taker’s proficiency in the most efficient way possible.
In this way, well-prepared students do not have to waste time with a myriad of easy questions, and less-prepared students are not faced with numerous difficult questions on which all they can do is guess.
Therefore, the CAT technique is the best possible method for determining the individual’s nursing knowledge.
Minimum and Maximum Question Numbers
Now that you understand how CAT affects the NCLEX, you can better understand the range of questions you will receive.
Each test automatically includes 15 experimental questions that are not counted on the examination and that do not affect your pass or fail rate. These questions may seem very difficult, but they are usually only included as trials for future tests.
The minimum number of questions on the NCLEX is 75. This includes 60 actual test questions and 15 additional questions.
Due to changes with COVID, the maximum number of questions has recently changed from 265 to 145. The test will turn off as soon as it determines that you have either passed or failed with at least 95% accuracy.
For some students, CAT may determine within 75 questions that the individual has passed or failed. For others, it could take 85, 100, or even the full 145 questions.
Just because the examination shuts off at 75 questions does not mean that you have automatically failed. In fact, it could mean just the opposite, which is exactly what happened to me. Similarly, completing all 145 questions does not mean you have automatically failed.
Rules for Passing and Failing the NCLEX
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has three rules for determining when one has passed or failed the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN examination.
1. 95% Confidence Rule
First, you may pass or fail with the 95% Confidence Interval Rule that was discussed in the section above. This is the rule most frequently used for scoring.
2. Maximum Length Exam Rule
Second, you could pass or fail with the Maximum Length Exam Rule. According to this rule, you will take the full number of questions, which is currently 145.
At the end of the test, CAT will determine whether your final ability estimate is higher or lower than the passing line.
3. Run Out of Time Rule
Third, you could pass or fail with the Run-Out-of-Time Rule. According to this rule, if you have not even answered the minimum number of questions on the test, you will automatically fail.
However, if you have answered at least the minimum number of questions, CAT will determine whether the questions you have answered fall at or above the passing line to give you your final grade.
What is the NCLEX Pass Rate?
According to the National Council of the State Board of Nursing (NCSBN) in 2020 86.57% of NCLEX RN exam test-takers passed the NCLEX their first attempt. For comparison purposes, 83.08% of nursing students passed the NCLEX-PN their first go around.
While almost 15% failed the nclex I want you to focus on the fact that the vast majority did pass the exam.
Tips for Passing the NCLEX
The best way to pass the NCLEX on your first try is to study exhaustively.
Your notes from nursing school can be a good resource depending on how well you took notes as a nursing student.
If you’re like me your notes are probably not organized well enough to try to refer back to them for taking the NCLEX test. Because of that I highly recommend buying an NCLEX test prep.
A good NCLEX prep will give you NCLEX resources, information videos and guides, a question bank, and most importantly a framework for how you’re going to study for the NCLEX.
Here are 3 of the top NCLEX preps to consider:
To give you an idea of what the NCLEX Prep Academy is like, here’s an example lesson that goes over Potassium-K (Hyperkalemia, Hypokalemia).
I don’t typically recommend buying more than one. The reason is that most of the preps mentioned above (at least the first 3) are what I would consider frameworks for preparing for the test.
Because of that, I think buying more than one is not necessary.
I think getting one of the mentioned NCLEX preps above is the most important thing.
Secondary to that would be investing in one or two up-to-date NCLEX-RN review guides (if you’re taking the NCLEX-PN then get that review book). By up to date I mean for that year.
Both the NCLEX RN Examination (and the NCLEX PN Exam) change every so many years so you want to make sure you have the most up-to-date guide for the exam you’re going to be taking.
Some popular ones include the Lippincott Q&A Review for NCLEX-RN and the Saunders Comprehensive Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination.
- Silvestri PhD RN FAAN, Linda Anne (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 1152 Pages - 10/07/2019 (Publication Date) - Saunders (Publisher)
Here are a few other tips for passing the NCLEX.
- Create a study plan that covers several weeks or months rather than clumping all your study time together.
- Consider studying with a classmate so that you can quiz each other on study questions.
- Be sure to manage your stress with plenty of time for relaxing and sleeping.
- Answer questions by the book rather than based on past work experience.
- When you’re unsure of an answer, always prioritize airway, breathing, circulation, and patient safety.
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Preparing for the NCLEX
The best method for passing the NCLEX is studying. Trying to self-evaluate during the test rarely works and often leads to increased stress.
Check out our Website to find nursing schools near you that are ready to help you prepare for one of the most important tests of your life.