Is the NCLEX Hard to Pass?

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Are you a prospective nurse who is now ready to take the NCLEX? Is the NCLEX hard to pass? These are both valid questions and can be answered by simply reading this article.

If you are looking for information on how the exam works, NCLEX tips and tricks, and information on how to pass NCLEX RN after failing, you have come to the right place. You will find information on how the exam operates and what you can do to alleviate your test anxiety and do well.

Whether this is your first time taking the exam or going for a retake, the information in this article will be beneficial for you. Keep reading for more.

How Does the NCLEX Works?How Does the NCLEX Works?

The NCLEX exam, also known as the National Council Licensure Exam, is one of the exams needed to become a licensed registered nurse, RN, or an LPN, licensed practical nurse. This exam validates your nursing knowledge and experience. It’s important to remember that before even having the option to take the exam, you must first have completed a state-approved nursing program. Once that has been completed, a prospective nurse must have an authorization letter to test. This letter is known as the ATT or Authorization to Test.

There are steps that you must complete to obtain this letter. The first step is submitting an application to the Board of nursing (NRB) in the location that you plan to be licensed. This specific body must grant you eligibility. This is only step 1 in the process of receiving your letter.

The next step in the process is to register with Pearson Vue and pay your fee. Once both of these items are complete, you will receive your ATT letter. Once Pearson Vue has acknowledged your registration and receipt of your ATT letter, you will be able to schedule your exam.

Once you have completed this process, it is time for the exam. You must consider several things when taking the NCLEX and several things you should know about the test’s format. Knowing this in advance can aid you in better preparing for the exam.

The NCLEX uses computerized adaptive testing. This means that as you take the exam and get questions correct, your test will get more challenging. This helps to weed out high-performing and low-performing individuals and improve the test’s nurse ability measurement. This leads to a complete assessment of a potential nurses’ competence.

Once your test day has arrived, you will need to provide an acceptable form of identification. This identification includes government-issued identification like a passport, driver’s license, residency card, military ID, or state ID card. None of these items can be expired and must include a valid signature, photo, and name. If you have gotten married or divorced recently, you will also need to bring your marriage license or divorce decree for identification.  Though previously a requirement when taking the old NCLEX exam, you no longer need to bring a physical copy of your ATT letter to test.

Now that the logistics are done, an essential thing that you can do for yourself is getting familiar with how the exam functions and what to expect on test day. Since the exam is computer-adaptive, it may be hard to predict what type of questions you will receive on the exam. However, utilizing a test plan will aid you in knowing the content area percentages you can expect.

Exams are not specific to a particular nursing specialty and will use consistent language across all exams. It is important to remember that your questions will likely not be the same as the person next to you. The questions you receive are items that the computer has calculated that you have a 50% chance of answering correctly. You also may not skip questions, as you must answer the question on your screen to move on to the next.

Candidates are not in any way selected to receive specific questions. It is all based on the computer’s scoring of the individual. Test takers must answer a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 145. Once the system has concluded that it is 95% able to conclude if you will pass or fail, the test will end for you.

If you fail the exam, you will receive a Candidate Performance Report. This report does not go to individuals who pass the exam. Individuals who pass have adequately demonstrated their competency in nursing and do not need the performance report. The report is used to aid nurses in understanding what they did wrong and provide strategies for remediation. If an individual receives a status that says “Near the Passing Standard,” this means that an accurate estimate could not be determined and did not have an apparent score in either direction.

What Score Do You Need on the NCLEX to Pass?

What Score Do You Need on the NCLEX to Pass?

The passing standards of the NCLEX exam are often reevaluated as the practice of nursing changes. This evaluation happens every three years. The current standards for the NCLEX-RN were set on April 1 of 2016 and will remain in place until April of 2016. The current passing level is 0.00 logits. If you are wondering, a logit is a measurement that provides differences between a candidate’s ability and the exam’s difficulties.

Since the NCLEX exam is computerized, the goal is to understand your nursing level rather than provide a typical percentage score. You may be confused as to why the score to pass essentially is a zero but don’t worry, we’ll explain.  As you answer questions correctly, the exam gets harder. This means that your logit score is growing. To ensure that you pass the exam, at least half of the medium-level questions will need to be answered correctly. Anything above a 0.00 means that you pass the exam anything lower would be a failure.

Similarly, the NCLEX-PN uses logits as a passing score. The passing standard for this exam was recently changed in December of 2019 to -0.18 logit. That is up from the old NCLEX exam pass rate of -0.21 logits. This will remain in place until March 31 of 2023.

Aside from the changes in scoring, several other exam-related changes were implemented in October of 2020. This includes a change to the minimum number of questions on both the RN and LPN exams, making them both 75. The max number of questions has also been updated to 145.

Two other changes have also been implemented surrounding the time an individual has to take the exam. Both exams will now be capped at 5 hours. Also, when a test taker runs out of time, pass or fail is determined by all of the responses recorded on the exam. If it is above the general standard, you will pass.

What Percentage of Nurses Fail the NCLEX?

What Percentage of Nurses Fail the NCLEX?

Inevitably, some individuals will indeed fail the NCLEX exam. Though this is a reality, don’t let it be you. Each year the NCSBN provides statistical data on the pass/fail rate of all tests that have been administered. For 2020, overall, the pass rate was 71%, leaving the failure rate to be 29%. This was for the 61,552 individuals that took the exam.  Statistics are shared as they are gathered for each year.

How Difficult is the NCLEX?

How Difficult is the NCLEX?

Taking the NCLEX is often one of the most challenging times in a prospective nurse’s career. It can be one of the most stressful periods in a nurse’s life as it can drastically alter their career options. However, with the weight that lies on a nurse’s shoulder, the test cannot be expected to be easy.

Though the test is difficult, it is not impossible to pass. Several individuals pass it each month. Over 1 million individuals have taken the exam and passed, kickstarting their nursing careers. Don’t let the difficulty of the exam stress you out; there are several things that you can do to ensure you are adequately prepared and set to pass.

6 Tips on How to Pass the NCLEX the First Time

6 Tips on How to Pass the NCLEX the First Time

  • Understand the format. Understanding the structure of the exam is extremely important. It would be best if you familiarized yourself with the number of questions you need to answer, the format of the exam, and the amount of time you have. When practicing for the exam, you should be practicing for the questions and the format as well. No matter how you think you are doing, if the computer has determined with 95% certainty that you will pass or fail at any time, the exam will end. This also means that your exam will likely not be the same as your friend’s exam. It would be best if you did not rely on someone to tell you their experience as passing standards and information on the exam will often change.
  • Create a study plan. If you are wondering how to pass NCLEX RN after failing, creating a study plan is an excellent idea. When creating a study plan, make sure that you include things like the days you plan to study and the topic you will focus on. You mustn’t try to cram and stay in tune with how and when you study best.  The type of exam may also have an impact on how you study as well. Preparing a study plan for NCLEX RN may be very different from creating a plan for the PN exam.
  • Use Your Resources. It is important to remember that you are not alone in this journey. Outside of the test plans offered by the nursing board, there are several NCLEX review books available to you. These books are critical as they provide you with the ability to practice, practice, practice.
  • Use only the facts. Unlike other exams where using your experience may be beneficial, that is not the case for the NCLEX. Often your experience can be a hindrance to passing the exam. Things you may have experienced or observed may be different from the textbooks or standard nursing practices. Make sure that you are using information strictly from your resources and leaving any personal bias behind.
  • Leave the evaluation to the computer. You will drive yourself crazy attempting to assume the level of the questions during the exam. Take the exam with a clear mind and pay attention to the question on your screen.  You will only add more stress and anxiety to your test-taking experience. Question difficulty is relative to the person you ask.
  • Prepare for the exam. Do not underestimate the benefits of preparing for your exam the night before. This means not only getting an adequate amount of sleep but making sure that you set an alarm so that you are not rushing and evening eating a sensible breakfast. If you know that you are someone who gets cold fast, bring a jacket. You do not want your body temperature to take any focus away from the exam.

Wrapping Things Up: Is the NCLEX Hard to Pass?

Is the NCLEX Hard to Pass? The simple answer is yes. Though the NCLEX may be difficult, it is not impossible. The NCLEX gives scores on a pass/fail basis with the help of its adaptive design. This design provides you with questions that get harder as you answer them correctly.

Though the questions may get harder or, for some, easier, this is not the determining factor in if you pass the exam.  Though the failure rate in 2020 was roughly 30%, this does not have to be you. Use your performance report as a study aid and continue to prepare yourself until you are ready. You should also make sure you have a proper study plan in place.

Use these tips and several others to help you grow in your nursing journey. Good luck!

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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