I certainly didn't think it was easy, but here's the strange part: i loved the test. I loved the fact that the majority of my questions were scenario-based, instead of "what is this called, what is that called". I loved that my critical thinking skills were grilled, and felt very confident that i had the ability to answer them.
I don't think it's necessarily that the NCLEX is easy, i think it's more likely the education received to credit to an 83% pass rate (which, by the way, is there a link to this 83% pass rate statistic?).
I agree with Fergus. There is no reason to have a test that is too difficult just so you don't have a good pass rate. Would that make sense? If the nursing schools are doing their job, they should have a good pass rate. If they don't, they lose their certification.
We can even look at the dreaded bar exam for attorneys. Although this exam varies from state to state, it isn't uncommon to see 70-80% or more of candidates passing the exam in some places. (http://www.ncbex.org/stats/pdf/2004stats.pdf)
I think that the reason that the pass rate is so high is attributed to the teaching skills at the facility where that you went to school. I would also like to think that anyone who goes to school works very diligently because they know that the lives of their patients will depend on this. Due to the high cost of taking the exam, why would you want to make it so hard that it would be almost impossible to pass? I know several people who have taken the exam. I've watched these people spend countless hours studying and answering sample NCLEX questions. I would like to think that all of this studying would not be in vain. Maybe that is why the pass rate is so high. This is a test that people take very seriously. Your grades and credit hours that you have taken don't mean anything unless you can pass this test.
When I took the licensing exam, it was 6 individual tests over a day and a half. Everyone from my school passed; of the other nursing schools in the city, I think perhaps 5 or 6 people did not. That was probably close to the pass rate of today.
A fun part (to me) was receiving my ranking on each test compared to everyone taking the test in my state on that day.