NCLEX Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT)

by TheCommuter Asst. Admin

11,734 Views | 28 Comments

Computerized adaptive testing (CAT) is the cutting-edge manner in which NCLEX has been administered since the mid 1990s. CAT adapts to each test taker's unique ability level by selecting subsequent questions based on how well or poorly the individual has been answering previous questions. Due to CAT, no two NCLEX exams will be identical.

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    NCLEX Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT)

    NCLEX, an acronym that stands for National Council Licensure Examination, is a crucial gatekeeper in the nursing profession because no one is granted a nursing license in the US without satisfactorily passing this test.

    The 85 percent of US-educated candidates who pass NCLEX on the first attempt walk across the open gate to their new roles as licensed nurses, while the people who fail must contend with a closed gate until they manage to pass. Once these candidates pass, the gate swings wide open. Furthermore, nursing school graduates cannot legally secure employment as registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs) without a license. So a nursing career cannot come to fruition unless NCLEX is conquered. Therefore, it would be prudent to unearth as much information as possible about this exam before visiting the Pearson Vue testing center. Preparation is the key to conquering the NCLEX.

    Computerized adaptive testing (CAT) is the way in which NCLEX has been administered since the middle 1990s. CAT acclimates to each test taker's ability level by selecting subsequent questions based on how well or poorly the individual has been answering previous questions. Due to the cutting-edge uniqueness of CAT, no two NCLEX exams will be the same since candidates come to the testing center with different funds of knowledge and starkly different techniques of applying what they know.

    All NCLEX test takers start with questions that are classified as possessing a lower level of difficulty. The candidate who does reasonably well on these low-level questions will soon begin to receive moderately difficult test questions. If the test taker continues to answer the moderately difficult questions correctly, the computer acclimates to the person's ability level and starts pulling questions from the test bank that are classified as having a high level of difficulty. But if the test taker answers too many of the moderately difficult questions incorrectly, the computer adapts by pulling low-difficulty questions from the massive test bank.

    While the test taker is answering questions, CAT is constantly adapting to the ability level by determining how previous test questions are being answered. The test abruptly ends once CAT has determined the test taker's highest ability level. If a candidate continues to receive questions after having already answered 200+ questions, this is occurring because CAT has not yet determined the test taker's ability level. If the test shuts off after the test taker answered less than 100 questions, this happened because CAT determined the person's ability level relatively quickly.

    Candidates can satisfactorily pass NCLEX after answering 200+ questions. These test-takers answered hundreds of questions because CAT took longer to determine a passing standard. Also, candidates fail NCLEX after answering less than 100 questions because CAT quickly established that a large number of moderate-level and higher-level questions were answered incorrectly during the session.

    CAT is like a figurative balancing beam. The test taker who answers too many questions incorrectly is performing like a beam that tilts to the left (read: failing). The test taker who answers the majority of questions correctly is performing like a beam thay tilts to the right (read: passing). On the other hand, the candidate who answers some questions correctly and some questions incorrectly will perform like a beam that remains stuck in the same position during the exam, which may translate into being forced to answer 200+ questions before the test finally ends.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 18
    Shandra2008, dinobun, vanessaem, and 6 others like this.
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  3. About TheCommuter

    TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.

    TheCommuter joined Feb '05 - from 'Fort Worth, Texas, USA'. Age: 33 TheCommuter has '8' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'acute rehab, long term care, and psych'. Posts: 26,892 Likes: 37,806; Learn more about TheCommuter by visiting their allnursesPage Website


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    28 Comments so far...

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    How different was the NCLEX-RN from the NCLEX-LPN. I found my test to be fair but tricky with the answers. I passed the NCLEX-PN with 85 questions.
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    Quote from Joel001
    How different was the NCLEX-RN from the NCLEX-LPN.
    To be perfectly honest, I felt NCLEX-RN was easier than the NCLEX-PN.

    I passed the NCLEX-PN with the minimum of 85 questions way back in 2005, and passed the NCLEX-RN about 4 years ago with the minimum of 75 questions.
    Ella26, LadyFree28, and Joel001 like this.
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    I think I would have had an acute MI right there if I had to answer 265 questions.
  7. 1
    Quote from cmoul001
    I think I would have had an acute MI right there if I had to answer 265 questions.
    lol! I take the NCLEX on Tuesday....praying I don't get the 265 questions! Also praying to PASS!
    SlinkyheadRN likes this.
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    You will pass. And, remember.....if you DO get 265 questions, you can still pass. Good luck! Let us know how it goes for you!
    kelzfuturenurse likes this.
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    Me too on tuesday!!
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    Good luck! Just take your time. It's no race. Remember more questions right = less questions to do, so don't rush and really think about the answer you want to give.
  11. 0
    Quote from TheCommuter
    To be perfectly honest, I felt NCLEX-RN was easier than the NCLEX-PN. I passed the NCLEX-PN with the minimum of 85 questions way back in 2005, and passed the NCLEX-RN about 4 years ago with the minimum of 75 questions.
    I agree.

    I found the PN to be more about knowing other roles including the PN role; still needed to know about priority and monitoring, choosing the best diet and even medication; I came across most of this on the RN and had no trouble answering the questions; I learned what I needed to know in nursing school, and just studied questions and rationales not only to prepare for the exam, but my new role expansion.
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    My take is also this: know the important aspects of the NCLEX=entry level nurse expectations and WHAT the question is asking you, most of the time you will succeed, no matter how many questions one receives.

    The most important thing is to THINK like a nurse.
    Ella26 likes this.


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