Afraid of Select-All-That-Apply (SATA) NCLEX Questions

Nurses Nurse Beth


Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

I am not a nurse yet. I am currently in my third year of nursing school, and I am struggling. I was always a good student and get great grades. All of a sudden this semester I have not been doing too well. My professors have been giving us select-all-that-apply questions. I know we have to get used to them because these questions make up the majority of the NCLEX, but I am very concerned I am going to fail. Do you have any advice or tips that may help me learn how to approach these types of questions?

Dear Concerned,

You are not alone, many students dread this format. Select all that apply (SATA) questions are being used in the NCLEX.

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), multiple response items may require a candidate to select a single correct response, have more than one correct response, or require all responses to be correct regardless of the number of possible responses.

To approach a SATA question, you must treat every choice as if it is True or False. For example:

Your patient was admitted with congestive heart failure (CHF) . Which of the following is true? Select all that apply:

a. CHF causes fluid to accumulate in the lungs TRUE

b. Diuretics are used to reduce fluid TRUE

c. Peripheral edema may accompany CHF TRUE

d. CHF causes high blood sugar FALSE

Just read each choice individually, then decide if it is True or False. In the above example, you would select a.,b.,and c.

Here's a tip: You may have been told in the past that in SATA multiple-choice questions, at least one answer will be false. This is not longer the case. Remember that they could all be True.

You also may have been told that in standard multiple-choice questions, where there is only one correct answer, that in case of doubt pick b or c. This is also no longer true as the choices may be alphabetically listed to avoid such generalizations.

Also in the SATA, only one of the choices could be true. I took it on 2/27/2018 (and passed in 75 questions) and was surprised by this. I can't remember for sure, but I also think it's possible for none of the answers to be true. Make sure you read the instructions carefully at the beginning. That said, this is great advice, it never occurred to me to treat each like a true/false, but I wish I had. It would have saved me a lot of stress.

I think Nurse Beth offered solid advice. I thought of SATAs as four T/F questions in a row. Remember not to qualify your choice. Either it's true and you choose it, or it isn't and you ignore it. Like the previous commenter, I passed in 75 and my overarching theme would be not to stress or overthink the exam. They just want to make sure you're safe to be set free on the nursing world. Good luck- you'll be fine!

I feel your pain and frustration, but you will be very grateful when the time comes for your NCLEX. I'm so glad my professors made sure I was well prepared for the big day, I hated them but later on when I passed my NCLEX at the first try at 100 question I understood.

What great advice! I will use that next time I have an exam with SATA. Thank you Nurse Beth!

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