I think it is just different -- harder in some ways, but easier in some ways. Different. We had different problems back then (the mid-1970's for me), but our problems were just as hard.
For example: NCLEX exams were only given twice a year. If you weren't at your best that day, tough. You had to wait 6 months to try again. If you failed 1 of the 5 tests, tough. You had to wait another 6 months to take the exam again. And they were only given in the state capital. You had to travel to where the test was given on the 2 days they were giving it -- whether that fit into your personal life schedule or not. Then after taking the 5 tests over 2 days, you had to wait about 6 weeks to find out if you passed or not. I wouldn't say that was harder or easier than now, just different.
We had our share of bad instructors and bad test questions, too. And while there has been a lot of new knowledge developed over the years, there has also been a lot of advancement in teaching methods. We had no learning lab: we had to read the book and then do it for real the next day on a real patient. We rarely had slides in class: we sat through 3 hour lectures with minimal audiovisuals.
We had no internet. Even xeroxing was not always available. (We had to take notes as we read in the library.) We had to go to the library and look for information on our patients' diagnosis and treatment the night before clinical. Full care plans
had to be started before the first clinical day of the week and completed by the end of each clinical week.
Working a job was next to impossible because of the hours required by clinicals. That meant that we and our parents had to make sacrifices their whole lives to save up a lot of money in advance
before we could go to school. Yes, there were grants and loans, but most people made sacrifices and saved up money in advance to cover living expenses as they knew they would not be able to work much while in school.
There were few preceptorships, externships, internships, etc. My new grad orientation to a level III NICU consisted of 5 weeks with a variety of preceptors and 2 or 3 days of class. I started orienting to Charge after 6 months.
No ... it wasn't easier ... it was just hard in different ways.