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NCLEX Question Leveling: What You Need to Know

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Damion Jenkins Damion Jenkins, MSN, RN (Trusted Brand)

Specializes in NCLEX Prep Expert - 100% Pass Rate!. Has 11 years experience.

What do I need to know about NCLEX question leveling?

The NCLEX is designed to determine if new grad nurses can make safe and sound decisions. In order for the exam to be successful in determining the competence level of test-takers, it must create complex questions that are written at varying levels of difficulty, This article will discuss the different levels of NCLEX questions and how they challenge test-takers.

NCLEX Question Leveling: What You Need to Know

Many NCLEX candidates struggle with what information is essential to know in order to successfully pass the test and earn their professional license. Many believe that hitting the nursing textbooks hard is a good strategy. Over the years, it has been found that learning how the NCLEX is designed is equally important. You see, when NCLEX candidates are empowered with the knowledge of how the test challenges them, they are often better positioned for success. Let’s take a look at how the NCLEX levels their questions.

4 Levels of NCLEX Questions

Questions on the NCLEX are written at four varying levels of difficulty. These levels include:

  • Recall & Recognition
  • Comprehension & Understanding
  • Application
  • Analysis

Recall & Recognition leveled questions are created to challenge the candidate’s ability to identify correct information. If the candidate does not know the information contained within the question, then it will be difficult to correctly answer the question. This is why it is essential that NCLEX candidates are well versed with the content of the NCSBN Test Plan.

Comprehension & Understanding leveled questions are created to challenge the candidate’s ability to know the “why” regarding nursing practice. If the candidate does not understand expected outcomes, or the reasons behind why certain nursing interventions are priority, then it will be difficult to correctly answer NCLEX questions.

Application leveled questions are created to challenge the candidate’s ability to apply what they’ve learned throughout nursing school to a variety of circumstances and scenarios. This is where understanding nursing concepts is so essential. If the test-taker does not know the rules that guide nursing practice, such as the rules of prioritization, then it would be very difficult to choose the correct answer.

Analysis leveled questions are created to challenge the candidate’s ability to carefully consider all of the data that is presented within the question and answer choices to determine what the question is even asking. These are the toughest questions on the NCLEX because the topic is often hard to identify, and it takes a great deal of critical thinking to answer these questions.

The most important thing for NCLEX candidates to know is that each time you answer a question correctly on the exam, the difficulty level could increase. With each increase of difficulty level comes a cumulative and integrated challenge for test-takers. What that means is that each level builds on the principles that the previous level used to determine the candidate’s ability. In short, that means the test gets more difficult as test-takers are performing well.

An application leveled question would challenge the test-taker to identify correct information, understand the “why” of the situation, and apply what they have learned in nursing school in order to answer the question correctly. The main reason why this matters is because too many NCLEX candidates focus on just being able to remember nursing content, lab values, medications, and facts. In order to pass the NCLEX, test-takers must be able to successfully move through each difficulty level while making safe and effective decisions about the scenarios provided in each question.

As you continue on your NCLEX prep journey, just remember one thing - YOU CAN DO IT! The NCLEX is not impossible when you take the time to learn how the exam is designed to challenge you. With that expert insight, you are sure to position yourself for NCLEX success!

Have any questions regarding NCLEX question leveling? Post them below and I will help you understand.

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Damion Jenkins, RN, MSN is an NCLEX Prep Expert and CEO of The Nurse Speak. Named the "NCLEX Whisperer" in an article by Nurse Beth, Damion provides individualized tutoring and mentoring services for nursing students, new graduate nurses and professional nurses alike. For more information about Damion and the services he provides, check out thenursespeak.com.

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