What’s the Passing Rate for the NCLEX-RN?
Are you a recent nursing school graduate? If so, chances are you’re preparing for the NCLEX-RN exam.
The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN exam) determines whether you have the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities essential to practice as an entry-level nurse.
Acing the exam means knowing the NCLEX pass rate and what study materials can give you the best chance of success. Read on to find out everything you need to know about passing the NCLEX-RN exam.
What Is the NCLEX-RN Exam?
The NCLEX-RN is an exam developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), a not-for-profit organization of nursing regulatory bodies in all 50 U.S. states.
The NCLEX-RN is a standardized test for prospective registered nurses and is not to be confused with the NCLEX-PN exam for practical/vocational nurses. Registered nurses have additional education and greater responsibility.
To obtain your nursing license, registered nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN. The exam is delivered by computerized adaptive testing (CAT).CAT is a computer-based assessment that is personalized to every student. This method provides a more accurate picture of what a student knows than traditional testing methods.
In 2023, the exam was updated to better reflect the competencies new nurses will need on the job. While the heart of the exam remains the same, changes include the addition of 18 case study questions, revised minimum and maximum question number and test length, and an updated scoring structure that allows for partial credit.
Because of its computer-adaptive nature, the NCLEX-RN can be anywhere from 85 to 150 questions. Of these questions, 15 are pre-test and do not count towards your score. You have a maximum of five hours to complete the exam.
While most of the questions are multiple-choice, you should also expect fill-in-the-blank calculations, ordered and multiple responses, case study, and hot spot questions.
During a hot spot question, you are presented with an image, and you must click on a particular area to answer.
Sections of the NCLEX-RN Exam
The NCLEX-RN exam is divided into four main areas of focus: Safe and Effective Care Environment, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Psychosocial Integrity, and Physiological Integrity.
Under two of the major categories are subcategories. Each category and subcategory has a percentage attached which outlines the distribution of content for the exam.
The distribution of content is as follows:
Safe and Effective Care Environment
Health Promotion and Maintenance (6%–12%)
Psychosocial Integrity (6%–12%)
Basic Care and Comfort (6%–12%)
Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies (13%–19%)
Reduction of Risk Potential (9%–15%)
Psychological Adaptation (11%–17%)
Due to the computer-adaptive nature of the exam, the content area distinctions for individual test-takers may differ up to +3% in each category.
Who Can Take the NCLEX-RN Exam?
To take the NCLEX-RN exam, you must first complete a series of steps:
Complete an accredited registered nursing program
Register for the NCLEX-RN exam
Review of application by the nursing regulatory body
Receive authorization to take the exam
Each nursing regulatory body (NRB) has its eligibility requirements. For example, some states require criminal background checks, while others mandate training requirements.
Contact the NRB where you intend to work for more information to avoid confusion.
Once you are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN, you must test within the validity dates specified by the Authorization to Test (ATT) notification. In most cases, the ATT is 90 days. Each ATT is valid for one exam sitting only.
If you need to re-take the NCLEX-RN exam, you must re-register and pay another fee. Authorization to re-take the can take up to four weeks. Once authorized, you will receive a new ATT, and you can schedule your next exam.
What Is the NCLEX Pass Rate?
According to the NCSBN, the NCLEX-RN pass rate for first-time U.S. educated test-takers in 2023 was 88.55%. Results came from a total of 169,040 candidates.
The pass rate for repeat test-takers was 50.21% from 48,888 candidates. The pass rate was 49.94% for first-time internationally educated test-takers from 49,198 candidates.
The computer decides whether you pass or fail the NCLEX-RN exam. According to the NCSBN, the computer uses one of three rules to determine failure or success:
95% Confidence Interval Rule
Maximum-Length Exam Rule
You will not achieve a passing score if you run out of time. This means the computer could not decide whether you have passed or failed with 95% certainty.
You will not receive a percentage score either. Instead, the score you receive on your exam is called a “logit.”
A logit is a unit of measurement that compares the differences between the skills of the test-taker and the difficulty of the questions being answered.
The more challenging the questions you get, the higher the logit score. The NCLEX uses a base logit score of 0.00.
Students often worry about their logit score when the NCLEX shuts off at 85 questions. Most are convinced they have failed. When the NCLEX-RN stops at 85 questions it means two things: you have done a great job or a not-so-great job.
In most cases, it’s unlikely you have failed. So, yes, an NCLEX pass rate with 85 questions is possible. Regardless of your school’s pass rate, the ability to prepare and pass the NCLEX-RN exam is in your hands.
If you aim to pass on the first try, you need a solid study plan that combines multiple study strategies. They include taking NCLEX practice questions, learning the testing format, and utilizing study guides.
What Does the NCLEX Passing Score Mean?
The ultimate goal of every nursing student is to graduate, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and receive their nursing license. Your NCLEX-RN passing score means you have demonstrated the ability to practice nursing care as a registered nurse safely.
While your individual state Board of Nursing handles the test, a passing score is nationally recognized. This means you are eligible to apply for licensure in any state you wish to work in.
Why Passing the NCLEX-RN Is Important for Your Career
Passing the NCLEX-RN is important because, without a nursing license, you can’t practice as a registered nurse.
Your score on the exam is the final hurdle that will determine whether you are ready to acquire your licensure as a registered nurse.
If you failed the NCLEX the first time, it’s okay. Failure is normal, and it’s inevitable for everyone at some point in life. You can learn from it and take your renewed determination into the re-take.
When it’s time to re-sit the exam, prepare early and prepare hard. Utilize test prep materials and find NCLEX-RN strategies that work.
How Can I Prepare for the NCLEX-RN Exam?
Sitting for the NCLEX-RN exam is an important step for nursing graduates to become licensed and practice in their state of choice.
The best way to do this is by preparing for the test. Thorough preparation promotes familiarity with the test content, boosts confidence, and reduces test-taking anxiety.
Here are some of the best exam prep strategies to put you in a good position to pass the NCLEX-RN.
Understand the NCLEX-RN Format
The NCLEX-RN uses the CAT format, a computer-based assessment. It is a testing format based on your answers to the questions. In other words, the test tailors to your skill level and is unique to each test-taker.
If you’re unfamiliar with the CAT format, it can seem intimidating. Taking practice tests is one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the testing format.
Avoid being surprised when it’s time to sit the actual test.
Take NCLEX-RN Practice Tests
Practice tests make perfect exam prep. Completing a practice test will help you analyze your strengths and weaknesses. It will also help you with your time management skills.
It’s good to undertake a mock test at least once under testing conditions. This way, you find out how well you manage your time and whether you need to increase your pace.
You should aim to complete three practice tests: one at the beginning, the middle, and the end. That way, you can watch your progress and identify areas you need to work on.
Find Ways to Manage Exam Anxiety
Test anxiety is real. No matter how hard you study beforehand, your mind can still go blank when it’s time to take the actual exam. Thankfully, there are ways to manage exam anxiety.
Here are some of our top tips for managing anxiety before and during your exam:
Get a good night’s sleep
Arrive at your exam early
Have a positive attitude
Watch the clock
Focus on calm breathing
Meditation and yoga are also helpful strategies to help with test anxiety. Mindfulness practice can improve concentration and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Make a Study Plan
Before you jump into your study, have you thought about creating a study plan? Developing a study plan will help you set out learning targets and determine how much time should be devoted to each subject.
A good study plan will be individualized, customizable, simple, and informed. For the perfect study plan:
Keep your academic goal in front of your mind
Be consistent and follow your schedule
Place it where you can see it
Don’t overload yourself
Tick off your goals
Review as many times as you see fit
As you create your plan, prioritize your commitments and deadlines. For example, if you know you struggle with a specific topic, you may need to dedicate more time to it.
Make sure to incorporate leisure activities and recreation into your study plan. It’s important to let your brain rest and regenerate for your next study session.
Use Alternative Study Methods
While practice tests are great, it’s also important to include alternative study methods in your exam prep.
Flashcards are a valuable tool to learn and revise terms and definitions for the NCLEX-RN exam. That’s because they help you engage in an active recall, which involves retrieving information from memory.
It is an efficient way of adding information to your long-term memory so that you can draw upon it during your exam.
Union Prep Test’s free flashcards for the NCLEX-RN exam can help you be better prepared for test day.
Eat a Nutritious Breakfast
Professional athletes eat a balanced meal before a game, so why shouldn’t you?
Eating protein-rich foods before and during your exam can lead to greater mental alertness and play an important role in brain function and memory. Protein-rich foods to add to your diet include:
On the morning of your exam, ensure you eat a hearty breakfast. You might choose to eat yogurt and fruit, whole-grain cereal with milk, eggs on toast, or a bowl of peanut butter oatmeal.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Despite what you may think, studying all night is counterproductive to exam success.
Getting enough sleep will help you get better grades, improve your memory function, and help your ability to maintain concentration.
To ensure you perform at your best, try to get at least eight hours of sleep the night before and in the weeks leading to your exam.
Utilize Study Guides
Unless you have a crystal ball, there’s no telling what will be on the NCLEX-RN exam. That’s where a study guide comes in handy.
A study guide is a condensed version of all the important information you need to know ahead of your exam. It highlights important concepts to help you identify your areas of strength and areas you need to work on.
It’s easy to utilize test prep resources when they’re free. Union Test Prep’s free study guides for the NCLEX-RN exam will give you a breakdown of the concepts covered on the test.
Practice the NCLEX-RN Exam for Free
The NCLEX pass rate for first-time U.S. educated test-takers in 2023 was 88.55%.
But don’t fall into the trap of relying on these numbers for your exam success. While they’re positive numbers, remember that your ability to pass the NCLEX is in your hands.
You’ve studied hard in nursing school, and it’s time to demonstrate your knowledge and prove you are ready to become a licensed nurse.
With enough preparation, you can give yourself the best chance of passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Union Test Prep’s free practice tests, study guides, and flashcards can help you do just that.
Practice the NCLEX-RN exam for free today!
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