How Should I Start Studying For The NCLEX?

There are two essential ways of preparing for the NCLEX, and you should be in relatively good shape if you take both these steps.

NCLEX Study Tip:

Step One is to familiarize yourself with the test: how it is conducted, the type of questions asked, and how it is scored.

NCLEX Study Tip:

Step Two is to review the subject matter being tested and to refresh your nursing knowledge and understanding.

The NCLEX is a Computerized Adaptive Test

The computerized adaptive test (CAT) is an individualized way of testing a person that uses the power of the computer to adapt the testing in multiple ways. It departs from the usual way of testing where all test takers take the same form of the test with identical items, usually under a time limit. With the CAT, the test taker sits at a computer and the items are presented depending on how the person answered previous questions. The whole intent is to establish the true level of competence of the applicant.

Therefore, if the test taker is answering most of the questions correctly, regardless of difficulty level and topic area of questions, the true level of competence is established quickly in a relatively short time. If most of the questions are answered wrong, the test is also concluded in a short time with the person not passing. For a test taker that is wavering at the pass-no pass line, testing can continue up to six hours for the RN and five hours for the PN to establish level of competence.

The test taker is first given a basic set of 75 questions for the RN and 85 questions for the PN. Passing or failing can be determined from this set. If the result here is not decisive, the person then continues testing up to 265 questions for the RN and 205 questions for the PN, until the computer establishes level of competence and stops the testing.

This video explains how the NCLEX uses CAT to determine passing and failing levels on the test. Another video explains how the computer adapts testing during the NCLEX to cover the four levels of learning of knowledge, comprehension, application and analysis and to determine the competence level of the test taker. Note that the application and analysis items are the ones that fall in the acceptable competence level range.

There are numerous sample tests with NCLEX type items offered through different websites, some free and many at cost. Trying these sample test items will increase your comfort level with these kinds of questions and also alert you to the reasoning level required in some of the more difficult questions. Here is a website where you can find free NCLEX-RN sample tests, and another with NCLEX-PN type questions .

NCLEX Subject Matter Review

The four content areas of both the PN and RN examinations are based on client needs: Safe, Effective Care Environment, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Psychosocial Integrity and Physiologic Integrity.

You can take a look at the subject matter content of the NCLEX, here . For the RN test, a detailed explanation of the content and the proportion of items covering each content area are given. The largest proportion of items are in the category of Physiologic Integrity, covering the medical and surgical care of patients of all ages. The questions will go beyond simple knowledge and require the person to interpret, analyze and make decisions given complex information about a medical situation. There may be more than one correct answer and the test taker must use discrimination to make the best choice.

For a comprehensive review of the entire testing procedure and the content of the tests, study the 2016 NCLEX® Examination Candidate Bulletin published by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). All test applicants should familiarize themselves with the information in this bulletin.

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