Any time your competency is judged, you should understand the criteria against which it was measured and the process involved that led to an outsider’s determination of your capability. The NCLEX is no different. Here are some points to keep in mind (refer to the national BON website):
There is a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265 questions. Everyone who sits for the NCLEX will have at least 75 questions but may or may not have 265 questions.
Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT)
Every time you answer a question, the computer adjusts the difficulty level of the next question based on your ability. For example, if I answer 3 “easy” questions in a row, the computer will make the 4th question a little harder. If I get the 4th question right, the 5th question will be more difficult than the 4th. If I miss the 5th question, the computer will make the 6th question less difficult. This ensures the test is accurately measuring your ability (i.e., a smart student answering easy questions doesn’t tell you much about how capable he/she really is).
When does it end?
The test will “shut off” when you meet 1 of 3 criteria. First criteria: you reach the maximum number of questions (265). Second criteria: you reach the maximum time limit (6 hours). Third criteria: the computer is 95% certain that you definitely do or definitely do not meet the minimum standard criteria.
You don’t get a grade; it’s pass/fail. However, the CAT technology allows the computer to select test questions that you should have a 50% chance of answering correctly. Theoretically that means the “minimum standard criteria” for passing is above 50%. So, get over half of the test questions right and you will pass.
Doable much? I should say so. Now go kick some NCLEX butt!