polar bear mnemonic

How is the NCLEX Exam scored? 

The Next Gen NCLEX exam issued by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) determines if it is safe for a candidate to begin practicing as an entry-level nurse. In existence since 1982, the exam has undergone many changes. The most recent change occurred in 2023, with a new version of the exam being introduced: The Next Generation NCLEX (NGN).

What You Need to Know About the NCLEX

In April 2023, the Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) was launched. The NGN has been in the works to measure a nurse’s clinical judgment skills. The exam implements real-world case studies since nurses are faced with complex decisions and must implement their critical thinking skills every day. 

The NCLEX now features new question types (item types), scoring models, and the clinical judgment measurement model (NCJMM).

The new item types are as follows:

  • Multiple choice
  • Multiple response: Select all that apply.
  • Multiple Response Choose: Select a certain number of options.
  • Bow tie: Drag and drop responses shaped in bow tie figure.
  • Matrix multiple response: Each option’s column has selectable boxes. You can select multiple boxes, but you must select a minimum of one box per column (not a row).
  • Matrix multiple response: Select one option per row.
  • Drop-down row: Complete a sentence or multiple sentences from a list of drop-down options.
  • Multiple response grouping: Each row must have one response selected. You can choose multiple responses.
  • Drop-down table: Select from a list of drop-down options for each row.
  • Highlight text: Hover over a portion of text and select highlighted options (not all text will be able to be highlighted).
  • Fill in the blank: Calculate and type your answer.

To view these item types in action, try the NCLEX’s candidate tutorial!

How the NCLEX is Scored and What to Expect for the NGN

The NCLEX is still a pass-or-fail exam. It uses computer adaptive testing (CAT) questions, which means the questions you see adapt based on your previous responses. There is a minimum of 75 and a maximum of 145 questions on the exam.

NCLEX scoring has changed from dichotomous to polytomous scoring for certain item types. Instead of simply all correct or all incorrect answers, candidates can get points for a partially correct answer. However, ‘Multiple response: Select all that apply’ questions can only be all correct or all incorrect. For an in-depth explanation of NGN scoring and how it applies to certain item types, read this NGN News resource.

You should expect the existing three pass or fail rules to remain the same:

  • 95% rule: The exam will stop when the computer has 95% confidence you have passed or failed the exam.
  • Maximum-length rule: If you’re too close to the passing standard, the exam will continue until the maximum number of questions is reached.
  • Maximum-time rule: If you run out of time during the exam and have answered the minimum number of questions, your score is given based on all responses given.

What is an NCLEX Passing Score and the Pass Rate?

The NCLEX passing score (aka standard) is currently 0.00 logits for the NCLEX-RN and -0.18 logits for the NCLEX-PN. This standard is effective through March 31, 2026. Passing standards and test plans for the NCLEX are evaluated every three years.

According to the NCSBN, the pass rate in 2022 was an average of 79.9% for first-time, U.S-educated candidates.

5 Ways to Prepare For Your NCLEX Exam

Before you get exam day jitters, there are measures you can take to make sure you’re as prepared as possible. If you’re in nursing school, you’ve been preparing for the NCLEX these last few years! However, using the tips below can help you prepare adequately.

1. Understand the format

The best way to prepare is to know what you’re getting yourself into. Luckily, we’ve covered some of the pertinent information you need to understand the NGN above. For more information, visit the NCLEX website. They have important resources and information like an exam preview, sample questions, and other testing requirements for the NCLEX.  

2. Make a plan

Timing is everything. You need to draft an adequate NCLEX study plan that spans at least 4 weeks. Most nursing students take the NCLEX three months after graduation to give themself enough time to prepare and have everything they learned in nursing school fresh in their minds.

3. Use available resources 

The NCLEX covers almost everything you’ve learned in nursing school. If you have useful lecture notes, books, slides, or other materials then now’s the perfect time to utilize them. You can use these to make flashcards for topics or just for general review.

4. Sign up for a study tool

 When in doubt, sign up for an NCLEX study tool! Picmonic is a perfect tool for nursing students who want to prepare for the NCLEX effectively. With visual learning mnemonics, unlimited quizzing, an NCLEX workbook, recorded webinars, and tons more useful features and resources, Picmonic guarantees you’ll pass on your first try.

5. Practice

With the NGN, you need to understand case studies and real-world scenarios. You can practice your clinical judgment with quizzes and practice exams, but some candidates try mind mapping, dialogue, and other approaches to master this clinical judgment.

How to Pass the NGN Exam

I know what you’re thinking, completing the NGN is a huge milestone and you’d rather pass it sooner rather than later. However, while you put your NCLEX preparations in place, remember you have a total of eight attempts in the calendar year. That’s why you should follow these five steps to help you pass on your first try. 

1. Prepare adequately

If you go into the exam without enough preparation, you won’t feel confident. Use the tips above to prepare and give yourself the best chance of passing—otherwise, you may have to plan on taking the exam again.

2. Review, review, review

With your rigorous study plan, reviewing nursing information is of utmost importance. With Picmonic’s extensive visual mnemonic library, you can quickly review any topic you need additional study time on, quiz yourself, and create your own study playlist.

3. Use your test-taking strategies

Implement some test-taking strategies in your routine. This includes time management, using keywords to make your choice, finding clues in the answers, and choosing the safest answer. Practicing NCLEX-style questions will make your exam day a breeze.

4. Get comfortable in your testing environment

The NCLEX is a long exam. Familiarize yourself with your testing center’s location and NCLEX test-taking rules well in advance and start imagining yourself in that testing environment at home. Use practice exams or Qbanks to build your stamina, measure your performance, and prepare to pass!

5. Avoid exam-day mistakes

Don’t cram, get plenty of sleep, and do NOT forget your ID! Avoid the following 7 exam day mistakes to calm your nerves and increase your chance of passing.

No matter when you’re taking the exam you’re bound to pass! Just make sure you use the right tips and tools to crush the NCLEX. You got this, and good luck. 


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