What Percentage of Questions Do You Have to Get Right to Pass the NCLEX?

NCLEX was designed to be a more complete testing process.
NCLEX was designed to be a more complete testing process. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

NCLEX testing was designed to help standardize the nursing standards in the United States. NCLEX stands for the National Counsel Licensure Examination. While registered nurses are still licensed by state, the process was designed to help states determine whether a nursing candidate understands the basics of the nursing practice. Unlike some other tests, NCLEX is a pass/fail test based on statistical analysis.

To Pass the Test

While most tests are based on a percentage of correct answers resulting in a grade, the NCLEX exam is not designed as such. In order to properly prepare students, the nursing association decided to base a test on statistical analysis of the test takers skills overall. This means a computer evaluates your answers as you are taking the test and determines what other questions to ask you. This helps to prevent someone from passing just because she understands all the medication questions but does not answer any lab questions correctly. The computer requires that you answer at a certain correct percentage rate in many categories to determine the passing or failing of the test.

Number of Questions

The board chooses to keep the mystery of the program and the testing quiet but most believe as long as you continue to answer above 70 percent of the answers correctly you will be allowed to keep answering questions past the 75 required to make a full test. The fewest questions you will be asked are 75 and the most is 264 questions. Outside the statistical requirements of the program, no one knows exactly what percentage of correct answers you must have to pass; instead the computer determines competence in many areas.

The combination of percentages among several areas decides your pass or fail status. You could pass or fail at 75 questions, 150 questions or 264 questions; it all depends on your overall score and the computer’s algorithm known as Computerized Adaptive Testing or CAT.

Critical Thinking

The computer-designed test allows for you to exercise critical thinking. Unlike days where you could look back over your answers, the computer might ask you the same question multiple times to determine your certainty of an answer. Just because you are asked again does not mean you got the question wrong. The computer also analyzes patterns of concern. If your safety-related answers are not up to par, it might throw more procedure questions at you in order to discover your knowledge in the arena.

Nurses have had varying experiences with the numbers of questions and types of questions asked. The computer works an algorithm based on your initial answers in order to fashion the test to best reflect your overall capabilities when it comes to critical thinking since this is the most important part of nursing and reducing nursing errors.

Studying for NCLEX

Due to the flexible testing method, studying for such a broad range of questions seems daunting. A number of online testing programs are available through various NCLEX study sites so you can practice taking the exam in the format in which it is given. These sites offer a variety of studying tools such a flash cards, reading materials, and practice tests by section. All of these allow you to focus on areas where you feel you are less prepared or in which you question your knowledge base. Check with your instructors or school to find out which testing programs other students have found helpful.

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