HealthMarch 19, 2017

NCLEX pass rates are down; Here's how you can help students improve

NCLEX pass rates are a critical concern to nursing programs,not merely because the quality of the nurse instructional program at a particular institution will undoubtedly be judged in part by the pass rates of this standardized exam. But also at stake is the number of nursing students who are ready for entry-level nursing practice at a time when there is a shortage of nurses.

The number of nursing students successfully passing this National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) dropped significantly since 2012—from more than 90% to just over 85% for the NCLEX pass rate in 2016. That may sound great, but that figure conceals how many of those test-takers who barely passed and aren’t prepared for practice. They’re now in the job market and their unpreparedness will undoubtedly reflect badly on their alma maters.

How can nurse educators and nurse instructional institutions help boost NCLEX pass rates and get more highly-prepared nurses into the flow of clinical practice?

Here’s how:

  1. Know the purposeful design of the test itself
  2. Adapt instruction to match the test expectations
  3. Secure time and effort-saving resources

Know the purposeful design of the NCLEX

To understand some of the reasons why the NCLEX pass rates have been decreasing, we need to take a look at how the test is designed and why.

Many nursing students expect the NCLEX to mirror their tests in nursing school, and that couldn’t be further from the truth in most cases. Unlike nursing school exams, which historically have tested only for content knowledge, the NCLEX exam tests the ability to apply and analyze situations using the nursing knowledge gained in school. NCLEX exam candidate will be tested on critical thinking skills, and test questions will require the candidate to make the kind of nursing judgments that will be faced in the real world of clinical practice.

The computer-based NCLEX exam is a comprehensive, adaptive test that’s designed to identify whether or not the NCLEX test candidate is able to safely provide basic nursing care. While students will have to know the content, this NCLEX exam also tests critical thinking skills, the ability to apply the knowledge learned and make competent nursing decisions. Depending on how the candidate is performing on the test, the NCLEX test questions will get harder as the test progresses.

Unlike most other certification qualifying tests, the NCLEX test requires everyone to answer a minimum of 75 questions to a maximum of 265 questions on the NCLEX-RN. NCLEX-PN test includes only about 205 questions maximum. Enough questions will be given to individual test takers to determine their ability. Additionally, the NCLEX test includes 15 experimental questions; these are being tested by exam administrators to possibly use on future exams.

NCLEX-RN test takers are given a maximum of 6 hours to complete the exam, meaning if required to answer all 265 questions, the test taker will only have an average of 1 minute and 21 seconds to complete each question. NCLEX-PN test takers have five hours to complete the exam. Many nursing students make the mistake of preparing only for the minimum 75 questions. In reality, the NCLEX test ends only when:

  • The candidate has demonstrated minimum competency and answered the minimum number of questions OR
  • The candidate has demonstrated a lack of minimum competency and answered the minimum number of questions OR
  • The candidate has answered the maximum number of questions OR
  • The candidate has used the maximum time allowed

Adapt instruction to match the test expectations

Understanding the type of skills required from nursing students to pass the NCLEX exam should drive a rigorous revision of nursing programs not matching up with the level of depth in the exam.

A nursing program that not only teaches content but also focusing on the critical thinking skills necessary to put that content into practical clinical use is necessary. The program should also be adaptive to each learner. Each nursing student should be appropriately challenged and supported at the level of individual need.

The program should include NCLEX practice exams that mirror the real test, where students can apply critical thinking skills and be exposed to real-life clinical practice scenarios.

In creating a nurse instructional program that matches up with the requirements for passing the NCLEX exam as well as effective test prep, nurse educators benefit greatly from partnering together with a third-party resource provider like Wolters Kluwer. Wolters Kluwer has proven results; NCLEX pass rate of students using Lippincott PassPoint to prepare are 93.70%—more than 7% higher than national averages.

Lippincott PassPoint reviews

Wolters Kluwer provides a complete curriculum solution for NCLEX test preparation. Specifically, Lippincott PassPoint provides:

  • Formative Assessment – higher insight into student learning and performance than summative testing provides
  • Adaptive Quizzing – personalized learning to guide progress
  • Simulated Adaptive Exams – unlimited opportunity to practice in an authentic environment
  • Remediation to Evidence-Based Content – trusted content when and where students need more help
  • Real-time Reporting – insight into student and class performance

PassPoint is the only solution available that provides students the opportunity to take practice quizzes and to simulate the comprehensive NCLEX—both experiences are adaptive, just like the NCLEX. And it gives you real-time insight into student performance, so you can identify at-risk students much earlier in the process.

The combined NCLEX exam findings demonstrate that all of the schools that used Lippincott PassPoint achieved strong outcomes after student engagement with the product. Some schools saw 100% NCLEX pass rates. Other programs saw their pass rates improve by more than 15 percentage points.

PassPoint’s library of 12,000 test questions adapts to the student’s understanding of client needs posed by the real NCLEX test. Powered by PrepU adaptive technology, PassPoint will monitor students" current learning level over time and—based on this information—tailor quizzes to help each student advance to the next level at the right pace for them.

You can combine PassPoint with other Wolters Kluwer NCLEX test prep tools to increase NCLEX pass rates. For example, by adapting Lippincott CoursePoint+ throughout your nursing program, you ensure your students get consistent, formative assessment throughout their curriculum, and practice with NCLEX-style questions and computer adaptive testing. Your students will receive individualized learning, personalized feedback, and will improve their learning, retention, and NCLEX test readiness every step of the way.

Educators call it formative assessment. We call it preparing your students for success. So will it pass the NCLEX for your students? No. Will it give them every tool they need to walk into that room with confidence and rock that NCLEX test? Yes.

Ensure nursing students get the evidence-based help they need while also gaining confidence through authentic NCLEX test practice by incorporating Lippincott PassPoint into your curriculum.

And don"t forget to have your students sign up for our free NCLEX-RN Question of the Day! No more flashcards needed!

Need more proof that PassPoint can help prepare your nursing students for the NCLEX? Download our free whitepaper on student use of PassPoint and NCLEX-RN outcomes.

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