How does NCLEX decide if you pass?

The NCLEX does not give a number grade, you will only receive a pass or a fail. The fewest number of questions you can be asked is 75 and the most questions you will be asked is 265. You can pass or fail answering 75 questions or you could pass or fail answering 265 questions. So exactly how does NCLEX decide if you pass?

Passing Rate

While you are answering the NCLEX questions the computer is playing a game with your answers. A passing rate is set and you need to maintain a score above this rate in order to pass. If you cannot maintain a score at the passing rate then you do not pass. Your answers can bounce above and below this imaginary passing rate until the computer decides if you have mastered the information or if you are going to have to come back and try again.

The faster and more consistently you are able to keep you answers above the pass rate then the fewer question you will have to answer and you will pass. Conversely if you are not answering the questions correctly and are below the pass rate then you will quickly fail the exam.

Computer Adaptive Testing

When you take the NCLEX you take it on a computer that is actively grading your answers as you go along. The first few questions you answer will be on the easier side. If you master them then the computer decides that you can move to the next step and answer more challenging questions. This will continue until the computer determines that you have mastered the material and will turn off. At this point you do not know if you passed or failed but the computer has determined that you are above the passing standard and no longer need to answer any questions.

This is known as computer adaptive testing. It also means that no two NCLEX exams are the same. The computer creates a plan of questions based on your individual ability to answer them either correctly or incorrectly which creates your own personal NCLEX exam. How lucky for you!

How does this style of test taking effect the way that you take the NCLEX?

It means that you should not randomly guess as you are answering questions. Of course you are going to come across questions that you do not know the answer to. It is better to stop and think about what the correct answer is than a random guess. A random guess could set you back under the passing rate but taking time to eliminate incorrect answers will keep you on track and help you maintain your score above the passing rate. Remember the computer is assessing your personal abilities to master the questions. Take the time you need in answering the questions.
NCLEX study guides and programs will teach you how to eliminate questions. Knowing how to correctly eliminate questions is just as important as knowing the material when you take the NCLEX. Remember to study how to answer questions as well as the nursing materials.