COVID-19’s Impact on the NCLEX: What to Expect

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The pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of our lives in the past several months, and the NCLEX is no exception. The NCBSN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing) has worked hard to implement changes which will shorten the amount of time you’ll spend inside the testing center while ensuring that the reliability of the test stays the same. To help you focus on studying instead of what might have changed, here’s a quick overview of the COVID-19-related updates to the test.

Editorial Note: Following the publishing of this article, NCSBN revised their COVID-impact plan. The modifications stated in this article are in effect until 9/30/20. Please visit the NCSBN website if you are testing on or after this date. 

  • The NCLEX is a little shorter now: You’ll now have to answer a minimum of 60 questions (instead of 75), a maximum of 130 questions (instead of over 200), and will be given a maximum of 4 hours to take the test (down from 6 for RN or 5 for PN).
  • Pretest and Next Generation NCLEX Special Research questions have been removed: Removing these sections won’t affect your ability to pass, but it will allow you to finish the test faster.
  • Pass rates have remained the same: Although the exam may be shorter, NCSBN worked hard to ensure that the NCLEX measured the same – meaning it is not easier or harder. How? Thanks to computerized adaptive testing (CAT), or the ability to adjust the exam based on a student’s answers, student pass rates are measuring consistent with pass rates prior to the modifications. That means your nursing school friend who took the NCLEX prior to COVID-19’s impact on testing may have taken a longer exam, but it was just as difficult as the shortened version that nursing school graduates are taking today.

Want to know more about what to expect with the NCLEX? Here’s a full NCLEX tool kit to help you prepare.

  • You’ll be wearing a mask while you’re testing: As a nursing student, you’ve probably gotten used to wearing masks during clinical rotations. If not, try wearing a mask while you’re putting in some study hours to get ready for the NCLEX – that way, your mask won’t be a distraction while you’re testing.
  • Schedule your test as soon as you’re able: Demand to take the NCLEX has been high since test centers began to reopen after lockdown. Testing centers have been filled to capacity and offering extended hours. Testing times book quickly, so get yours as soon as possible!
  • Focus on online test prep: Because social distancing is still going strong, test preparation has largely moved online. ATI Live Review, for example, now works through a fully virtual model. These online sessions still offer test-taking strategies, Q&A practice, critical thinking exercises and everything else available to help nursing students with their NCLEX review.

Do your prep online and prepare to spend less time taking the actual test. Fortunately, the content of the NCLEX hasn’t changed, so you won’t be facing any surprise questions. It’s still the final test of your nursing education. Keep up that studying, and you’ll soon be enjoying your new career as a nurse!

Looking for online NCLEX study resources? Look no further!

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