Is the NCLEX-RN Exam Hard?


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What’s the opinion of candidates that have passed the NCLEX RN exam? Is it hard? This question would be the first one to pop up when being told to earn your licensing, you need to clear the NCLEX RN exam. I believe you come up with a conclusion when you consider these factors: 

The NCLEX RN exam has a hefty syllabus; the CAT system is an excellent system for good performance scaling; there are case studies within the exam that test your clinical judgment skills; the exam can go on for over five hours.

In this article, I will discuss the points that make the NCLEX RN exam competitive based on official data and what you can do to tackle them. 

How Tough Are the Questions From the NCLEX RN Exam?

It’s a frequent question from candidates. I may have the correct answer for you, but it depends. Let’s see. Exams are competitive! That’s simply their nature. If it was easy, everyone would pass them, and there would be no point or standards.

Last time I checked, the NCLEX RN pass rates hovered around 80 percent. Here is the official report. So every one in five candidates that take the exam don’t successfully pass the exam.    

With these statistics in mind, it’s time to consider why the exam has a 20 percent failure rate. And here are some of the reasons that you should consider when preparing for the exam.

Factors That Make the NCLEX RN Exam Competitive

Based on my conversations with several attendees, here is why they felt stressed when tackling the NCLEX RN exam. 

NCLEX RN Exam syllabus is huge

Now it should be mentioned, you would have no trouble covering the content areas of the exam because you already have formal education in the stream and experience. Yet, remember this exam is the aggregate of all the information that was covered in your nursing education programs.   

Think of it like covering all the topics from multiple semesters when you were in college. There are many things to study, and the stress is intense for many candidates. 

To know more about the content plan and the type of questions you can encounter within the CAT system, check this article and this document from the official website.  

The CAT System calibrates the difficulty based on your performance

It’s interesting to note different academic institutions follow different metrics to maintain strict performance scaling and fairness. There are no grades when it comes to the NCLEX RN exam. You either pass or you do not.  

But that doesn’t mean that all the questions from the CAT system are uniform between candidates. 

Let me explain the deal; you will understand why this makes the exam competitive. All of us indeed have different backgrounds and proficiency! And here is where I believe you can make the mistake of underestimating the NCLEX CAT exam system and not preparing accordingly. 

There were times when I was in the university where I thought I could pass the exams and went in assured; later would be disappointed by the final results.

In the same way, you might believe you have an excellent grasp of the content plan and its concepts, but you must understand every question is monitored to gauge your performance, so the next question is a challenge to answer.  

The CAT system is a dynamic computer model that adapts based on your skill and is trained based on information constructed using careful review of exam data. So the workaround for this adaptive system is minimal.   

Long story short: the exam would not be a breeze through. It’s a guarantee!

Case studies can be hard

Before we get to the main point of the section, go check this article, where I talk about the questions from the NCLEX RN exam. Alright, now you should know that the NCLEX RN exam will have at least 85 questions you must answer. 

And not all of them will be straight MCQs. 18 questions will be based on the three case studies. Each case study will have six questions, and these cover all the areas of the syllabus.  

It’s to check your clinical judgment and evaluation skills based on your ability to recognize crucial medical cues and articulate meaningful solutions that fit the case.     

If all of this sounds a bit complicated, the truth is, it can be even if you go in prepared. 

The NCLEX RN exam can go on for five hours

Five hours is the official time limit for the exam. Although I believe most attendees will complete the exam around the 3-hour mark. I assume this because the NCLEX board says each question will take one to two minutes to complete, but there is always a possibility of sitting for a full five hours. 

These sitting hours are due to how the NCLEX board assesses your exam paper. Find out more in this article. It’s an unlikely case, but there is a probability of you attending all the 150 questions of the exam consuming the full-time limit of the exam.

Which, in my personal opinion, would be too uncomfortable. I have never taken exams for over five hours; the maximum I can concentrate on a single sitting for exams would be around two to three. Do you agree?

It’s easy to lose your focus and start making mistakes if you’re feeling exhausted. And these mistakes can be costly and lead to frustration. The worst part is there is no guarantee you will pass even if you sit through for five hours and attend all the 150 questions of the exam.  

Wrapping Up

Passing exams that have a significant impact on the industry will be challenging. The NCLEX RN is challenging to take because of its syllabus that you need to cover, performance scaling, case studies, and the time taken to complete the exam. 

But you can ace it with a proper study plan. If you’re preparing for the exam, why not try our free simulated tests to gauge your performance? 

I’m also inviting you to check out our comprehensive study guide, which has a pass rate of over 97 percent and uses simulated questions as they appear on the exam to help you ace the topics.