What to Know About the Next Generation NCLEX

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What is the NCLEX exam and how is the NCLEX changing? The old NCLEX has been remodeled and it’s now the Next Generation NCLEX. This national licensure exam for aspiring nurses emphasizes testing candidates’ decision-making abilities and clinical judgment. It features new types of questions.

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Are you considering switching careers, returning to school and becoming a registered nurse (RN)? Nursing can be a highly meaningful career, as nurses help people navigate some of the most difficult times in their lives. If you are driven to make it your life’s work to care for others, you’ll feel at home at the University of St. Thomas (UST).

What’s more, the University of St. Thomas Houston’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program will enable you to earn your nursing degree in as few as 12 months if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another area. After completing the ABSN program at UST, your next step toward becoming an RN will be passing the Next Generation NCLEX-RN exam. What is the NCLEX exam, and how is the NCLEX changing? Get the answers below, along with helpful tips on how to pass the NCLEX.

What Is the NCLEX Exam?

The National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) is the exam that all aspiring nurses must pass to obtain a nursing license. It’s a national licensure exam that applies to aspiring nurses nationwide. There are two main versions of the exam. The NCLEX-PN is the exam for aspiring licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and the NCLEX-RN is for future RNs.

The NCLEX has long been a rigorous exam that challenges even well-prepared nursing students. That’s why it’s essential to begin preparing for it well in advance. It’s also helpful to choose a nursing program that offers extensive student support resources. Students in UST’s ABSN program work with academic success coaches for individualized advising and support. This personalized attention can help you excel in your studies.

Why Has the NCLEX Changed?

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In April 2023, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) announced the official launch of its Next Generation NCLEX (Next Gen NCLEX or NGN). The new iteration of the NCLEX features considerable changes compared to the older version. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to those in the healthcare industry. The NCLEX is updated regularly to better reflect the ever-changing needs of the healthcare landscape. The NCSBN routinely examines the nursing industry to determine what knowledge and skills nurses need to best serve their patients, updating the exam accordingly. The NCLEX Next Generation is simply the next iteration of the exam.

How Is the NCLEX Changing?

If you’re a nursing student or are planning to apply to UST’s ABSN program, you must know how the Next Generation NCLEX differs to prepare accordingly. Students studying at UST can meet with their academic success coaches to discuss the changes to the exam and effective preparation methods. Below, you’ll get the answer to the question, “How is the NCLEX changing?”

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Want to learn more about the student resources at UST? Check out seven key resources here!

Here’s What’s Changing on the Next Generation NCLEX

The Next Gen NCLEX emphasizes candidates’ decision-making abilities and clinical judgment. These might seem to be intangible, difficult-to-measure concepts, but for a nurse, they are crucial for preserving patient health and safety and reducing medical errors. A nurse’s clinical judgment comprises observing and assessing patient cues, identifying and prioritizing concerns and implementing the most appropriate (evidence-based) solutions.

To ensure that candidates are only granted a nursing license if they have sound clinical judgment, the Next Gen NCLEX is changing by implementing new types of questions. These include the following:

  • Extended multiple choice – You won’t be limited to choosing just one correct answer in an extended multiple-choice question. Instead, you’ll be asked to select additional answers if appropriate.
  • Extended drag-and-drop – The old NCLEX had ordered response questions. The new extended drag-and-drop items are similar, except you do not need to use every option in your answer. To answer these types of questions, you’ll drag and drop your selected response or responses from one column to another.
  • Drop-down menus – After reviewing the item, you’ll select the correct answer from a drop-down menu.
  • Cloze items – Cloze items require you to review a narrative case study and provide up to six correct responses.
  • Matrix grid items – You’ll be presented with a clinical scenario and information about the patient, and then you’ll choose the correct findings from a matrix grid of options.

In addition, the total number of questions is changing. Candidates may be asked a minimum of 70 questions and a maximum of 135. The Next Gen NCLEX will also have a new scoring system. The exam uses three scoring models for different types of questions, as follows:

  • 0/1 scoring – You’ll earn one point for a correct answer and zero for an incorrect answer.
  • +/- scoring – You’ll get one point for a correct answer, and you’ll have a point subtracted for an incorrect answer. If you get a negative total score for these question types, they will receive zero points instead of negative points.
  • Rationale scoring – You’ll earn points when both responses in a pair are correct. These question types imply a cause/effect relationship.
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You can optimize your study time in nursing school by following these top five tips!

Here’s What’s Not Changing on the NCLEX Next Generation

Although there is no question that the Next Gen NCLEX is a significant overhaul of the earlier iteration, a few things are staying the same. For example, the total time allowed will remain the same. You’ll have a maximum of five hours (including breaks) to complete the NGN.

Similarly, the delivery method will be the same as the old NCLEX. Like the earlier version, the Next Generation NCLEX is administered via computerized adaptive testing (CAT). CAT is unlike standard testing methods in that your answer to the current question will determine your next question. If you answer Question One correctly, for example, Question Two will be a little more difficult. If you answer Question Two incorrectly, then Question Three will be a little easier. You’ll continue in this fashion until the computer program completes its assessment of your competency level.

There is no universal number of questions that all NCLEX test takers must answer. The computer will give you a passing grade once it has assessed that you are above or below the competency standard.

How to Pass the NCLEX

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Passing the Next Generation NCLEX requires significant preparation time, as did the old iteration of the exam. You’ll need in-depth nursing knowledge, acute clinical judgment and critical thinking skills. These tips can help you prepare.

  • Begin studying for the exam soon after starting your nursing degree program.
  • Set aside a little time each day for NCLEX prep instead of cramming in marathon study sessions on the weekends.
  • Sign up for a “question of the day” app or e-newsletter.
  • Take a few practice exams to get accustomed to the exam format and question types.
  • Find a dedicated study partner and practice by asking each other questions and working through them together.
  • When reviewing a practice test, don’t simply scan the incorrect responses. Reflect on why you got the answer wrong and determine what you should have done differently.

With UST's ABSN program, you’ll receive extensive support from your academic success coach throughout the program and while you prepare to take the NGN. Furthermore, our admissions advisors are here to help you meet the admissions requirements and prepare your application. Contact us today and take the first step toward a meaningful nursing career!