Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT)
The NCLEX uses CAT to administer the exam. CAT is a method that merges computer technology with modern measurement theory to increase the efficiency of the exam process.
CAT is used for the NCLEX because it:
- Reduces the number of "easy" items that high-ability candidates receive; "easy" items tell little about a high performing candidate's ability
- Reduces the number of "difficult" items low-ability candidates receive; candidates tend to guess on items that are too difficult which can skew results
- Reduces item exposure and subsequent security risks
- Improves precision of measurement of the NCLEX candidate's ability related to nursing and
- Provides a valid and reliable measurement of nursing competence
How Does CAT Work?
- Every time you answer an item, the computer re-estimates your ability based on all the previous answers and the difficulty of those items.
- The computer then selects the next item that you should have a 50% chance of answering correctly.
- This way, the next item should not be too easy or too hard
- The computer's goal is to get as much information as possible about your true ability level
- You should find each item challenging as each item is targeted to your ability
- With each item answered, the computer's estimate of your ability becomes more precise.
Item Selection Process Overview Video
How the NCLEX Works FAQs
- Candidate ability - The level of entry-level nursing knowledge, skills and abilities that the candidate has.
- Ability estimate - The level of entry-level nursing knowledge, skills and abilities that the computer has determined that the candidate has.
- Passing standard - A cut point along an ability range that marks the minimum ability level requirement. For the NCLEX, it is the minimum ability required to safely and effectively practice nursing at the entry-level. Learn more about the passing standard here.
- Logit - A unit of measurement to report relative differences between candidate ability estimates and item difficulties.