What to Expect in the Next Generation NCLEX Exam

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The Next Generation NCLEX exam differs from the previous iteration of the test in key areas like clinical judgment skills and the scoring system, among others. Learn more about the changes and see how you can still succeed as a Mercer ABSN track student.

students sitting at desks studying

Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree equips you with the knowledge, skills, and techniques necessary for the nursing profession, and is part of the criteria for becoming a nurse.

Mercer University’s Second Degree Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing track can help students earn a nursing degree in as few as 12 months, after which they will qualify to seek licensure. The National Council Licensure Examination, also known as the NCLEX or NCLEX-RN, is a certification exam that nursing degree holders must pass before they can become a registered nurse.

In April 2023, the Next Generation NCLEX exam launched. This updated format of the test includes a slightly different conceptual focus and new question formats. The intent of these changes is to better reflect nurses’ daily work and to assess an individual’s clinical judgement and decision-making skills. All of these elements come together to raise the standard of nursing and ensure every candidate who passes the exam is qualified to perform safely and effectively as a newly licensed, entry-level nurse.

What Is the NCLEX Exam?

The NCLEX exam is a standardized test all nursing state regulatory boards in the U.S. use to determine whether a given candidate meets the necessary criteria for a nursing license. The test measures prospective nurses' clinical judgment as they evaluate presented scenarios and engages their aptitude for analysis, problem-solving, and evaluating outcomes.

As a Mercer ABSN student, you will have plenty of practice in absorbing and applying knowledge from a curriculum spanning online-based coursework, in-person skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations at top healthcare facilities across metro Atlanta. ABSN students can also form connections with their fellow cohort members, studying and swapping NCLEX tips together before they take the exam.

But after presenting the test in the same format for so many students over the years, why did the Next Gen NCLEX exam change in April 2023, and what new elements should students be aware of?

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Why the NCLEX Exam is Changing

While the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) updates the exam every few years to stay up-to-date with practice changes, why has the format of the exam changed so significantly?

Nurses are essential to the healthcare system, coordinate patient care with other medical team members, and specialize across a wide array of roles and practice areas. The new NCLEX format is designed to refine and improve the exam, with a different emphasis and question format to better assess factors deemed essential to daily nursing practice.

What is New in the Next Generation NCLEX Exam?

If you’re wondering how to pass the NCLEX, preparing early and creating a study plan can help. Mercer’s ABSN track also prepares students with NCLEX-style exams during the program. Here are a few new things to note when planning ahead.

A Heightened Focus on Clinical Judgment

One of the most prominent changes to the Next Gen NCLEX exam is an overall focus shift, with more of an emphasis placed on clinical judgment throughout. NCSBN research shows direct linkages between clinical judgment and more than 46% of all tasks entry-level nurses perform, while problem-solving and critical thinking were linked to approximately 30% of tasks. The Next Generation NCLEX exam aims to more effectively test the skillsets entry-level nurses will use most on-the-job more effectively.

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Next Gen NCLEX Question Types

Students taking the Next Generation NCLEX exam will encounter a range of updated question types, each meant to test a different type of critical thinking or knowledge. The new range of question types include:

  • Extended Multiple Response
  • Extended Drag and Drop
  • Cloze (Drop down) Items
  • Highlight Text
  • Matrix/Grid
  • Bowtie
  • Trend

Students wondering how to pass the NCLEX exam should familiarize themselves with each of these question formats through practice exams.

Student studying at desk

Unfolding Case Studies

Unfolding case studies challenge prospective nurses to display their clinical judgment skills in an academic context. These Next Gen NCLEX-style exam items provide information from a medical record, with questions asking for analysis of findings, speculation on patient responses, and clinical judgments on the best possible care for a situation.

Partial Credit Scoring

Partial credit scoring is another method that allows for a better, more complete assessment of an individual’s nursing skills and knowledge. Under the previous exam, answers were scored as either entirely correct or entirely incorrect.

Students taking the Next Generation NCLEX can receive partial credit for some answers. A +/- scoring rule allows candidates to earn points by selecting correct options and lose points when selecting something incorrect. These figures combine to determine the final score. However, the new rationales scoring rule on some sections also means that questions containing paired pieces of information must have both options selected correctly to receive a score above 0.

Ready To Take on a Nursing Education With Mercer ABSN?

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If you’re ready to complete a bachelor’s-level nursing education in as few as 12 months and confidently take on the Next Generation NCLEX exam, Mercer University’s ABSN track could be the option for you. With three start dates per year and a comprehensive curriculum, your nursing future awaits.

Contact us today to have an enrollment counselor reach out to you and begin the conversation.