Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT)A Look into the NCLEX Scoring Method
CAT merges computer technology with modern measurement theory to increase the efficiency of the exam process. Benefits of CAT include:
- 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 CAT Works
Every time a candidate answers an item, the computer re-estimates their ability based on all the previous answers and the difficulty of those items. The computer then selects the next item for the candidate that is most optimal based on all of their previous responses. This ensures the next item should not be too easy or too hard and the examination can obtain maximum information about the candidate’s ability from the item. Candidates should find each item challenging as each item is targeted to their ability. With each item answered, the computer's estimate of their ability becomes more precise.
The computer decides whether you passed or failed the NCLEX using one of three rules:
- 95% Confidence Interval Rule: This rule is the most common for NCLEX candidates. The computer will stop administering items when it is 95% certain that the candidate's ability is clearly above or clearly below the passing standard.
- Maximum-Length Exam Rule: Some candidates’ ability levels will be very close to the passing standard. When this is the case, the computer continues to administer items until the maximum number of items is reached. At this point, the computer disregards the 95% confidence interval rule and considers only the final ability estimate based on responses to all items in the exam.
- If the final ability estimate is at or above the passing standard, the candidate passes.
- If the final ability estimate is below the passing standard, the candidate fails.
- Run-out-of-time (R.O.O.T.) Rule: If a candidate runs out of time before reaching the maximum number of items and the computer has not determined with 95% certainty whether the candidate has passed or failed, alternate criteria are used.
- If the candidate has not answered the minimum number of required items, the candidate automatically fails.
- If at least the minimum number of required items were answered, then the final ability estimate will be based on all responses given before the exam time expired. If the score is at or above the passing standard, the candidate will pass; otherwise, the candidate will fail.
Reference the Administration section of the NCLEX Test Plan for additional details.
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.
Logit: A unit of measurement to report relative differences between candidate ability estimates and item difficulties.