RN Licensure Exam Revised

Passing standards have been raised and nursing students are nervous.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) will begin administering a more difficult National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) on April 1, 2010. Graduates of nursing programs become registered nurses (RNs) when they pass the NCLEX. According to NCSBN, the new NCLEX will be more difficult to pass than prior NCLEXs and fewer nursing students are expected to pass the test on their first attempt.

The NCSBN conducts a practice analysis every three years by surveying 12,000 newly licensed RNs about the frequency and importance of performing fifteen nursing care activities. This survey helps determine if the NCLEX accurately assesses the knowledge and skills that are currently expected of nurses when they enter the workforce. In December 2009, the NCSBN decided to raise the NCLEX passing standards because healthcare has become increasingly complex and requires new nurses to have greater knowledge and critical thinking skills.

Since 1989, when the NCSBN decided to review the NCLEX passing standard every three years, the passing standard has increased and has never been reduced. Higher NCLEX standards are consistent with more sophisticated nursing practice, according to the NCSBN.

Nursing students who graduate in May are understandably nervous about the "new" NCLEX. However, they forget that what they've learned in nursing school does in fact prepare them for today's practice and that is what the new NCLEX is testing. The licensing exam is keeping up with the times, not the other way around.