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Is 75 questions on NCLEX good?

Taking the NCLEX-RN exam is a critical step for those pursuing a nursing career. The exam is used across the United States and Canada to determine if candidates have the minimum level of competency required to perform safe and effective entry-level nursing care. With such high stakes, it’s only natural that test takers have many questions about what to expect on exam day.

What is the NCLEX-RN?

NCLEX-RN stands for National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. It is a standardized exam that each state board of nursing uses to determine whether or not a candidate is prepared for entry-level nursing practice. The NCLEX-RN is developed and owned by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

The exam currently utilizes computerized adaptive testing. This means that the questions presented to each examinee are tailored based on their demonstrated ability level. The number of questions can range from 75 to 265 total items. The minimum number of questions is 75. The maximum number of questions is 265. Most exams end after 75 to 145 questions.

What is a good NCLEX-RN question count?

Many nursing graduates wonder if ending their NCLEX-RN exam at the minimum of 75 questions is a good sign or bad sign. The short answer is that it can be either. The computerized exam ends when it has determined the test taker’s competence with 95% certainty. For some graduates, the computer only needs 75 questions to determine competency. For others, more questions are required before the 95% confidence level is reached.

So while ending at 75 questions can mean you passed, it does not guarantee a passing result. Scoring above the passing standard can end the exam at any question between 75 and 265. On the flip side, scoring below standard can also result in a 75-question exam. The NCSBN purposefully does not release any details about what results at certain question counts mean. This helps protect the integrity of the adaptive algorithm.

Pass rates by question count

Although individual question count is not decisive, NCLEX-RN pass rate data does show observable trends between outcomes and total number of questions:

Exam Length First Time Pass Rate
75 questions 91.2%
76-84 questions 79.9%
85-94 questions 55.8%
95-104 questions 41.3%
105-114 questions 33.5%
115-124 questions 28.9%
125-134 questions 27.2%
135-144 questions 25.4%
145-154 questions 23.1%
155-264 questions 21.4%
265 questions (max) 19.8%

As shown in the table, exams at the minimum 75 question count have the highest pass rate at 91.2%. From there, the rate of passing declines gradually as question count increases.

Reasons for a 75 question exam

There are a few reasons why competent examinees may end up with just 75 questions on their NCLEX-RN:

You demonstrated clear competence

Some nursing graduates enter the exam extremely well-prepared through rigorous nursing education and high-quality studying. These students consistently select correct answers from the start. The computer recognizes their competence early on and stops the exam after the minimum questions.

You got easier questions

The NCLEX-RN algorithm purposely mixes easy and hard questions. When the exam happens to serve up more straightforward questions, it can reach the pass/fail verdict quicker. However, the questions are randomized for each test taker, so difficulty varies.

You had a streak of correct guesses

Blind guessing can very occasionally lead to a string of right answers, even without solid nursing knowledge. If this aligns well with the exam’s algorithm, it may end after the minimum questions. However, when competence is then demonstrated to be low on the next NCLEX attempt, the exam length will increase.

Reasons for failing at 75 questions

While reaching 75 questions can indicate competence was demonstrated, examinees can also fail at the minimum question count. Reasons this can occur include:

You had critical weaknesses in core content

If your nursing knowledge is lacking in key areas like safety, pharmacology, or fundamentals of care, the NCLEX-RN exam will be able to identify those gaps very quickly. Even just a handful of related questions will reveal inadequate understanding of essential entry-level content.

You were unprepared for new question formats

In addition to multiple choice questions, the NCLEX-RN exam utilizes new formats like multiple response, fill-in-the-blank, hot spots, and ordered response. Practice with these interactive question types is key. Being caught off guard can result in getting questions wrong.

You made too many educated guesses

Blind guessing is never a good test taking strategy on the NCLEX. However, making too many educated guesses based on partial knowledge can also lead exam failure. While some guessing is inevitable, it should be kept to a minimum with thorough content preparation.

How to interpret your 75 question result

A 75 question NCLEX exam is best interpreted based on your own assessment of preparation and performance:

  • If you felt very confident in your real-world nursing knowledge, critical thinking skills, and test taking strategy, ending at 75 questions is a good sign.
  • If the exam seemed overly difficult and you found yourself guessing excessively, a 75 question result may indicate failure.
  • Regardless of your perception, do not assume result until official notification comes from your nursing board.

Strategies to prepare for 75 questions

Since 75 questions is the minimum length possible, smart NCLEX-RN prep centers around being ready for an exam of this shorter duration. Some strategies include:

Mastering core nursing concepts

Build a solid foundation in the essentials like pharmacology, medical-surgical care, mental health, and nursing fundamentals. Do not rely solely on memorization. Seek conceptual understanding.

Practicing critical thinking

The NCLEX emphasizes decision-making and clinical judgement. Develop these skills through question drills, unfolding case studies, and scenarios that test applying nursing knowledge.

Preparing for new question types

Actively practice NCLEX-style questions in the newest formats like multiple response, fill-in-the-blank, hot spots, and ordered response. Learn their special strategies.

Avoiding question patterns

Bounce around topics while studying and limit repeated questions on the same subjects to reduce pattern recognition during exams.

Simulating a 75 question test

Take timed practice exams in sets of 75 questions to experience the actual shorter exam duration. Analyze areas for improvement after each attempt.

What if you fail the 75 question NCLEX?

If you receive an official failure result after 75 questions, the most important thing is to not get discouraged. With a thoughtful analysis of what went wrong and targeted improvements to your study plan, many repeat test takers go on to pass on the next try.

Strategies for how to proceed after a 75 question fail include:

  • Analyzing your performance report from NCSBN to identify weak areas.
  • Seeking guidance from your nursing program or an NCLEX tutor.
  • Filling content gaps through more thorough review materials.
  • Focusing practice on application of concepts over test taking tricks.
  • Working on reducing anxiety and boosting confidence.
  • Waiting the mandatory 45 days before retesting.

While failing in 75 questions can be discouraging, it reveals opportunities for targeted improvement. With commitment to pinpointing and correcting gaps in knowledge, future success on the NCLEX-RN is very achievable.

The takeaway on 75 NCLEX questions

Getting the minimum 75 questions on the NCLEX-RN is not definitively indicative of a pass or fail result. However, 75 questions most often signifies competence was demonstrated. Examinees who are extremely prepared through rigorous nursing education and high-quality studying should expect and hope for the shortest possible exam.

On the flip side, test takers who feel unready, struggle with new question types, or end up guessing frequently should be cautious about assuming a 75 question result means a passing performance. For the best shot at reaching 75 questions, nursing graduates should focus prep on mastering nursing basics, developing critical thinking, and avoiding over-dependence on memorization or patterns.

No matter your initial NCLEX-RN performance, carefully analyze strengths and weaknesses. Dedicated improvement in areas of deficiency can help sharpen nursing knowledge and skills to ultimately pass this challenging licensing exam.