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What Is a Computer Adaptive Test and How Does It Relate to the NCLEX?

Are you going to take the NCLEX exam? If so, you'll want to know how a computer adaptive test works before you sit the exam.

The NCLEX exam was one of the first to be administered as a computer adaptive test. In 1994, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing made history by launching a CAT version of its licensing exam (NCLEX/CAT).

Computer adaptive tests have a variety of benefits, both for candidates and for administrators. However, it can be very helpful to know how they work before you take one.

If you're feeling unprepared for the NCLEX CAT, keep reading to find out what is a computer adaptive test, and how it relates to the NCLEX.

What Is a Computer Adaptive Test?

A computer adaptive test (CAT) is a test that adapts itself to your ability in real-time.

Computer adaptive tests, also known as personalized assessments, operate from a bank of questions. After each question, the program evaluates your answer. It then selects the next question based on your real-time performance.

The first question is usually an easy one. If you answer correctly, the program will select a slightly more challenging question for you. If you aren't able to answer it correctly, it will select an easier question.

The aim of computer adaptive tests is to accurately gauge the ability level of candidates. By analyzing what difficulty of questions you can consistently answer correctly, the system can establish your overall level of proficiency.

If the CAT passing grade baseline has been passed after a minimum number of questions, the system will register that you are competent and pass you.

If you do not achieve the CAT passing grade, the system will continue to provide you with questions until either:

  • You reach the CAT passing grade
  • You complete the maximum amount questions
  • You run out of time

After this, the program will assess whether you have demonstrated enough proficiency to pass.

The Benefits of a Computer Adaptive Test Over a Traditional Test

The thought of taking a completely foreign type of test that is run by a program can seem daunting. However, if you're going to take the NCLEX CAT, you'll be happy to know that computer adaptive tests have many benefits.

For one, CAT techniques give a more accurate picture of the ability levels of candidates. According to research, computer adaptive testing is far more precise.

Computer adaptive tests are also more engaging than traditional tests. Because you're fed questions based on your ability, this means that each question should be within your range.

This prevents candidates from becoming bored or overwhelmed.

Lastly, computer-adaptive tests are also far easier to administer than traditional tests. Before the NCLEX became a computer adaptive test, it was only administered twice a year.

Now, you can write your NCLEX CAT at any point in the year. There also isn't a limit on how often you can retake the test. You are only limited to no more than one sitting within a 45 day period, which means the maximum amount of rewrites you can in a year is 8.

What It's Like to Site a Computer Adaptive Test?

If you're going to be sitting the NCLEX CAT, then you're probably curious to know what it's like to take a computer adaptive exam.

Research on CAT versus traditional tests has revealed that CAT exams might not feel all that different for candidates.

However, because the test is adaptive, you will likely find that the questions you receive are stimulating. This means you will probably feel less stress and frustration from getting questions that are too challenging.

All About the NCLEX CAT Exam

Now that you know what a computer adaptive test is, let's take a look at the NCLEX CAT specifically.

The NCLEX CAT comprises of 75-145 questions. The number of questions you will need to answer can vary, and depends on your answers.

Whether you pass or not isn't determined by the number of items you answer correctly. Instead, your ability to meet the baseline ability measure/passing grade is what determines whether you will pass and at what point in the test.

The NCLEX exam shuts off the test when you meet the ability measure. Therefore you may answer any number of questions between 75 and 145.

Have you already taken the NCLEX exam and need to re-sit it? If so, check out this article on how to excel at your NCLEX rewrite.

How to Prep For the NCLEX CAT Exam

A computer adaptive test can feel very much like a regular test to the candidate who's sitting it. However, prepping for it can feel challenging.

One of the best ways to practice for a computer adaptive test is by accessing a simulation of the test you're going to take.

Here at Archer Review, we give our members access to a simulated practice version of the NCLEX CAT. Our simulation operates off a question bank that contains over 2,500 challenging questions.

The simulation feeds you questions in the same way that the real NCLEX CAT exam does. It also offers you real-time, detailed, feedback for both right and wrong answers, well as peers stats for each question. This allows you to gauge your readiness.

To help you ace the real NCLEX exam, our simulation questions are also created with "vagueness" and "brevity", similar to the real NCLEX questions.

Our questions are formulated by professional nurses and will give you the practice you need to ace your NCLEX exam.

Besides all of these impactful features, with Archer Review you also get access to highly affordable on-demand webinars to help you study for the NCLEX exam.

Get Access to Our Computer Adaptive Test to Help You Practice for the NCLEX Exam

As you can see, a computer adaptive test is quite different from a traditional test. However, they can be more engaging for candidates, and provide more accurate results.

Are you nervous about passing your NCLEX exam? 

If so, we are here to help. By signing up with Archer Review you will get access to our vast question bank, and be able to practice a simulated version of the NCLEX exam right in the comfort of your home.

Want to find out more? Visit our NCLEX page today to assure your success in the NCLEX exam.

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