September 2015

NCLEX-RN: not an American nor a Canadian exam

Earlier this month, regulators across Canada released early pass rates for Canadian writers of the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). (See the Ontario results here.) Since that time, misinformation has been circulating about the exam, particularly about the content of the exam questions. See the NCLEX Fact Sheet for more information about the exam.

Here, we provide facts in response to the biggest myth about the exam.

Myth: The NCLEX exam is American and contains questions about the American health care system, and this is causing students to fail.

Fact:   The NCLEX is not an American exam; it is not a Canadian exam. The NCLEX is a nursing exam. It was chosen following feedback from exam writers who told us they wanted more frequent access to the exam and faster issuing of exam results. Regulators also felt that it was time to modernize the exam. The NCLEX does not test the writer’s knowledge of a particular health care system, history or legislation. It tests whether an applicant to the nursing profession has the knowledge, skill and judgment needed to provide safe care to the public. For example, the exam tells us whether an applicant is able to: assess and respond to changes in vital signs; perform comprehensive health assessments; assess a client’s need for pain management; perform calculations needed to safely administer medications; and maintain client confidentiality and privacy.

Myth: Nursing graduates are failing the exam.

Fact: The pass rate results released in September are preliminary, only representing data from the first six months of this year. In Ontario, the numbers represent less than a third of the writers that we typically see attempting the exam over the course of a year. We have seen a wide variance in the results between educational institutions, and across provinces and territories. The College continues to monitor the results of the exam and is working with educators to identify what contributes to high success rates in some programs and what can be learned to assist other programs. A final report on the 2015 exam pass rate will be available in early 2016.

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