The NCLEX uses CAT to administer the examination. CAT is a method for administering exams that merges computer technology with modern measurement theory to increase the efficiency of the exam process.

CAT is used for the NCLEX because it:

  • 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 candidates ability related to nursing and
  • Provides a valid and reliable measurement of nursing competence.

Efficiency of CAT

  1. Every time an item is answered, the computer re-estimates the nurses ability based on all the previous answers and the difficulty of those items.
  2. The computer then selects the next item that the nurse should have a 50% chance of answering correctly.
    • This way, the next item should not be too easy or too hard.
    • The computer’s goal is to get as much information as possible about the US nurses true ability level.
    • The nurse should find each item challenging as each item is targeted to the nurses ability

With each item answered, the computer’s estimate of your ability to test the ability of the nurse becomes more precise.