How Using Data Can Improve NCLEX Pass Rates

June 1, 2014 Kristen Hicks

The lessons and information learned in nursing school are worth little if students don’t succeed in passing the NCLEX. Obviously, NCLEX pass rates are important. Of more immediate concern for many schools, though, is the risk of losing nursing program accreditation if too many students don’t pass the NCLEX.

While 72% of the students taking the NCLEX passed in 2013, nearly a third weren’t properly prepared by their nursing programs. If student needs aren’t being met in this crucial area, something has to change.

Effective Change Starts with Data

Any changes you make to try to improve students’ results on the NCLEX exam will require resources. Time, money, and energy are all too valuable to waste on efforts that don’t get results.

To fix the problem, you need to first figure out exactly what it is. Good data can pinpoint specific issues and areas of concern, including the following:

  • The subject areas that need better coverage in your program.
  • The types of exam questions that students find difficult.
  • The specific strengths and weaknesses of individual students.
  • The identification of those who need extra attention for improvement.

If there are consistent strengths and weaknesses program wide, then making changes to the larger curriculum will best address the problems. If the problems are particular to different students, then increasing your focus on student-remediation programs will yield better results.

How It Works

To achieve improved results, you need good, accurate data. Every exam students take in their courses and every test they take to prepare for the NCLEX should be viewed as an opportunity to collect data on their performances.

With ExamSoft, faculty members can categorize all exam questions based on the topics they cover, question types, and any other categories they deem valuable to better understanding student success. While it requires some extra work initially to implement, the results are worth it: every test will provide specific insights into student and class performance.

Keeping close tabs on the progress of each student is often unrealistic for faculty members, unless they have some help. The detailed reports and data that a professor obtains from a well-categorized exam can automate the process of embedded assessment and can provide educators with the knowledge needed to better assist students.

From Conditional Status to a 100% NCLEX Pass Rate

Texas State Technical College was facing a serious threat to its nursing program accreditation. With NCLEX pass rates at only 77%, the program was placed on conditional status. As a result, it couldn’t accept new students, and a 10% attrition rate meant it was losing too many.

In an effort to better serve their students and reclaim their nursing program’s status, faculty members and administrators at the school determined they needed a better way to track student progress and provide students with useful feedback. The system of tagging exam questions electronically to produce detailed reports after each test was a big improvement over the tic marks and spreadsheets they’d been using. The new data allowed them to identify those students in need of focused remediation efforts and to determine the changes they should make to the course curriculum.

The result was a 100% NCLEX pass rate in the first year of using the new program. As an added bonus, the school’s attrition rate dropped to 4%.


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