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NCLEX-RN: Q&As for educators and schools


Will an Ontario RN nursing education prepare students to write the NCLEX-RN? 

Yes. The exam tests basic competencies taught in Canada’s nursing school programs. As the regulator, the College's requirement for this entry-to-practice exam is not to test everything educators have taught in their four-year curriculum.

Essential topics in the exam include: pain management; medication administration; basic care and comfort; safety and infection control; and health promotion and maintenance.

Do Ontario RN nursing programs have to adapt their content to the NCLEX-RN?

Nursing programs should continue teaching to the required competencies. Program curricula do not have to change, and nursing programs should not be trying to "teach to the exam."

The NCLEX-RN tests an applicant for basic competencies, which are taught in Canada’s nursing programs. A national Canadian practice analysis, which has been conducted every three years, identified the knowledge, skills and abilities Canadian nurses require in their first year of practice. The analysis confirmed that the NCLEX-RN is a valid test of these competencies.

Are there NCLEX-RN prep materials and resources for students?

You can refer students to:

Are there any NCLEX-RN resources specifically for educators?

Educators should familiarize themselves with Test Plans, and can enroll in Understanding the NCLEX-RN. This online course will provide you with information about the exam's history, format, testing methods and processes. 

Should students take NCLEX-RN prep courses?

Your students’ nursing education and the resources mentioned above should be enough to prepare for the NCLEX-RN. While third-party vendors offer NCLEX-RN preparation courses, they are not associated with, or endorsed by, the College or the exam provider. No third party has access to the NCLEX-RN question bank; exam writers should be wary of any party claiming to have such access. We are aware of “American” content in some preparation courses. However, the exam does not test a writer’s knowledge of a particular health care system, history or legislation.

What should I do if my student has to re-write the NCLEX-RN?

First, be encouraging. It is not unusual for a writer to make an unsuccessful attempt, but to succeed later on.

As an educator, you are in an excellent position to support students developing study plans. Students who do not pass the NCLEX-RN receive a Candidate’s Performance Report (CPR). This report provides the writer with information about how they did in each section of the exam. Help your students review the CPR and relate it to the content of their nursing program, reminding them of content from earlier years.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing's (NCSBN's) After the Exam page includes information about using the CPR to help students prepare for re-writing the exam. 

Finally, encourage the student to review the prep material on the NCBSN website.


How do schools obtain reports about their program’s exam results?

Canadian schools can subscribe to twice-yearly exam results reports for their programs from Mountain Measurement. Mountain Measurement is the company that compiles and analyzes NCLEX-RN data. Schools that subscribe receive results reports for their programs in May and November.

To learn more, see a sample results report and subscribe, visit Mountain Measurement’s NCLEX Program Reports page.

When will the College of Nurses of Ontario release more results about the NCLEX-RN?

See the College’s comprehensive Nursing Registration Exams Report, which includes individual program results and NCLEX-RN results for 2016. 


What does the NCLEX-RN test?

The NCLEX-RN does not test everything that is taught during a four-year baccalaureate nursing program. Rather, the NCLEX-RN focuses on testing entry-level knowledge – what nurses need to know to provide safe care at the beginning of their careers. For example, it asks questions about pain management; medication administration; basic care and comfort; infection control; health promotion and maintenance; and concepts such as maintaining confidentiality of patient information.

In addition, all drug names are generic and refer to medications that entry-level nurses are expected to know. Measurements in metric are provided, as well.

Does the NCLEX-RN include questions specifically about Canadian or American health care systems or legislation?

No. The NCLEX-RN does not test knowledge of health care systems, history, cultural issues, or government policy and laws. Not only do such items vary by province and territory in Canada, they vary across states in the U.S.

While nurses working in any specific jurisdictions have to know about the health care system they work in, including legislation, testing for that knowledge is not the purpose of the NCLEX-RN. Applicants to the College write a Jurisprudence Exam that tests for this.

Is the NCLEX-RN’s content reviewed by Canadian nurses?

Yes. Canadian nurses, including clinical educators, reviewed the content for the current NCLEX-RN. They continue to review and develop the exam to ensure it meets the College's needs as regulators, and the public's need for safe nursing care.

Periodically, NCSBN seeks Canadian nurse volunteers to review the NCLEX-RN; see the Volunteer section.

What is computer-adaptive testing?

Computer-adaptive testing (CAT) is the format of the NCLEX-RN exam. Using CAT, the program determines the level of difficulty of the question it presents to the writer based on how well they responded to the preceding question.

For example, if a writer responded correctly to a question of medium difficulty, the next question presented will be slightly more difficult. This video will provide you with more information about CAT and its use in the NCLEX-RN.


Why did Ontario start using the NCLEX-RN?

As Ontario’s nursing regulator, the College is accountable for ensuring that registration is granted only to those who demonstrate the nursing knowledge to provide safe care. We regularly review processes for assessing this knowledge, to determine the most accessible, fair and efficient approaches. The NCLEX-RN meets our requirement for being a valid exam for doing this. It also meets the needs of writers, by giving them year-round access to the exam and issuing of results quickly.

For more information about developing and administering the NCLEX-RN, see Canadian Educators & Students FAQs.

Why do we have a registration exam?

Registration exams, such as the NCLEX-RN, contribute to patient safety. The NCLEX-RN tests whether the writer has the knowledge, skill and judgment to provide safe care during their first year of practice. As the provincial regulator of the nursing profession, the College is accountable for ensuring that only those who demonstrate the ability to apply nursing knowledge and provide safe care are able to practise in Ontario.

I passed the NCLEX-RN. Do I still need to meet the nursing education requirement?

Yes. The NCLEX-RN tests entry-level knowledge. It does not test your knowledge of all the entry-to-practice competencies required to practise as a nurse in Ontario. 

Nursing education is a separate requirement that allows the College to determine that you possess the required nursing knowledge, skill and judgment from your combined education and nursing experience.

Together, the NCLEX-RN and nursing education requirement enable the College to determine that you can competently and safely practise as a nurse in Ontario.

Page last reviewed February 26, 2017