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May 2, 2022

What Nursing Students Need to Know about the New NCLEX

In the summer of 2019, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) made an announcement that surprised nursing students and professionals.

The announcement was that the NCLEX would be undergoing updates and changes in the next few years. The Next Generation NCLEX, as it's being called, is coming in 2023.

NCLEX stands for National Council Licensure Examination. It's the thing that stands in the way of nursing students who are interested in becoming licensed after nursing school. For years, many students were familiar with this nationwide examination. There are two types of NCLEX exams: NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN. Let's first break down their differences before we get into some of the changes.


The NCLEX-RN is an exam taken by students who are interested in becoming licensed as a registered nurse (RN). The NCLEX-PN is an exam taken by students who are interested in becoming licensed as a practical (LPN) or vocational nurse (LVN).

The differences between the exams lie in the type of career path you want to take. In other words, if you want to become a practical nurse (PN) or a registered nurse (RN), you must take and pass these exams. There are differences in these exams, however. There are educational requirements as well as prerequisites. The NCLEX-RN can be taken by graduates of a diploma program for RN licensure or a nursing program that provides them with a Associate Degree or Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The NCLEX-PN, however, can be taken by those who receive a diploma in licensed practical nursing or licensed vocational nursing.

What is the Reason for the Change in NCLEX Exams?

The NCSBN states that there is "a lack of clinical judgement ability amongst novice nurses." The data suggests that medical errors are one of the leading causes of deaths in the United States. In a 2011 report, Saintsing found that nearly 50% of novice nurses are involved in a nursing care error. This number is staggering and it's one of the reasons why such a major change in NCLEX exams are coming.

The Next Generation NCLEX is looking to find a solution to this. The NCSBN are reportedly been researching and developing a better version of their exams. This is all to provide better care for patients as nurses are more equipped after nursing school. The goal is to improve nurse preparedness, ensuring that nursing students are ready to hit the floor as prepared as possible. The NCSBN obviously saw that they were not prepared enough, hence the changes. They have placed more of a focus on critical thinking in real-world nursing scenarios.

The Next Generation NCLEX: Updates and Changes Coming in 2023

The Next Generation NCLEX exams will feature a mix of item types that requires nursing students to demonstrate their clinical judgment skills. The below list outlines what these changes include:

  • Cloze
  • Extended Drag-and-Drop
  • Enhanced Hot Spot
  • Extended Multiple Response
  • Matrix/Grid
  • Bowtie

What Does This Mean for Current Nursing Students?

If you are currently a nursing student in the midst of your exams, you may be wondering how this applies to you. In short, don't worry, as these changes will not take effect into at least 2023, but it is still good to be aware of these ongoing changes. For now, you will not be faced with any changes.

The NCSBN is still refining their research and data. This means things may change, so even if you are not in nursing school now, and you may be in the future, you may be faced with more changes. The NCLEX scoring structure will also possibly change, so gone are the days of the familiar structure. This is because "current scoring methods cannot adequately score the new question items." For now, however, you will not be faced with any changes.

NCLEX Changes and the NCSBN

Per the NCSBN, "a new and improved NCLEX exam is coming." We are told that the exam asks better questions so nursing can make the right decisions. Ultimately, the Next Generation NCLEX, dubbed NGN, is about "protecting the public and achieving the best outcomes for clients, nurses and institutions." The Next Generation NCLEX will consist of several phases of research.

These changes have been went with mixed reviews by nursing students. While some are pleased that change is coming, others are unhappy because they feel the process is clunky and outdated. The fact that it is more case-study based has some nursing students dismissing the whole concept.

It's also important to note that there is no official launch date per the NCSBN. The current test plan update deadline is in 2023, but that does not mean these changes are coming by then. No one actually knows when the Next Generation NCLEX is coming. We do know that it is changing but we are all playing a guessing game of when. In the meantime, the best thing current and future nursing students can do is be prepared.

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No one likes change, but change is coming. The best thing you can do is be prepared, study hard, and not stress about your classes. Easier said than done, we know. That's why we launched the best digital marketplace for nursing students. So, get back to work and get studying! We cover a wide range of subjects and topics, including but not limited to Anatomy & Physiology, Biochemistry, Assessment & Diagnostic, Human Biology, Maternal & Child Health, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Psychiatry & Mental Health, Pharmacology & Pathophysiology, Pediatric, Psychology, Gynecology, Critical Care & Surgery, Research & Theory, and more.