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NCLEX Conference for Educators

posted June 19, 2014

Writing practice NCLEX questions: what you need to know

Nursing educators from across the province gathered May 29, 2014​ at Kwantlen Polytechnic University for the NCLEX® Regional Workshop for Educators, a presentation from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). The goal of the conference was to help educators learn how to write practice NCLEX questions to help their students prepare for the exam.

Attendees heard from:

  • Nicole Williams, MSN, RN-BC Nursing Content Manager, Examinations
  • Terrence Wright, MA Test Development Manager, Examinations

Nicole and Terrence spent some time explaining how Computerized Adaptive Testing works, and then moved on to an interactive item writing session. Attendees practiced writing exam questions and then discussed the process to review and edit the questions.

The NCLEX contains several types of questions, including:

  • traditional multiple choice: only one correct answer
  • multiple response: select all that apply
  • chart/exhibit: candidate is presented with a problem and exhibits
  • Drag and drop/ordered response: used to test knowledge of proper steps in a procedure
  • Fill-in-the-blank calculations
  • "Hot spots": candidate provided a question and a figure, and use mouse to put cursor on correct area
  • Audio: candidate listens to question. Candidates are able to pause, rewind and adjust volume.
  • Graphic: candidate is presented with pictures instead of text

Questions can also include multimedia such as video.

Tips for writing practice items

  • Item intent is clear
  • Contains relevant and pertinent information (no extraneous details)
  • Readability of item: information provided is brief, and can be processed in a short amount of time
  • When writing "distractors" i.e. incorrect answer choices, avoid opposites and follow the grammatical style of the question
  • Select language that is universal and supports the assessment of entry-level nursing competence
  • Avoid slang, idioms and brand names

For educators writing items:

  • Review items a day or two after they are written
  • Have a colleague read your items
  • Make sure course objectives are reflected in the item

The NCLEX section of the NCSBN website is packed with resources for educators and students, including a Frequently Asked Questions section. We encourage you to check it out.

If you have questions about the NCLEX in BC, contact Christy Kivari.

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