The CAT method
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
- Provides a valid and reliable measurement of nursing competence
- 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
- 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 nurses’ ability
- With each item answered, the computer estimates of your ability to test the ability of the nurse becomes more precise