CAT stands for Computer Adaptive Test. Each test is assembled interactively based on the accuracy of the candidate’s response to the questions. This ensures that the questions you are answering are not “too hard” or “too easy” for your skill level. Your first question will be relatively easy; that below the level of minimum competency. If you answer that question correctly, the computer selects a slightly more difficult question. If you answer the first question incorrectly, the computer selects a slightly easier question. By continuing to do this as you answer questions, the computer is able to calculate your level of competence.
In a CAT, the questions are adapted to your ability level. The computer selects questions that represent all areas of nursing, as defined by the NCLEX test plan and by the level of item difficulty. Each question is self-contained, so that all of the information you need to answer a question is presented on the computer screen with the question and four possible answer choices.
Taking the Exam There is no time limit for each individual question. You have a maximum of five hours to complete the exam, but that includes the beginning tutorial, a mandatory ten-minute break after the first two hours of testing, and an optional break after an additional 90 minutes of testing. Everyone answers a minimum of 75 questions to a maximum of 265 questions.
Regardless of the number of questions you answer, you are given 15 questions that are experimental. These questions, which are indistinguishable from the other questions on the test, are being tested for future use in NCLEX exams, and your answers do not count for or against you. Your test ends when one of the following occurs:
You have demonstrated minimum competency and answered the minimum number of questions (75)
You have demonstrated a lack of minimum competency and answered the minimum number of questions (75)
You have answered the maximum number of questions (265)
You have used the maximum time allowed (five hours)