How Nursing Students’ NCLEX Pass Rates Impact a Nursing Program

For a Nursing Program to be successful it not only has to have nursing students, but it also needs to have nursing students that go on to pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) licensing exam. In this article, we are going to discuss how the decrease in NCLEX pass rates is affecting Nursing Programs around the country.

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NCLEX Pass Rates

Over the last three years, there has been a significant decrease in the first-time pass rate of candidates taking the NCLEX Exam. In 2019 NCLEX Statistics from NCSBN show that the first-time pass rate was 88.18%. Most recently in 2022, the first-time pass rate had dropped to 79.90%. There are many reasons why the initial pass rates have dropped. Some of the most common include the COVID-pandemic, test anxiety, and decreased focus on the core curriculum.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many nursing schools switched over to an online model of instruction. This left many students without classroom hours and decreased hands-on practice time.

How do NCLEX pass Rates Measure the Quality of a Nursing Program

The Journal of Professional Nursing states that The NCLEX pass rate is considered the premier indicator of program quality. Nursing programs utilize first-time pass rates (F-TPR) as a basis for making program decisions – especially when confronted with a falling rate. But this shouldn’t be the only measure of a Nursing Program. Schools should also look into students’ skills and not focus only on the NCLEX. For example, a student may succeed in the hands-on demonstrations but struggle with testing. So these students may go on to be great nurses but become a statistic because they have trouble with test taking.  Many nursing students who do not pass their first time taking the NCLEX go on to be great nurses. Looking at the nursing program as a whole is a much better measure of the quality of a nursing program.

Nursing Schools and Program Accreditation

According to Kathleen Gains, MSN, RN, BA, CBC at, The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) evaluate nursing schools and programs in the United States. For a nursing school to become accredited they must meet certain standards. Some of the standards include state regulations and school management. The accreditation process also looks at the school’s curriculum and the NCLEX pass rates of the school.

Effects of low NCLEX Pass Rates on Nursing School Accreditation

Many states want the NCLEX pass rates to be within 5-10% of the national average, which in 2022 was 79.90%. If schools do not meet this benchmark they can lose their state funding and their accreditation status with the ACEN or CCNE. Some studies show that if a school’s NCLEX pass rate is under 80%, the school is placed on probation and given 2 years to improve its pass rates.

Increasing NCLEX Pass Rates

Schools are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to increase their NCLEX scores. Feuer NCLEX Comprehensive Content Based review course has been helping students prepare for the NCLEX since 1971. The review courses offered are Live Online, Self-Paced Online and Home-Study Courses, giving students the freedom to choose what course is best for their learning needs and style. Courses like these help students after graduation hone their skills and enhance their knowledge of nursing content and test taking strategies.

Looking to the Future

When we think about the decrease in NCLEX pass rates we need to think about what that means for the future. Will schools decrease their program sizes to try and increase NCLEX pass rates? Will that add to the nursing shortage our country is already facing? Will smaller schools risk losing their accreditation? Will the Next-Generation NCLEX bring the rates down even lower? Important questions that we don’t have answers to, yet.

Written by Feuer Nursing Review