Why NCLEX Pass Rates Matter When Choosing the Right Nursing School

If you’re looking into nursing programs and wondering if their NCLEX pass rates should be on your radar, know that they absolutely should be. Understanding how you will be prepared for arguably the most important step of your nursing journey, will help you decide which school is the best fit for you. Regardless of which route you take, the fate of your nursing career ultimately lies in the hands of your NCLEX score. Exceeding the national average, the ABSN program at Utica College had a 2016 first-time NCLEX pass rate of 97% in New York and 94% in Florida. So we had a couple of our graduates explain their experiences in the program as they got ready for the big test.

NCLEX Preparation from the Start

Michelle C., a Utica College ABSN graduate

Michelle C., a Utica College ABSN graduate, did her research prior to applying to our university to see if it was the best choice for her. She said she was pleased to find that not only are our NCLEX pass rates higher than the national average, but that we also integrate NCLEX preparation into the curriculum. In looking into other schools, Michelle realized that not every program does that.

“Other programs align their program with their policies and procedures,” Michelle said. “So when it gets to NCLEX time, students are less prepared simply because, while they might be clinically ready, they are not necessarily prepared to answer the NCLEX questions.”

Being both clinically– and NCLEX–ready is important. At Utica College, we want our students to learn and demonstrate high-quality patient care, but we know it’s also vital that they are able to convey this knowledge in a standardized way.

Administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX tests the clinical skills of nursing students to determine if they have what it takes to deliver safe patient care at an entry level. Therefore, preparing our students with this in mind is of utmost importance.

And according to Michelle, “that is what’s nice about this program as opposed to a hospital-specific program; it also teaches for the NCLEX.”

Many students from Utica College might even argue that the NCLEX was easier than they expected because the program prepared them so well. Just ask Erika T., a Utica College ABSN graduate. “Our tests were so hard; they were impossible it seemed like,” she said. While completing her clinical rotations, Erika said she met so many Utica College nurses who said they walked out of the boards and aced it.

“Having that in the back of my mind was comforting,” Erika said. “I knew that Utica prepared us the entire way.”

KAPLAN: An Added Resource

In addition to having a curriculum with the NCLEX in mind, our ABSN students can use Kaplan testing as an on-going resource to practice for the exam throughout the program. “If you went to another school, you [might have to] take a Kaplan course after you graduate that can prepare you for the NCLEX,” said Erika. “Whereas, our Kaplan course goes along with us each semester and it builds with what you’ve learned.”

Erika T., a Utica College ABSN graduate

Erika explained that there’s a Kaplan exam for each specialty that consists of 75-90 multiple choice questions that are similar to NCLEX questions, and it can help students assess how well they are retaining what they’ve learned. “It gives you percentiles of where you fall compared to the rest of the nation and they really help gauge where you are,” Erika said.

As with many standardized tests, knowing the material is only half the battle. Before taking the exam, students should understand how the test is structured, administered, timed, and graded. Being aware of how to take the test can have as much of an impact on your score as knowing the correct answers.

“You see yourself slowly improve as you get through the program and the Kaplan exams really help you understand how to take NCLEX questions,” Erika said. “It might not necessarily be about the content, it might just be like ‘do you know how to answer this question?’”

Although you will have Kaplan as an ongoing resource, your final days of in the Accelerated BSN program will also be dedicated solely to NCLEX prep. Michelle said that’s why she really enjoyed using the Kaplan program. “We have a whole week at the end where we just do Kaplan and it really seems to be aligned with the NCLEX,” she said. “At the end of it, you’re going to feel more prepared for the NCLEX than you would with any other program.”

Getting You Ready for the Next Chapter

The NCLEX is the final chapter of nursing school, but the first step on your journey as a registered nurse. Seeing the value of a program with impressive NCLEX pass rates is in many ways seeing the value of your education. As you search for the program that’s best for you, keep their pass rates in mind and look into the outcomes of the nurses that have graduated from those programs. For example, having passed the NCLEX, both Michelle and Erika are well on their way as nurses.

Michelle isn’t quite sure where her career will take her in five years, but becoming a registered nurse gives her options. “One thing I like about nursing is that it’s limitless,” she said. “I want to have that freedom of ‘I can be a school nurse and have the same schedule as my children’ — and nursing lets you do that.”

Now that Erika, too, has passed the NCLEX and is a nurse, she can pursue her goal to work with children. “I’d like to go to Upstate Medical; they have the Golisano Treehouse, which is their huge pediatric department,” Erika said. With the rigorous curriculum and immense NCLEX guidance our students receive, opportunities at top-notch health care providers are not far-fetched.

In fact, SUNY Upstate Medical University offered nursing positions to nearly all of the graduates from the December 2016 graduating class, 34 to be exact. “Many of our students were offered positions with Upstate Medical on the spot at our job fair and they were very excited,” said Amanda Straub, lab and clinical faculty member at Utica College. “There are so many schools in upstate New York — 10 to 15 that provide nurses to Upstate Medical — so it’s pretty competitive.”

If becoming a nurse has long been a dream of yours and you want to feel confident in the education and NCLEX preparation you receive, consider earning your accelerated BSN at Utica College. Find out how your previous education in a non-nursing field can be leveraged to help you graduate with a BSN in as few as 16 months. Contact an admissions representative today at 866.892.6747.

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