The Next Gen NCLEX: Everything You Need to Know

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The Next Gen NCLEX is the newest version of the nursing. licensure exam. It emphasizes the importance of sound clinical decision-making, rather than the rote memorization of nursing concepts. To prepare, follow NCLEX tips like taking full-length practice exams and reflecting upon case studies.

nursing student studying

Switching your career to nursing offers incredible possibilities, like the ability to help people in need, choose from multiple specialties and work in a variety of settings — from healthcare clinics and hospitals to private homes or schools. Becoming a nurse is more accessible than you might think, especially if you choose the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program or transfer program path at Utica University.

In addition to earning your nursing degree, you must obtain state licensure before working as a registered nurse (RN). An aspiring RN must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to get a license.

The NCLEX is revamped periodically to reflect the changing nursing landscape. In April 2023, it underwent a major overhaul and is now referred to as the Next Gen NCLEX (NGN). Learn all about the NGN here and get some actionable NCLEX tips to prepare for it. You’ll also get the answers to common questions such as, “When does the NCLEX Next Gen start?”

What Is the Next Gen NCLEX?

The Next Gen NCLEX is the newest version of the NCLEX-RN. It isn’t a separate exam but rather the latest version of the licensure exam. The organization that creates the test, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), updates the NCLEX every three years to keep it current with changes in nursing practice. However, the NGN is a significant overhaul of the previous version of the test.

The NCLEX overhaul aims to ensure incoming nurses are thoroughly prepared to assess clinical situations and develop appropriate responses. In other words, it focuses on testing clinical judgment rather than evaluating a candidate’s rote memorization of nursing concepts and clinical situations.

Utica student using laptop

When Does the NCLEX Next Gen Start?

Will you be required to take the newer version of the NCLEX or its predecessor? Whether you’re a nursing student or considering switching careers to healthcare, you’ll take the Next Gen NCLEX to pursue your nursing license. The NGN launched in April 2023. All nursing school graduates who do not already have a nursing license must take this new version of the licensure exam; there is no option to take the older version.

Utica ABSN students studying

Ready to get started on your NCLEX Next Gen prep? Check out these top 7 NCLEX tips and tricks.

How Does the NCLEX Next Gen Differ?

It’s one thing to list the signs of ketoacidosis; it’s another thing entirely to accurately recognize the signs and symptoms of this life-threatening complication in an actual patient and respond appropriately. That’s why the NCLEX has changed.

Rather than simply testing nursing knowledge as it has in the past, the new version of the licensure exam evaluates a candidate’s ability to recognize a condition and identify the most critical steps to take. The goal is to license nurses who are less likely to make medical errors and more likely to provide excellent patient care.

In other words, the Next Gen NCLEX measures a candidate’s clinical decision-making skills based on the NCSBN Clinical Judgment Measurement Model (NCJMM). The NCJMM explains the precise steps a nurse must follow for every clinical situation. This framework is as follows:

  • Recognize cues. (Recognize the issue of immediate concern and determine what information is most important.)
  • Analyze cues.
  • Prioritize hypotheses. (Which explanations for the cues are most/least likely and most/least serious?)
  • Generate solutions.
  • Take action. (Implement the solution(s) that address the most immediate priorities first.)
  • Evaluate outcomes.

It’s important to consider this framework when answering questions in the NGN. To better measure your ability to follow this framework and make appropriate clinical judgments, the Next Gen NCLEX includes new types of questions emphasizing case studies and various patient scenarios. Some examples of these new types of questions are as follows:

  • Extended multiple-response: These questions are like the multiple-response questions on the older versions of the NCLEX, but there are more options, and you can choose more than one answer.
  • Extended drag-and-drop: For these questions, you’ll move the appropriate responses into the answer spaces.
  • Cloze (drop-down): You’ll select an option from a drop-down list. For example, after reading a passage, you must choose the correct response from a chart, table or other item.
  • Enhanced hot spot: You’ll answer these questions by highlighting the answer. For instance, you’ll read a passage (e.g., medical history, medication record or nursing note) and highlight the portion that answers the question.
  • Matrix grid: For these items, you’ll choose multiple answers on a chart. For instance, you may be given a patient scenario and have to check off the appropriate boxes on the corresponding table.
  • Unfolding case studies: You’ll see medical record information paired with questions that lead you through recognizing and analyzing cues, making appropriate clinical judgments and evaluating the outcome.

Practical NCLEX Tips to Improve Your Score

utica student studying

Regardless of the significant overhaul of the NCLEX, nursing knowledge and concepts haven’t changed. Paying careful attention in your nursing courses throughout your degree program will help you prepare to tackle all types of questions.

However, in addition to memorizing the signs of medical conditions and other vital facts, you must practice exercising appropriate clinical judgment. Use the following NCLEX tips to prepare for your test date:

  • Develop your critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is essential for developing clinical judgments. While you’re studying, work on fine-tuning your critical thinking skills by doing the following: questioning any pre-existing assumptions you might have about the situation; applying analytical reasoning to develop the most likely, logical conclusion; and remaining open-minded about potential answers or solutions.
  • Check out case studies. The Next Gen NCLEX will emphasize case studies by presenting clinical situations and asking you to form appropriate responses and clinical judgments.
  • Answer lots of practice questions. Look online for sample test questions from the Next Gen NCLEX and answer at least a few every day in the months leading up to your exam date.
  • Take full-length practice exams. In addition to getting into the habit of answering a few practice NGN questions each day, you should take a few full-length practice exams during and after your time in nursing school. This may give you more confidence as you head into the testing center.
  • Practice good time management during test-taking. The new format might mean you’ll need more time per question. It’s essential to use your time wisely. Timing yourself as you take full-length practice exams can help you determine how much time you’ll need per question on average.
students studying together

There are lots of strategies for succeeding in nursing school. Explore this blog on the top 9 tips for surviving nursing school.

Get Started in Your Nursing Career at Utica University

At Utica University, we pride ourselves on providing extensive student support resources so you can earn your B.S. in Nursing, pass the NCLEX and start work as a practice-ready RN. In addition to an Academic Success Coach who will work with you one-on-one, you’ll have access to Kaplan NCLEX test prep resources from day one of the program.

Learn more about earning your nursing degree at Utica University. Contact an admission representative today to discuss the admission requirements and steps.

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