Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CRNE vs the NCLEX...What's the difference

Often we get asked what the difference is between the Canadian nursing exam (CRNE) and the American Nursing exam (NCLEX).  This is often quite confusing for people, especially for international nurses who may have written the NCLEX before moving to Canada and are looking at writing the CRNE.
Here are a few key differences:

Exam Delivery:
The CRNE is still a written exam.  Students write the CRNE in classrooms that are invigilated by members of the provincial colleges.  It is a pencil to paper exam (or pencil to scantron exam).
The CRNE is only offered in Canada, so students must travel to Canada to write the exam.
The CRNE is offered 3 times a year, spring, fall and winter.
Candidates must answer all questions
The CRNE: Students cannot bring a calculator to the exam

While the NCLEX is a fully automatic exam, which is delivered via computer.  Students go to a designated testing site to write.  Their information is taken at the door, they must ensure they have left all their belongings in a locker and they are monitored on video camera.  The questions are answered on the computer and the student hits submit at the end of the exam.
The computer stops the exam automatically after the minimum number of questions have been answered and the computer is >95% sure the student will pass the exam (based on a statistical analysis).
Due to the exam format, it is offered at various locations internationally.
The NCLEX is offered throughout the year.
The NCLEX: Students can bring a calculator to the exam.

Exam Questions:
The CRNE: Focuses on application of knowledge and critical thinking.  It does assume (to a point) that the candidates already have in depth clinical, physiological and pathological knowledge.  It wants to see the candidate apply the knowledge.  Many questions are psychosocial, or require the nurse to choose the best answer out of a possible 2 "correct" responses.
The CRNE is designed to test the nursing competencies
On the CRNE clients are defined as: individuals, families, groups and communities.

The NCLEX: Focuses on pathology and physiology.  There are also questions on the American health care system.
NCLEX questions are used to test nursing knowledge, and application of knowledge with the intent to meet the individual clients needs.
On the NCLEX, client is defined as individuals, groups or families.

In general, although the pass rate is higher on the CRNE than on the NCLEX, students state they find the CRNE more difficult.  This is because the CRNE is designed to test the critical thinking of the student, so when the exam is completed it is difficult for the candidate to determine if they were successful or not.

For more information about the CRNE, students can visit the CNA website.