WCU’s Guide to the Pre-NCLEX Nursing Test for Prospective RNs
The Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) Comprehensive Predictor Exam is one of the standard tests graduating nursing students will take in preparation for the nursing licensure exam — the NCLEX-RN, which all nurses must pass in order to achieve licensure and begin practicing professionally.
The ATI Predictor is one alternative to the HESI Exit Exam. (Nursing schools individually determine which exam their students will take near the end of their academic program.) Both tests evaluate graduating nurses’ readiness for licensure requirements.
The ATI Predictor has a dual purpose: First, it is designed to predict a student’s likelihood of passing the NCLEX-RN; and second, it helps direct efforts in remedial study for areas where a student has underperformed on the test. In both senses, this exam’s intent is to ensure you are set up for success when you take the must-pass NCLEX.
In short: It’s the test before the big test.
The ATI RN Comprehensive Predictor tests you on the subjects and competencies you can expect to be included on the NCLEX. It includes 180 scored questions (most multiple choice) with a limited number in other formats that appear on the NCLEX, such as fill-in-the-blank and ordered-response questions. All questions will focus on NCLEX-tested content and concepts, including:
- Safe and effective care environment
- Management of care
- Safety and infection control
- Health promotion and maintenance
- Physiological integrity
- Psychosocial integrity
- Basic care and comfort
- Pharmacological and parenteral therapies
- Risk reduction
- Physiological adaptation
The test is administered and proctored by your nursing school and is four hours long. This means you have more questions and less time than you’ll face on the NCLEX-RN, which has up to 145 questions with up to six hours allowed for completion.
The ATI scoring relies on intricate weighting and calculation of the value of questions. Each question is graded according to a scale of difficulty — not all questions will carry the same scoring weight.
When you receive the results of your ATI exam, you won’t just see scores. You’ll receive a detailed list of “Topics to Review” based on the missed answers in your test. This list won’t just include each topic, but also a breakdown of specific subtopics so you can focus your additional study with surgical precision. You can see a sample results form in the 2019 Technical Manual for the RN Comprehensive Predictor (page 33).
The ATI offers and administers a program called Virtual-ATI (VATI) that many graduating nursing students enroll in to prepare for the ATI and, in turn, the NCLEX. This is a 12-week guided review of NCLEX-tested content, with one-on-one access to a nurse educator.
The coursework is self-paced and individualized so each student will have a custom study plan. VATI participants also have access to BoardVitals, which is a bank of test quizzes, including customizable and adaptive quizzes. At the end of 12 weeks, each student’s nurse educator assesses their readiness and either assigns additional remedial review or gives the “green light.”
At WCU, VATI and BoardVitals are included in your tuition as part of your curriculum. You’ll complete 50% of VATI before you graduate, and the additional 50% afterward. We want all of our students to have access to this comprehensive resource, so you’ll be set up for success and confidence when you sit for the NCLEX exam.
You can, and should, begin preparing for the ATI Predictor Exam as early as you can. Since the exam is administered by your educational institution, some procedures will vary, as will scoring requirements for graduation. Nursing schools may also require this test for LVN graduates, using a variation of the ATI. In general, though, this would be the approximate chronology of steps you’ll take:
- Enroll in an accredited nursing program.
- Begin preparing for the ATI Predictor Exam by the final year of your program.
- Register for the exam according to your school’s guidelines.
- Take the ATI Predictor Exam.
- Receive your results.
- If your score predicts success, begin taking steps to take the NCLEX.
- If your score indicates more study is needed, begin remedial study to retake the ATI.
Your program’s administrators and counselors may provide some additional timelines, steps, and guidance.
Here at WCU, our goal is your goal: to set you up for success and help you lay the foundation for a thriving career. That’s why we help our nursing students prepare for their upcoming nursing exams.
With guaranteed access to VATI and our continuous resources and support throughout your education, you should be able to take both the ATI Predictor Exam and NCLEX with confidence. And thanks to the “green light” aspect of VATI, any concerns about potential failure can be addressed well in advance.
If you would like to learn more about the various types of exams that nurses take, we invite you to visit our nursing exams overview post.
WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.