Starting from April 1, 2023, the Next Generation NCLEX will include new question types that students should be aware of and know how to approach. To help with this, we will be publishing a series of articles that discuss these new question types and provide techniques for solving them.

Selecting all that apply questions (SATA) can be difficult because to receive full credit, you must select all correct answers and avoid selecting any incorrect answers. In the past, even selecting one wrong answer or failing to select all correct answers would result in no points awarded.

Fortunately, NGN is introducing partial scoring. You will receive points for every correct answer selected and lose points for every incorrect answer selected. The minimum score you can receive on a question is zero. If you select more correct answers than incorrect answers, you will receive partial credit.

However, to receive a good score, it is essential to answer all the SATA questions with only the correct answers. In this article, we will discuss strategies for correctly answering SATA questions in the NGN exam. Before that, we will briefly explain why many students struggle with answering SATA questions accurately.


Misinterpretation of the Question:

A significant proportion of students err in answering Select All That Apply (SATA) questions due to misinterpreting the questions. Often, during examinations, stress, and anxiety can cloud a student’s judgment and compromise their reading comprehension skills. As a result, they may hurriedly skim through the question, missing key points or inaccurately interpreting the information. This rushed approach typically leads to incorrect assumptions about what the question is asking and, subsequently, incorrect responses.

Insufficient Practice:

Another prevalent issue is the lack of sufficient practice. SATA questions are usually complex and challenging due to their multiple correct answers, which can be daunting for students. Because of this, some students might find it easier to focus their efforts on mastering other types of questions, thus neglecting to adequately practice SATA questions. This avoidance strategy, however, only amplifies their discomfort and unfamiliarity with SATA questions. When they encounter these questions during an exam, they find themselves unprepared, leading to wrong answers. This cycle of avoidance and poor performance underscores the importance of consistent and dedicated practice for all question types, including SATA.

Inadequate Subject Matter Knowledge:

A critical aspect to note is that the ability to answer SATA questions correctly is closely tied to the student’s understanding of the subject matter. Since these questions often involve intricate concepts, students with gaps in their knowledge may struggle to identify all the correct answers. Hence, inadequate preparation or a lack of understanding of the coursework can also contribute to their inability to answer these questions accurately.

Lack of Strategic Test-Taking Skills:

Lastly, students might not be versed in effective test-taking strategies, which are crucial for tackling challenging question formats like SATA. These strategies include carefully reading and rereading the question, eliminating obviously incorrect responses, analyzing remaining options for their validity, and cross-referencing the options with each other and with their existing knowledge of the subject matter. The absence of these strategies can hinder students’ ability to accurately decipher and answer complex SATA questions.


Play by the rules:

When practicing as a nurse, you come across some rare cases that must be treated by a method different from the standard. But you must remember that the NGN will be testing you for the standard practices for taking care of the client. Hence, you should think by the rules, not exceptions, while selecting the answer.

Identify the question's purpose:

The most important thing is to read the question carefully and contemplate what it asks you. Then think of the answer or solution without looking at the list of options. Then once you have a solution in your mind, you can check out all the options and select the ones that relate directly to the solution. Remember that there is negative scoring. Hence, you should refrain from selecting options that are not directly helpful or have no effect.

Ask yourself: "Will this help, harm, or do nothing?"

Some questions will require you to select the necessary interventions for treating a client, like medications. In these question types, you can review each option by asking, “If it will help, harm, or do nothing for the patient?”

If it helps, selects that option. If it harms or doesn’t do anything, then eliminate those options.

Observe when two or more answers are in conflict or connected:

In the SATA questions, you will often find options that are sometimes either connected or conflicting with one another.

If you know an option to be correct, and other options have direct links with the right option, you can also assume them to be correct. For example, the step given in the correct option cannot be performed before performing the action given in a different option. Similarly, when you know one of the correct options, and some options are in direct conflict with the correct one, you may discard the other options. E.g., hypothermia, and hyperthermia.

Run the true/false filter:

Another way of solving a confusing SATA question is by eliminating options by the true or false filter. Consider each option with reference to the question and ask yourself if the option is true/false or yes/ no for that question.

If the option is false, you can eliminate that option. This will narrow the list and make selecting the correct options easier.

If in doubt, choose safe answers:

For a particular question, the NGN will reward you for each correct option and negate points for each wrong answer. (Though the minimum mark you can get for any question is zero.) Hence, for a few questions, you cannot answer with absolute accuracy, you can try to play it safe and only select options you know are correct.

Build intuition and follow it:

It would be best if you use the above strategies only when you are confused or don’t know the answer to the question. Your primary tools to solve the exam questions should be your knowledge, judgment, and intuition.

You can master these by covering your NCLEX syllabus and solving plenty of practice questions. Then, when you get experience solving SATA questions, you will develop an intuition that will help you answer these questions quickly. Then, all you will have to do is trust your gut!

Wrap up:

Now that you know the strategies for solving the ‘Select all that apply’ questions, you should start practicing these with your NCLEX practice questions. Practicing these strategies will ensure that you master them and can use them effectively during the NGN. Also, if you want high-quality and yield practice questions to ensure your passing the NGN, check out the Bola Review NCLEX Course and QBanks.

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