The theory of margin as a predictor of success on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses

Douglas Hoyt Sutton, Florida International University


The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is the examination that all graduates of nursing education programs must pass to attain the title of registered nurse. Currently the NCLEX-RN passing rate is at an all-time low (81%) for first-time test takers (NCSBN, 2004); amidst a nationwide shortage of registered nurses (Glabman, 2001). Because of the critical need to supply greater numbers of professional nurses, and the potential accreditation ramifications that low NCLEX-RN passing rates can have on schools of nursing and graduates, this research study tests the effectiveness of a predictor model. This model is based upon the theoretical framework of McClusky's (1959) theory of margin (ToM), with the hope that students found to be at-risk for NCLEX-RN failure can be identified and remediated prior to taking the actual licensure examination. To date no theory based predictor model has been identified that predicts success on the NCLEX-RN. The model was tested using prerequisite course grades, nursing course grades and scores on standardized examinations for the 2003 associate degree nursing graduates at a urban community college (N = 235). Success was determined through the reporting of pass on the NCLEX-RN examination by the Florida Board of Nursing. Point biserial correlations tested model assumptions regarding variable relationships, while logistic regression was used to test the model's predictive power. Correlations among variables were significant and the model accounted for 66% of variance in graduates' success on the NCLEX-RN with 98% prediction accuracy. Although certain prerequisite course grades and nursing course grades were found to be significant to NCLEX-RN success, the overall model was found to be most predictive at the conclusion of the academic program of study. The inclusion of the RN Assessment Examination, taken during the final semester of course work, was the most significant predictor of NCLEX-RN success. Success on the NCLEX-RN allows graduates to work as registered nurses, reflects positively on a school's academic performance record, and supports the appropriateness of the educational program's goals and objectives. The study's findings support potential other uses of McClusky's theory of margin as a predictor of program outcome in other venues of adult education.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education|Nursing

Recommended Citation

Sutton, Douglas Hoyt, "The theory of margin as a predictor of success on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3165154.