Why you NEED to know about Bloom’s Taxonomy

bloom's taxonomy pyramid - educational tool - diagram

You might have heard about Bloom’s Taxonomy, even if you’re not sure what it is. Bloom’s Taxonomy is the framework used to create and measure the difficulty of the questions you answer on NCLEX. If you answer enough of the more difficult, higher-level question types, then you pass. If you can only answer the easier, lower-level question types, then you fail.


The lower level questions are based on Recall/Recognition and basic Understanding of the nursing information. The higher level questions are based on Application and Analysis levels of nursing information. Here’s how it breaks down:

Recall/Recognition: Includes “What is…” type questions. You either know the answer or you don’t. Students who spend most of their study time memorizing will be good at these question types, but will have difficulty with the higher level question types.

Understanding: Includes “Why” type questions. Students who study in order to gain or maintain a solid foundation in A&P will do better with these question types, and will have an excellent foundation on which to start practicing the higher level question types.

Application: Includes question types that require you to combine knowledge you already have with the information provided. Students who are able to identify the areas of their nursing knowledge that are most relevant to a given situation will do better at this level.

Analysis: Includes question types that use familiar information in an unfamiliar situation. Students who can use their nursing knowledge to accurately identify what the question is really asking will be more prepared for this level.

Of course, the higher levels of learning build on the lower levels of learning. For example, there’s no way that you can understand how A&P leads to certain symptoms unless you first recall/recognize what the underlying A&P is. And without mastering the two lower levels of learning, you’ll never be able to use or apply your knowledge to correctly answer the application or analysis levels, regardless of how many NCLEX-style questions you practice.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Too many nursing students study with a focus only on learning at the recall/recognition level because they don’t know any other way to study. Unfortunately, these students can get lulled into a false sense of security. They assume that because they are passing their classes that they will do fine on exit exams and NCLEX. However, this assumption is only true if their nursing classes and their review books are using Application and Analysis level questions…and that is not always the case.

Simply because a teacher or book refers to a question as an “NCLEX-style” question does not automatically mean it is an Application or Analysis level question. I’ve seen a lot of questions over the years that were supposedly “NCLEX-style” questions, but were actually only at the Recall/Recognition level of learning. I’ve found examples of these low-quality questions both in NCLEX review books and in the study materials or exams of my tutoring students.

Do yourself a favor and get familiar with what the higher-level NCLEX-style questions are really like. Then you won’t risk getting fooled that you’re doing better than you actually are simply because you’ve been accidentally practicing with the easier question types.

Leave a comment below to tell me what your favorite NCLEX Review book is!

3 thoughts on “Why you NEED to know about Bloom’s Taxonomy”

  1. Pauline

    Hi, I will be starting my block I of the nursing program this fall. Which NCLEX review book do you recommend?

  2. Mema

    I LOVE my Saunders Comprehensive Review book!!

    1. Hello Mema,

      I was just reading your post on the nursing tutor you stated that you loved your Saunders book did you pass? Did the book lead you in the right direction or should I look for a different one?



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