How to answer SATA questions in NCLEX

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SATA questions or Select All That Apply questions are among the most challenging questions to students in nursing tests and to nurses taking the NCLEX or other nursing board exams. These tips will help you chose the correct answers to SATA questions:

1- SATA question are actually a form of “true or false” type of questions! Therefore you proceed to answer each option by responding either with a “yes” or a “no,” if it “applies,” or “does not apply” to what the question is asking. Go down the list one by one and ask yourself if it’s a correct answer, then look at the next choice and do the same thing***

2- Don’t group choices

Treat each choice as a possible answer separate to the other choices. Don’t group or link the choices to one another and should not be answered as a group.

3- Pay attention to the options

Watch out for absolutes or extremes (e.g., at all times, all the time, complete restriction) as these are probably wrong choices. If you cannot recall the information or if it doesn’t make sense, it’s probably wrong.

4- Don’t over think

After you’ve chosen your answers by following step (tackle one by one), do not go back to change your answer. Most SATA questions are not on the application or analysis level type of questions, so it usually does not need you to factor in anything and modify your response. Do not change your answer unless there is something really obvious you’ve overlooked (i.e., the question looks for a negative response).


5- Minimum of two

According to the NCSBN site, there will always be more than one correct answer so a “minimum of two correct options.” It’s also rare to have all choices correct but it can technically happen. NCSBN requires the candidate to utilise their comprehensive knowledge to determine the appropriate amount of applicable maximum correct answers to each item.

6- Move on

If you tried the tips above and still can’t find the answer, you’re just wasting time and move on. Don’t let your “momentum” stop just because of a single question.

Here’s an example to try yourself:

Question: A nurse is caring for a pregnant client with severe preeclampsia who is receiving IV magnesium sulfate. Select all nursing interventions that apply in the care for the client.

  1. Monitor maternal vital signs every 2 hours
  2. Notify the physician if respirations are less than 18 per minute.
  3. Monitor renal function and cardiac function closely
  4. Keep calcium gluconate on hand in case of a magnesium sulfate overdose
  5. Monitor deep tendon reflexes hourly
  6. Monitor I and O’s hourly
  7. Notify the physician if urinary output is less than 30 ml per hour.


  • Answer:

If you isolate each choice to its own and selected it if it applies to the question, then you’ll end up choosing options: 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

  • Here’s the rationale for the question:

When caring for a client receiving magnesium sulfate therapy, the nurse would monitor maternal vital signs, especially respirations, every 30-60 minutes and notify the physician if respirations are less than 12, because this would indicate respiratory depression. Calcium gluconate is kept on hand in case of magnesium sulfate overdose, because calcium gluconate is the antidote for magnesium sulfate toxicity. Deep tendon reflexes are assessed hourly. Cardiac and renal function is monitored closely. The urine output should be maintained at 30 ml per hour because the medication is eliminated through the kidneys.

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