How is the NCLEX Scored?

Scoring NCLEX Exams

The National Council Licensure Examinations (NCLEX) given by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) use computerized adaptive testing. This means that the testing system is constantly evaluating test-takers' ability levels as they answer questions on their exams. The computer system determines whether their responses are right or wrong and uses them to select questions at a difficulty level test-takers have as much chance of answering correctly as incorrectly.

Test-takers' abilities are then compared to a predetermined passing standard that is reported in logits. A logit measures the differences between the skills demonstrated by a test-taker and the difficulty of the questions being answered. The score requirement for the NCLEX-RN test will be 0.00 logits until March 31, 2019. Until March 31, 2020, the logit score requirement for the NCLEX-PN will be -0.21.

Rules for Passing

Each test is evaluated based on 1 of 3 rules that take the number of questions answered, their difficulty levels and the exam length into consideration.

The 95% Confidence Interval Rule

This is the most common evaluation method used. A test-taker will continue answering questions until the computer system is 95% certain of whether a test-taker's abilities fall above or below the passing standard. In this scenario, a test-taker may not need to complete all possible questions on the exam.

Maximum-Length Exam

A test-taker must answer all questions on the exam if his or her ability level is considered too close to the passing standard to use the 95% confidence rule. The results of all answers are considered to determine if an individual meets the passing standard.

Run-Out-Of-Time Rule

This applies when individuals are too close to the passing standard for the computer system to make a determination about whether they passed or failed and the test-taker isn't able to complete all questions in the allotted time.

A test-taker must have answered the minimum number of required test questions to be eligible to pass. For examinees taking the NCLEX-RN, at least 75 questions must be answered. A minimum of 85 questions must be completed on the NCLEX-PN exam. Test-takers who do not answer the minimum number of questions within the time limit automatically fail the test.

Individuals who do complete the minimum number of required test questions have the final 60 questions they answered assessed. Test-takers' abilities are evaluated based on these answers to determine if they meet the passing standard.

Creating a Passing Standard

The passing standard is set by the NCSBN's Board of Directors (BOD). Its goal is to ensure that all individuals who pass the NCLEX exams are qualified to fulfill entry-level nursing positions. There are a number of factors that are considered when the BOD evaluates and, if necessary, adjusts the passing standard:

  • Panel of Experts: A panel of experts in nursing complete an exercise and the results are evaluated.
  • Survey Results: The BOD not only looks at the passing standard set in previous years, it also reviews surveys that are completed by educators and employers. These surveys help to determine if the individuals who received nursing licenses were suitably qualified.
  • High School Graduate Education Information: The BOD also looks at the ACT scores of high school graduates interested in nursing careers in order to take their academic preparation into consideration.

Setting the Difficulty Level

There are 15 questions individuals must answer that are not included in their score. The answers are used to determine the difficulty level of these questions should they be included in future test versions.

NCLEX Test Resources

To prepare for your NCLEX exam, use reliable online study resources to help you cover the relevant material you will be tested on. Study guides, such as the ones linked to here, can help you focus on exam content through short lessons that can be worked on at your own pace.

The NCLEX is an exam for aspiring nurses looking to prove their skills and knowledge. Students must pass this standardized exam in order to receive their nursing license.

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