How Many Questions Can I Miss on the NCLEX-RN?

“How many questions can I miss on the NCLEX-RN?”

How would you feel if I told you that you can miss just about half of the questions you are given and still pass the NCLEX-RN? Yes, you read that right. How is this possible, you ask? Well, to answer that questions, we have to take a closer look at the way the NCLEX-RN designed and how your score of passing or failing is determined.

Computerized Adaptive Testing

The NCLEX-RN utilizes Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT).  Instead of all candidates receiving the same questions, CAT tailors the test to the test-takers abilities.  The computer will select questions of increasing difficulty depending of the responses of the candidate. So, if you get a question right, your next question will be slightly more difficult. If you get it wrong, your next question will be a little easier. The computer aims to give you questions that are difficult enough that you have a 50% chance of getting the items correct.

The Passing Standard

The NCLEX-RN is designed to measure the candidate’s abilities as a new, entry level nurse.  The goal of the test is to be reasonably certain that students who earn a passing score can provide safe nurse care.  The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) uses a unit of measurement called a logit.  A logit represents the difference between the test-taker’s abilities and the difficulty of the exam questions.  The NCSBN sets the passing standard for the NCLEX-RN at 0.00 logits.

Determining Your Score

Your score is not based on a percentage of questions answered correctly. Your score is based on the computer’s estimate of your ability.  To pass the NCLEX-RN, the computer uses one of 3 rules:

  1. The computer determines with 95% confidence that you are above the passing standard.  This translates to the computer estimating with 95% confidence that you can answer medium difficulty questions correct at least 50% of the time.
  2. The maximum length of exam rule is used if you have reached the maximum number of questions (265) and the computer still has not determined if you have performed above the passing standard.  In this case, the computer will use the most recent ability estimate to determine your score.  If your most recent estimate is above passing, you will pass. If not, your score will be reported as failing to meet the passing standard.
  3. The run-out-of-time-rule applies if the computer has not determined with 95% confidence that you are able to meet the passing standard by the time the maximum allowed time has passed. If you run out of time, the computer will look at your last 60 ability estimates to determine if you have passed.

The unique scoring of the NCLEX-RN does not allow for a hard and fast answer to how many questions you can miss.  The important thing to remember is that the test is tailored to your ability and should feel difficult to you because the computer is choosing items that it believes you have only a 50% chance of getting correct. If you are missing questions judged as hard in difficulty but answering medium difficulty questions correct at least 50% of the time, you are on your way to a passing score! Regardless of how many questions you can miss, remember to give yourself enough time to prepare for success. Happy Studying!