Passing NCLEX-RN Score

Unlike many of the tests you’ve taken in the past, a passing NCLEX-RN score doesn’t represent a number score like 70% or 80%.  NCLEX only reports a score as pass or fail.  So what does a “passing” score really mean? In short, a passing score means that you have met the competency requirements of a newly registered nurse.

What is the NCLEX-RN Actually Testing?

The NCLEX-RN exam is a competency exam given with the goal of assuring that newly graduated nursing students have enough knowledge in entry level nursing skills to safely practice nursing. Knowing this goal makes it a little easier to explain what a passing score really means. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing conducts a job analysis every three years focusing on what new, entry level nurses need to know to safely perform their jobs. Then, they design the NCLEX-RN exam to test candidates on those topics so that they can be sure new nurses entering the profession can properly perform their jobs.

Determining Your Score

The NCLEX-RN uses Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT). What this means to you is that while you are taking the exam, the computer is learning about your true abilities related to nursing competence. The computer selects harder or easier questions based on your previous answers as a way to determine your level of knowledge related to a variety of nursing topics. There are many other resources that explain in-depth how a score is determined, but what you need to know about how the score is finalized, is that the computer uses the difficulty of the questions you answer to predict your nursing competence with 95% confidence.

Passing Score

So, when you receive that passing score, what is it telling you? A passing NCLEX-RN score tells you, your State Board of Nursing, and the public that you have met the competency standards for being a registered nurse. It means that you have demonstrated your ability to safely practice nursing care at the level of a RN. While the test is handled by your individual State Board of Nursing, a passing NCLEX-RN score is recognized nationally.  Once you have achieved a passing score and have maintained a nursing license in good standing, you will not have to retest to be eligible for a license in another state.
A score of “passing” on the NCLEX-RN might not seem like the type of exam score you are used to. It isn’t ranked as good, better, best or reflected as a percentage.  A passing score tells everyone that you have shown your ability to safely practice as nurse.