What is an NCLEX Passing Score?

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Passing the notorious NCLEX exam is no small feat. The NCLEX is a challenging test that includes a wide variety of questions. Some questions are based on your book and medical nursing knowledge, while others require you to think strategically and critically. So, what score do you need to pass the NCLEX? Technically, a score of 0.0! 

Sounds crazy, we know. Unlike most exams, the NCLEX is strictly a PASS/FAIL exam. While you will get a logit score at the end of your test, the score itself doesn’t matter. If you pass, you become a registered nurse. If you fail, you have to retake the exam at a later date.  

How is the NCLEX scored? 

The NCLEX uses Computer Adaptive Testing technology or CAT technology to score the exam. CAT technology asks questions based on your level of knowledge to determine whether or not you’re ready to be a nurse. Each time you answer a question correctly, the succeeding question will be harder. 

The advantage of the NCLEX is that all test takers are asked questions that start at the same level. However, CAT quickly discerns how much you know based on whether or not you correctly answer a question. CAT will determine your nursing future based on the number of correct questions you answered by the end of the exam. This testing system means that some test-takers may finish much quicker than others based on the rate at which they correctly answer questions. 

What score do I need to pass the NCLEX? 

Because of how the NCLEX test is structured, your passing or failing grade will equal zero. A letter grade or percentage isn’t the purpose of the NCLEX. The sole purpose is to determine whether or not you’re ready to be a nurse based on how many questions you answer correctly. 

The NCLEX uses a base logit score of 0.00 to determine whether you pass or not. You pass if you score above 0.00, meaning you answered enough questions correctly. If you score negative, you didn’t answer enough questions correctly. 

How many questions are there on the NCLEX? 

Not everyone has the same amount of questions on the NCLEX. You will see a minimum of 60 questions and a maximum of 145 due to current COVID policy. Each of the tests will also include 15 experimental questions used at the beginning of the exam to determine your base level of knowledge. These questions don’t count as part of your actual score, but you won’t know which ones fall into this category. 

As you are asked a question and answer it correctly, the next question’s difficulty will increase. You can’t skip questions in the NCLEX, as each question is used to determine your level of knowledge. While it’s possible to pass the NCLEX after answering all 145, it’s also possible to pass the test with a minimum of 60 questions or any number in between.

Keep in mind NCLEX has a time limit of five hours. If you haven’t answered enough questions correctly when the clock runs out, you will fail the test. 

How does the NCLEX use confidence intervals? 

Because the NCLEX isn’t a pass or fail exam based on your score, it uses something called the calculated confidence interval. The CAT technology will continue to ask you questions until it’s satisfied that you know enough to be a nurse. This is referred to as the calculated confidence interval. Once CAT is 95% confident that you know enough to be a nurse, it will stop asking you questions, and you pass. 

However, the opposite is also true. Once the test is 95% certain that you don’t know enough to be a nurse, it will stop asking you questions, and you will fail the exam. Failing the test can result from not answering the minimum amount of 60 questions within the allotted time. You can answer the first 59 questions correctly, but you will automatically fail the exam if you don’t reach number 60. 

The other way to fail the exam is simply by not answering enough questions correctly within the allotted time or by not answering enough of the questions correctly out of the maximum amount of 145 or 265.  

Tips for passing the NCLEX the first time 

Don’t self-evaluate during the exam

While it’s tempting to do, don’t start overthinking in the middle of the exam. Just because you’re a couple of hours in and still getting basic questions doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re behind. Focus on each question as it comes and hone your energy into answering it correctly. You got this!

Manage your stress levels 

One of the biggest reasons people fail the NCLEX isn’t because of a lack of knowledge. They don’t know how to manage their stress levels during the exam. Preparation is a big part of managing stress but is also necessary for test management. Consider learning more about thought exercises that will help you focus and manage your stress. 

Make a study plan in preparation 

It’s critical to have a study plan in place. Unless you set time aside specifically for studying for the NCLEX, you likely won’t get enough study time in. Careful planning, discipline, and determination are best to pass the NCLEX the first time.

Invest in test prep resources 

Perhaps the number one best way to achieve an NCLEX passing score is to invest in test preparation materials. Studying your textbooks and researching online is necessary, but it may not be enough. Your textbook and the internet weren’t designed with specific questions and exercises to help you pass the NCLEX. Investing in test prep materials designed specially for NCLEX will improve your odds of passing. 

SimpleNursing Offers NCLEX Resources 

SimpleNursing offers one of the nation’s top NCLEX study guides and resources. We provide you with sample questions, practice tests, and a world of valuable resources to aid you in your preparation. The practice exams from SimpleNursing will prepare you for the types of questions you’ll face and will give you an accurate idea of the time it will take you to pass. Sign up for free today!