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What Score do You Need to Pass the NCLEX?

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By Mike Linares MSN, RN | Published April 26th, 2024
Published April 26th, 2024
nclex pass or fail

Passing the notorious NCLEX exam is no small feat. It’s a challenging test that includes a wide variety of questions and adaptive technology. This is why it’s good to know the NCLEX passing score.

Jump to Sections

  1. How is the NCLEX scored?
  2. What is the NCLEX passing score?
  3. How many NCLEX questions are there?
  4. Am I supposed to reach the max number of NCLEX questions?
  5. How does the NCLEX use confidence intervals?
  6. Tips for Passing the NCLEX the First Time

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 in 2024? Technically, a score of 0!

Sounds crazy, we know. Unlike most exams, the NCLEX is strictly a PASS/FAIL exam. While you will get a score (logit) at the end of your test, the score number 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 (CAT) technology to score the exam. CAT technology asks questions based on your knowledge level to determine whether you’re ready to be a nurse. So each time you answer a question correctly, the next question will be more difficult. 

CAT technology as a scoring method is broken into:

  • Candidate Ability – The amount of entry-level nursing knowledge, skills, and abilities the candidate possesses.
  • Ability Estimate – The computer estimates the candidate’s entry-level nursing knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  • Passing Standard – A cut point along an ability range that marks the minimum ability level required to safely and effectively practice nursing at the entry-level. 
  • Logit – A unit of measurement to report how much better a candidate performs than the average candidate and how much more difficult a question is compared to others.

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. 

Read here to learn about the Next-Generation NCLEX (NGN).

What is the NCLEX Passing Score? 

Because of how the NCLEX test is structured, your NCLEX passing score 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. 

In December 2022, the NCSBN voted to uphold the current passing standard for NCLEX-RN, meaning that currently candidates will continue to be required to pass at a level of 0.00 (for the NCLEX-PN, -0.18) logits through March 31, 2026

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 NCLEX questions are there? 

The number of questions on the NCLEX can vary for each test-taker. The NCLEX is designed to adapt to your performance as you answer each question. You can’t skip questions because each one determines your level of knowledge.

What is the max number of questions on the NCLEX?

For the NCLEX-RN, the maximum number of questions is 145. Your exam will stop once it is determined with 95% certainty that you either meet or do not meet the passing standard. Additionally, each test includes 15 experimental questions at the beginning that do not count toward your score but are used to gauge the difficulty level for future exams.

What is the minimum number of questions on the NCLEX?

The minimum number of questions on the NCLEX-RN is 75. This means that if you answer enough questions correctly to demonstrate competency, your exam can end after 75 questions. Conversely, the exam can continue up to 145 questions if more data is needed to assess your abilities accurately.

Is there a time limit on the NCLEX?

Yes, the NCLEX has a time limit of five hours for the RN exam. This includes all breaks and instructional time. If the time runs out before you’ve answered enough questions correctly, you will not pass the test. It’s essential to manage your time effectively to ensure you have the opportunity to answer as many questions as possible.

Am I supposed to reach the max number of NCLEX questions?

Reaching the maximum number of questions on the NGN can be a double-edged sword. 

The NCLEX’s adaptive testing format means that the exam adapts to your individual performance level. It dynamically adjusts the difficulty of questions based on your answers, targeting your areas of strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, the number of questions required to determine your competency level may vary.

Pros of reaching the maximum number of questions

  • Comprehensive assessment: Reaching the maximum number of questions ensures that the exam has adequately evaluated your clinical judgment skills across a wide range of scenarios.
  • Confidence boost: Successfully completing the maximum number of questions can boost your confidence, reinforcing your knowledge and readiness for real-world nursing practice.
  • Potential score improvement: If you perform well on the additional questions, they can potentially contribute to improving your overall score.

Cons of reaching the maximum number of questions

  • Time management challenges: Reaching the maximum number of questions can consume a significant amount of time, potentially leaving you with less time to review or answer additional questions.
  • Fatigue and stress: Extended testing sessions can lead to mental and physical fatigue, potentially affecting your performance on subsequent questions.
  • Uncertainty: The NGN is designed to adapt to your performance, and additional questions beyond the minimum required may indicate areas of weaker competency, potentially impacting your overall score.

How does the NCLEX use confidence intervals? 

Because the NCLEX isn’t a pass or fail exam based on your numerical score, it uses a system 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. 

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 in not answering the minimum amount of 70 questions within the allotted time. You can answer the first 69 questions correctly, but you will automatically fail the exam if you don’t reach number 70. 

The other way to fail the exam is simply by not answering enough questions correctly within the allotted time or by not answering enough questions correctly out of the maximum amount of 135. 

4 Tips for Passing the NCLEX the First Time 

  1. Don’t self-evaluate during the exam.

While it’s tempting to start overthinking in the middle of the exam, don’t start overthinking in the middle of the exam. Remember two important things:

  • There’s no NCLEX passing score, so you don’t know if you are doing poorly or really well.
  • You got this!
  1. Manage your stress levels. 

People fail the NCLEX because 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 to help you focus and manage stress. 

  1. Make a study plan in preparation. 

It’s critical to have an NCLEX study plan in place. Unless you set time aside specifically for studying for the NCLEX, you likely won’t get enough study time. NCLEX cram sheets can help, but careful planning, discipline, and determination are best to pass the NCLEX the first time.

  1. Invest in test prep resources. 

The number one best way to achieve an NCLEX passing score is to invest in test preparation materials that fully prepares you with realistic NCLEX practice questions and custom study guides. Studying your textbooks and researching online is necessary, but more is needed. 

Investing in NCLEX prep courses and materials will improve your odds of passing. 

SimpleNursing Offers NCLEX Resources 

Passing the NCLEX exam is one of the most crucial milestones in a nurse’s career, and requires a great deal of preparation. But with the right tools, you can cut down on study time and gain full confidence on exam day.

SimpleNursing offers one of the nation’s top NCLEX tips, 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. 

Let us help you ace the NCLEX on the first try with the #1 NCLEX prep course. 

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Education: Associate Degree in Nursing, Cerritos Nursing School Master of Science in Nursing, Capella University | Specialization: Nursing Education

Mike Linares has over a decade of experience in the medical field, beginning with four years as an ambulance worker in Orange County followed by another four years as an EMT, during which he also taught EKG for paramedics. His journey continued as he transitioned to become a registered nurse. Despite facing challenges in nursing school and initially failing out, Mike's determination led him to develop effective study techniques. He successfully petitioned to re-enter nursing school by demonstrating his commitment through the creation of a nursing boot camp. This experience inspired him to create study materials for friends, which proved highly successful. This success story culminated in the founding of SimpleNursing, a platform dedicated to providing accessible and effective study resources for nursing students.