What Score do You Need to Pass the NCLEX?

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 score do you need to pass the NCLEX?
  3. How many NCLEX questions are there?
  4. How does the NCLEX use confidence intervals?
  5. 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? 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. 

Taking the NCLEX in 2023 or later? Read here to learn about the Next-Generation NCLEX (NGN).

What score do you 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. 

In December 2022, The NCSBN voted to uphold the current passing standard for NCLEX-RN, meaning that 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? 

Not everyone has the same amount of questions on the NCLEX. You will see a minimum of 70 questions and a maximum of 135.

Each test 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 determines your level of knowledge. While it’s possible to pass the NCLEX after answering all 135, it’s also possible to pass the test with a minimum of 70 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 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. It’s tempting to start overthinking in the middle of the exam. 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 a study plan in place. Unless you set time aside specifically for studying for the NCLEX, you likely won’t get enough study time. 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. Studying your textbooks and researching online is necessary, but more is needed. 

Investing in test prep materials explicitly designed for the NCLEX 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 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