Passing Standard

Setting the NCLEX Passing Standards

Because the practice of nursing changes over time, it is necessary to periodically reevaluate the appropriateness of the passing standards for both the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN. To ensure that the passing standards for these exams accurately reflect the amount of nursing ability currently required to practice competently at the entry level, the NCSBN Board of Directors reevaluates their passing standards every three years when the test plans are reviewed. Below is a sample of the information considered in the evaluation of a passing standard:

  1. The results of a standard-setting exercise undertaken by the Panel of Judges. Currently, this exercise consists of a criterion-referenced standard-setting method, with additional statistical result adjustment procedures. Also, a list of members on the Panel of Judges and their qualifications are included. 
  2. A historical record of the passing standard and annual summaries of candidate performance on the NCLEX since the implementation of the CAT methodology in 1994. 
  3. The results from the annual standard-setting survey, which solicits the opinions of employers and educators regarding the competence of the current cohort of entry-level nurses. 
  4. The educational readiness of high school graduates who expressed an interest in nursing. Currently, American College Testing service (ACT) provides this information. 

NCLEX-RN Passing Standard

The NCSBN Board of Directors voted in December 2018, to uphold the current passing standard for the NCLEX-RN Examination. The passing standard will remain at the current level of 0.00 logits that was instituted April 1, 2016, and will remain in effect through March 31, 2023.

NCLEX-PN Passing Standard

In December 2019, the NCSBN Board of Directors voted to raise the passing standard for the NCLEX-PN Examination. The new passing standard is -0.18 logits*, 0.03 logits higher than the current standard of -0.21 logits. The new passing standard took effect on April 1, 2020, and will remain in effect through March 31, 2023.

CAT Definitions

  • Candidate Ability - The level of entry-level nursing knowledge, skills and abilities that the candidate has.
  • Ability Estimate - The level of entry-level nursing knowledge, skills and abilities that the computer has determined that the candidate has.
  • Passing Standard - A cut point along an ability range that marks the minimum ability level requirement. For the NCLEX, it is the minimum ability required to safely and effectively practice nursing at the entry-level. 
  • Logit - A unit of measurement to report relative differences between candidate ability estimates and item difficulties.