Next Generation NCLEX® Scoring Guide and Pass Rate Data

NCLEX-RN® and NCLEX-PN® pass rates are released by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) every year. Understanding what constitutes a "pass" and how the NCLEX is scored can be confusing, especially with the introduction of The Next Generation NCLEX's new scoring models. This guide provides everything you need to know about NCLEX scoring, including pass rates for 2023, current passing standards and scoring methods, and more.

How Is the Next Generation NCLEX Scored?

Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) delivers questions that are tailored to your unique ability, which more accurately measures your competence. CAT uses an algorithm to deliver questions with varying difficulty based on your response to the previous question. Initially, you'll receive a question with a difficulty level that is near the passing score. If you respond correctly, the next question will be a little more difficult, or vice versa. The CAT algorithm is designed to deliver questions that you have a 50% chance of answering correctly. This process continues until the criteria of one of the three rules is met (see below).

What are the Pass/Fail Rules?

The CAT algorithm determines whether you pass or fail based on one of the following three rules: the 95% Confidence Interval Rule, Maximum-Length Exam Rule, or the Run-out-of-time (ROOT) Rule. These are sometimes also referred to as the exam “stopping rules” that indicate when the exam will end.

  • 95% Confidence Interval - The exam ends when the computer is 95% certain that the candidate's ability is clearly above (pass) or below (fail) the passing standard.
  • Maximum-Length Exam - If a candidate receives the maximum number of questions and the candidate's ability is close to the passing standard, the computer will determine whether the candidate receives a pass or fail score.
  • Run-Out-of-Time - If time runs out and a candidate has not answered the minimum number of questions, they will fail. If the candidate has answered the minimum number of questions, the computer will determine a pass or fail based on existing responses.

The NCLEX will deliver a minimum of 85 questions or a maximum of 150 questions to each candidate. However, because 15 questions will be unscored pretest or pilot questions for use on future exams, the number of scored questions ranges from 70-135. All examinees have up to five hours to complete the NCLEX. The number of questions you receive depends on when the computer determines with 95% certainty that your ability level is clearly above or below the passing standard.

What is the Passing Standard?

Every three years, the NCSBN convenes a panel of nurses to reevaluate the passing standards for the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN. The NCSBN Board of Directors considers their recommendation to help set the passing standards for the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN that reflect current competencies required to practice as an entry-level nurse. The 2023 passing standard for the NCLEX-RN is 0.00 logits and -0.18 logits for the NCLEX-PN.

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Next Gen NCLEX Question Scoring Models

The Next Generation NCLEX includes new question types that better measure clinical judgment required by entry-level nurses in clinical practice. Along with the new question types, the NCSBN has also adopted more nuanced scoring models (see below).

What is polytomous scoring?

Polytomous scoring awards partial credit for correct responses on questions with more than one correct answer. Each answer option is assigned a point value. Candidate’s are awarded one point for each correct response they select. So for a question with 3 possible correct responses, if a candidate selects 2 of the 3 possible, they will be awarded 2 points instead of no points as with traditional, dichotomous scoring. Dichotomous scoring only awards a point for the question if a candidate selects all the right answer responses. Polytomous scoring awards points for partial knowledge of a candidate's knowledge, skills, or abilities which more closely mimics clinical practice.

How will questions be scored on the NGN?

NGN questions will be scored by one of three methods: 0/1, +/-, or rationales. 0/1 scoring is typical of traditional multiple-choice items—you earn one point for selecting the correct answer and zero points for an incorrect answer. +/- scoring awards points for correct selections and subtracts points for incorrect selections. Finally, rationale scoring assesses items that require a justification for a rationale. For example, you must do X because of Y. Therefore, both selections must be correct to earn a point because X and Y are dependent on each other.

Which scoring rule applies to each NGN question type?

Each of the 15 question types is scored with one of the three scoring methods. For example, multiple choice questions are scored with 0/1, multiple response questions with +/1, and questions that require paired information (i.e., drop-down cloze dyad/triad) with rationales scoring. The table below organizes question types by how they are scored.

How Long Does It Take to Get NCLEX Results?

Nursing Regulatory Bodies (NRBs) take about six weeks from an exam date to send NCLEX results. Although the computer scores your exam in real time, results are not released at the test center, and staff cannot access them. Instead, your exam record is transmitted to Pearson VUE, where it's graded a second time. If you haven't received your results within six weeks, contact your NRB (do not contact Pearson VUE or the test center).

You may be able to access your results within 48 hours if your state offers the quick results service. However, quick results are unofficial. Before you can practice as a licensed/registered nurse, you must wait for your official results from your NRB.

What is a candidate performance report?

If you fail the NCLEX, you'll receive a Candidate Performance Report (CPR). This two-page report includes the number of questions answered and information on performance within each of the eight NCLEX content areas. Performance is rated as Below the Passing Standard, Near the Passing Standard, or Above the Passing Standard.

The CPR also includes the weight of each content area and descriptions of their related topics. Use this information in preparation for your retest. Prioritize the content sub-needs where you performed Below the Passing Standard, then Near the Passing Standard, but also continue to review areas where you scored Above the Passing Standard so you don't forget anything on your next exam.

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How many times can I retake the NCLEX?

You can retake the NCLEX eight times a year if you have applied for licensure/registration with your NRB. However, you must wait 45 days between each exam. Retake policies vary by jurisdiction, so make sure to check with your NRB.

What happens if a candidate fails 3 times on the NCLEX exam?

If you fail the NCLEX three times and want to retest, you must complete a board-approved remediation program. However, this policy varies by jurisdiction, so contact your NRB for details.

2023 Pass Rates for NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN

The charts below indicate pass rates divided among first-time takers/repeaters and US-educated/international students. You'll notice that pass rates among repeat takers are markedly lower than first-time takers. This phenomenon can likely be attributed to students failing the NCLEX due to a poor study plan or low-quality resources, then taking the exam again without making changes.

Fortunately, UWorld Nursing offers a learning system based on exam-level content that simulates the NCLEX in format and quality. We believe that if you treat practice like it’s the real exam, then the real thing should be as easy as practice.

Here is the summary of the number of candidates taking the NCLEX examination and percent passing by type of candidate.

*For more information about 2022 and 2023 NCLEX Pass Rates, please visit the NCSBN website.

Read More About the NCLEX

You can’t pass an exam you don’t take. Understanding eligibility requirements and how to register for the NCLEX is your first step toward passing. Check out this guide for details.
There’s a lot more to the NCLEX than how it’s scored. Read this guide for critical information on how the exam is organized, its eight content areas, question types, and more.
Studying for an exam is half the battle. The other is knowing exactly what to study and how to study it. Check out this comprehensive blueprint for the NCLEX-RN.
Don’t waste time trying to figure out what to study when you could be studying. This comprehensive NCLEX-PN study guide has everything you need to start preparing.
We’ll walk you through the NCLEX-RN Test Plan. Learn everything you need to know about client need categories, including their weightage and subtopics.
Dive deep into NCLEX-PN Test Plan. This guide elaborates on exactly what you need to study for each content area and the relative importance of each.
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