What Score Do You Need to Pass the NCLEX?

a student celebrating after looking at test score

The NCLEX is an exam that is essential to pass for every prospective nurse.

The exam ensures that patients are receiving care from a competent nurse, but it also helps identify areas in which nursing grads can improve if they don’t pass.

I’ve talked about how the NCLEX is scored, but what exactly is a passing score on the NCLEX?

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What Score Do You Need to Pass the NCLEX?

The NCLEX is a pass or fail exam. You pass when the computer adaptive testing (CAT) algorithm used can determine if it keeps asking you questions, you’ll stay above the passing line within a probability of -0.18 logits (NCLEX PN) or 0.00 logits (NCLEX RN). This is based on the 95% confidence rule.

NCLEX Prep Academy

Check out the comprehensive NCLEX prep review that I recommend. Don’t bother with other NCLEX preps that over promise and under deliver. Did I mention they have a 99.86% NCLEX pass rate?

What is Computer Adaptive Testing?

Computer adaptive testing is also known as CAT and is used to determine the passing score of the NCLEX exam.

This type of test format doesn’t pass or fail you based on the number of questions you answered correctly. Instead, it assigns a LOGIT score based on a confidence interval of 95%. 

Although this sounds a bit complicated, it’s easy to understand when broken down into what “competence” means and if you know a bit about how the NCLEX administers questions.

The NCLEX Changes Regularly

Beginning in 2020, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, added questions to the NCLEX related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because the NCLEX changes every year in response to nationwide surveys conducted by the NCSBN.

These surveys as newly graduated nurses what skills they deem necessary to do their job effectively. Their responses are used to integrate into the NCLEX and form new tests every year.

Related: I Failed the NCLEX 10 Times

Minimum and Maximum Questions

In 2020, the pandemic was a huge change to the hospital environment and the world at large. As such, the minimum number of questions on the NCLEX is now 75, and the maximum is 145. 

How it Works

Let’s say you’re a nervous student giving a presentation to a classroom. The teacher asks you several questions about a book (that you didn’t read) and are not knowledgeable on.

It’s clear 2 minutes into the presentation that you didn’t read the book and aren’t competent enough to tell the story.

Similarly, the CAT algorithm was designed to detect a nursing student’s competence level and gives questions based on their skill levels.

If a student answers a question correctly, the next question on the NCLEX will be a bit more difficult. If a student answers a question incorrectly, the next question will be easier.

The NCLEX CAT will determine at question 75 whether or not the student is competent.

If they are deemed competent with a 95% confidence rating, the test will stop.

However, if the CAT still needs more information on their competency levels, they will continue administering the test.

What is a Logit?

a nurse thinking about questions

A logit is actually a complex mathematical factor used in statistics.

Although it’s not necessary to know what it means and how exactly it works with the NCLEX, it is important to know that this statistical tool is used to calculate your pass or fail score.

A logit of 0 indicates you have a 50/50 probability of answering a question correctly.

A logit of over 0 means you have a higher probability of answering a question correctly (and are therefore a competent nurse).

A negative score below 0 indicates you have a lower chance of answering a question correctly (and therefore are not competent).

Timing During the NCLEX

Students have five hours to finish the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN exams. During those five hours, you must answer a minimum of 75 questions.

If you answer the bare minimum and run out of time, the CAT will determine if you reached the 95% confidence interval. 

If you reach the maximum number of questions, it will also determine the same confidence interval. Anything below a 95% is a fail.

If you don’t answer at least 75 questions, you automatically fail the exam.

For a deeper dive into the different ways the NCLEX is scored, check out the article: How is the NCLEX Scored?

Preparing For the NCLEX

It can be a bit complicated to understand the pass/fail algorithm.

The best way to prepare for the NCLEX is to brush up on your studying and attend a school that is able to provide you with the guidance and resources to pass your NCLEX!

Check out our school board to see which schools can help you pass the NCLEX with confidence (95% at least)!

NCLEX Prep Academy

Check out the comprehensive NCLEX prep review that I recommend. Don’t bother with other NCLEX preps that over promise and under deliver. Did I mention they have a 99.86% NCLEX pass rate?

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