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Learn How NCLEX is Scored to Stay on Top of Your Game

After years and years of studying comes the final step to becoming a bona fide nurse: the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered and practical nurses. You may have gone through a plethora of tests in your entire student life, but the NCLEX is paramount to anything you’ve taken before.

Perhaps thinking about it gives you nerves, not because of how difficult the test may be, but how important it is for you and the career path you have sworn to take. One way to calm your nerves is to get to know the test further. While the content of the NCLEX is something you’ll definitely study for, get to know as well how NCLEX is scored so that you’ll have an idea of what it will take to pass the exam and what factors will contribute to its overall results.  

Knowing how NCLEX scoring works translates to strategizing how you’ll answer the entire exam. It can also give you clues on whether you are doing well in your practice tests or not. Just as with any test, there’s more to it than simply studying the content. For a life-changing exam like the NCLEX, you’ll definitely welcome some information about the said test. 

The NCLEX Administers Computerized Adaptive Testing 

While reviewing all possible information that could appear in the test is still recommended, chances are you’ll have a different set of questions compared to your fellow NCLEX aspirants. This is because of a system that puts an innovative spin on examinations that makes them fairer and more appropriate to the individual test-taker. 

The Computerized Adaptive Testing method employs calculations and algorithms that assign test questions to a person based on their skill and knowledge level. The NCLEX starts with fifteen pretest items that will determine your starting difficulty. Take note that these preliminary items will not be counted to your score but are crucial in determining the direction of your test. 

Once the fifteen pretest items have been accounted for, you will be given your first question. The result of that first question will decide the level of difficulty of your next question. The NCLEX testing platform will have a knowledge bank of questions, all ranked by difficulty. For each question you answer, another question with either slightly higher or lower difficulty will be given to you. 

You may have figured by now that wrong answers will lead you to easier questions, while correct ones will give you harder test items. Additionally, easier questions actually are a bad sign because it means you’ve been giving incorrect responses. 

The Test Will Keep Giving Questions Until The 95 Percent Confidence Interval Rule Is Achieved 

There are different minimum question counts for registered and practical nurses. For registered nurses, it’s 75. For practical nurses, it’s 85. So, expect to answer at least 75 and at most 145 questions in the NCLEX. This is because the test will keep on giving you questions until it is 95 percent sure that you have achieved a passing grade.  

This principle is the 95 percent Confidence Interval Rule. Think of it as a means to assure you that you will pass the exam, but still emphasize that you have the minimum knowledge needed to be a true nurse. Fun fact: The maximum number of questions used to be 285, recent changes were applied due to the COVID-19 pandemic.1   

Once the 95 percent probability of passing the test is achieved, the test will end for you. If your exam halts at a number between 75 and 145 questions, there is a high possibility you have aced the exam.  

Take these other details into consideration on how NCLEX is scored: 

  • Beware of the Run-Out-of-Time Rule. The testing limit is five hours. Yes, there will be breaks in between, but do note that five hours of racking your brains out is no simple feat. On the other hand, the Run-Out-of-Time Rule is a simple stipulation: if you did not meet the minimum number of questions by the end of the five hours, you’ll get an automatic fail. While the five hours seem like a long time, the average testing time for NCLEX takers is at two hours. 
  • You will be given either a PASS or FAIL mark. Since the NCLEX is not your typical test with a set number of items, scoring is a bit tricky. Instead, you are scored based on the number of difficult items you answered correctly, i.e. how many times you got a correct answer when you were given a more difficult question. 
    The passing grade is actually zero. In simplified terms, getting a correct answer gives you 1 point, while a wrong one is equal to –1. A score of zero means that 50 percent of your answers were correct. However, you will only be given a PASS or FAIL mark when the results arrive. 

The NCLEX is only one aspect of your nursing career

While any aspiring nurse should have ample time preparing for the NCLEX, you should remember that passing the test is not the end-all and be-all of your career. Once you have acquired the license, your journey toward promoting good health and wellness will begin.  

Why not explore the horizons of the United States nursing scene, which is brimming with opportunities for international nurses like yourself? If this sounds enticing, look into tapping PRS Global as your partner towards success. 


PRS Global is a direct-hire staffing partner that possesses the know-how of building a workforce of international nurses. To tackle the current need for nurses in medical institutions across the country, PRS Global knows how to take care of direct hires so that their motivation for the profession stays aflame for a long time. 

This company’s Bright HorizonsTM Transition Program is a brilliant means to help immigrant nurses bear the challenges of moving to a new environment. Also, new nurses receive assistance with relocation and housing concerns, citizenship queries, and the NCLEX preparations. 

The land of new opportunities awaits you, and PRS Global’s arms are wide open to welcome you. Contact us now to get hold of our expertise and care for hopeful nurses like yourself.